Album Review : SHINE
Olubowale Victor Akintimehin aka Wale recently released his fifth studio album, Shine and while it may not be his best lyrical work, it just may be his most gratifying. Upon the heels of a poor marketing and promotional roll-out combined with the impulsive decision to release the album a week early, the album sales were less than stellar with approximately 28,000 records sold in the first week. Ouch. As one of those 28,000, I can tell you sales do not equate to quality, or lack thereof. If you’re looking for deep “lyrical-miracle”raps, this isn’t the album for you. If you’re looking for positivity and good vibes, you’re going to love Shine.
The new Wale is a thirty-something year old man, whose beautiful newborn daughter has given him a new, refreshed lease on life. In an industry plagued with mumble rappers and bitter old heads, this album offers a little bit of light that we need.
“Thank God” – The intro track starts this journey off by giving praise to the most high. You gotta play this on a Sunday on the way to service, in between your Mom’s Agatha Moses session. It pretty much sets the tone for majority of the album as far as melody and production goes. Our Naija brudda, Rotimi, is also the one singing the hook.
“Running Back” feat. Lil Wayne – “Who picked this single??” – Joe Budden. I have to agree. I realize that Wale and Wayne’s friendship is built from a mutual love for sports but this could have been so much better. It could have been tougher and more rugged like many of Wayne’s other sports influenced songs, like this, or this, or this.
“Scarface Rozay Gotti” – Sometimes you just gotta pay homage and show love to the people who helped you on your journey. The opening words to the song are “What would we be if we ain’t had help?”. These 3 rappers played an important role in who Wale is today and it’s rare these days to see rappers show love to instead of beefing every time. Besides the message, the flow and production keeps this song on repeat. This is prime Wale – amazing verses and a catchy hook, he was in his bag with this one.
“My Love” ft Major Lazer, Wizkid, Dua Lipa – This track sounds good on paper. It’s not a bad song, it’s not a smash hit like Wale may have thought it was going to be. More importantly, Wizkid once again has like 3 words on this whole song. Not only that but it’s the same words from Wizkid’s “Sweet love”! My guess is Wale heard “Sweet Love”, wanted that same kind of vibe and just asked Wizzy to redo the hook. I could be wrong but it could have been so much better. Major Lazer’s production may just save this song though, it’s the perfect Island vibe for the summer.
“Fashion Week ft G-Eazy” – My favorite song off this album. THIS could have been that number 1 hit if promoted properly. If he replaced G-Eazy with A$AP Rocky, put this song out back in August last year, it would have hit radio waves just in time for NYFW and this song would have gone global. Of course that’s just the inspiring music exec. in me talking. The hook is catchy, the verses are near perfect, the video is dope, all that was missing was a big push. Not Wale’s fault. *side-eyes management*
“Columbia Heights ft J Balvin” – Living in Maryland, I understand the references in the song and the J Balvin feature is nice but this could have honestly been left off the Album, it just doesn’t fit. Some people do like the song but again, it could have been better. No idea what Balvin was saying in Spanish but it does complement the song. However, the production sounds like a baby (maybe Zyla?) was playing with a toy xylophone and they decided to put a trap beat over it.
“CC White” – Arguably the best song on the album. This is the “lyrical-miracle” raps you’ve been skipping tracks to hear. The song is a personification of cocaine to a white girl. While it’s been done before, but never as intricate as this though. He raps,
“The eighties made you rock hard, you and I was just babies then. Her daddy named Ronald, he’s famous here”
referring to the crack era and Ronald Regan’s involvement. And the somber hook,
“And I done been in trouble before But nothing like you Never seen a woman so pure Until I found you (pure, uncut, n*gga)”
It’s a song you’ll have to replay a couple of times to really get it.
“Mathematics” – This sounds like it should be on the next Self Made compilation. It’s dope song to bounce to in your car, but you’re not exactly impressing anyone with your Aux skills if you throw this on. Just keeping it a ?, pun intended.
“Fish and Grits” ft Travis Scott – I was skeptical at first, but this bangs. The last time they were on a track together, Quintana, it was kindaaa messy, Wale’s verse and that beat were like oil and water. Now everything is more calm. Travis and Wale mesh perfectly over this production and even finish each other verses in the beginning. Doesn’t exactly sound like it fits the album but it’s a good way to balance it out.
“Fine Girl” ft Olamide & Davido – “She my fine girlll…fine girll…fine girlllllllll”. Laziest hook ever but damn it, it works. Like some of us who either were born in the U.S. or moved here early, Wale probably only knows a few Yoruba phrases, of course this is one of them. With features from Olamide and Davido on the track, this was the song we were really excited to hear. They both delivered amazing verses especially Olamide who came in as razz as ever. Also Wale didn’t try to do too much in terms of being Nigerian, like forcing an accent. It was dope. The beat was produced by Marce Reazon who actually isn’t Nigerian and didn’t even know who Olamide or Davido was at the time but it fits Wale perfectly. You can read our interview with the producer here. Another contender for best song on the album. For those of you who thought this was going to be “ISKABA” should have know better. At least this sounds better than the Davido x Meek Mill collab…no shade though.
“Heaven on Earth” ft Chris Brown – In my music exec. mind, after “Fashion week” takes over NYFW, there should have been a video to this song ready to drop! Chris Brown is hot right now and it would have been a good way to capitalize. Unfortunately for Wale, in a now deleted tweet he hasn’t even been able to reach Chris to do a video. Great song though.
“My PYT” ft Sam Sneak – I hate that I hate this song, because it’s such a lovely song. But I played it so much when it first came out and got tired of it. I noticed the hook says “She my M-Y-P-Y-T”. Why did Sam Sneak feel the need to say “My” twice? And spell it? He’s literally saying “She’s my my PYT”. It nitpicks at me. Besides that, the song is cool. The Michael Jackson reference is amazing, fits the album perfectly.
“DNA” – This is nothing like Kendrick’s “DNA” so get that thought out of your head. If you remember the MMG Boss Rick Ross’s song “Trap Trap Trap”, Wale raps “all she want is good D*ck and advice”. Well you could say this is an expansion of that line. It’s a classic Wale topic and style, just watered down. After the first hook he goes off on a poem that lasts for about a minute and a half that is very reminiscent of his old songs. If you really wanted to see Wale’s talent at hyper-sexualization mentally and physically, listen to The Manipulation 2 from More About Nothing.
“Smile” ft Phil Ade and Zyla Moon – Zylaaaaaaa, the cutest baby on earth. If you made it to Smile then Wale has done his job because you are “Still Here Ignoring Negative Energy” (SHINE). Great end to the Album as Wale reminds us to smile in the midst of the Alt Rights and the Tami Lahrens of the world. This track also gives fellow Nigerian-DMV rapper Phil Ade an alley-oop verse, which he kills. We waiting on that Album Phil, it’s been a while.
All in all, it’s a good album, not his best but I feel like he knows that. Without songs like “Black is Gold” or the extended version of “Groundhog Day”, Wale missed a chance to include some great moments. However this album was perfect for HIM and the fans. It wasn’t meant to be black panther militant or smash radio hits, it was just meant to be positive and introduce a new chapter in his life and he did a great job. Certain songs could have had better featured artists, better hooks, and maybe an interlude by Zyla and Asahd (DJ Khaled’s son) but again that’s just the music exec. in me.
3 and a half Moons out of 5.
Catch Wale on the Shine tour!