We were going to start this review detailing the official Wale comeback, musically. If we did, we would mention how the sonic debacle(!) that was Shine was followed by the much better, but a bit more raw Summer On Sunset Vol 1 the same year. Had we done it, we would’ve also mentioned that 2019’s Wow… That’s Crazy was a solid piece. Also, how 2020’s The Imperfect Storm was an ever tighter 6 piece prize, possibly top 3 EP of that 365 day cycle.
But we’re not…
What we will talk about, however, is Folarin II. Now, the original Folarin was marketed as a mixtape so when we heard about the “follow-up”, we weren’t as excited. Seeing Wale go on the road and call it an album made us perk our ears up. Semantics, I know but whatcha gonna do?
FII kicks off with “New Balances“. In typical Wale fashion, it serves as double entendre. What was off-putting though, was the double time flow. Lyrically stellar, just not what one would think of for a Wale intro track at this point. Needed, not wanted. After a few more listens, it makes much more sense.
This is not a track-by-track but the start is important so; The next track “Name Ring Bells” feels more like the proper introduction. On Twitter, we’ve called it the 2021 “Show You How” by Jay Z, from The Blueprint 2. Lines like “[They] say I need my flowers, but cookies come to me now/Bring the DMV up, I bet they think of me now/You love it or you hate it but say thank you when I be out, boy” to core fans feels like your favorite boxer landing a clean blow to the gut. It’s production is also interesting. Hard to classify what “type beat” this would go under on YouTube.
Moving along, “Poke It Out“, a remake of sorts of Q-Tip‘s first solo hit “Vivrant Thing“. In comparison, it has a much better hook than the original and a guest feature from potential 2021 MVP, J Cole. “Tiffany Nikes” is basically “Name Bell Ring” part 2. It’s like Wale is a conquerer going back and planting flags in places he forgot to while he was there.
Okay, now it’s a track-by-track. SMH. “Caramel“, with its Faith Evans “Caramel Kisses” sample hook feels like Wale, Wale. He does this often on Folarin II, but not in a nostalgic way. It’s not like retro J’s; It’s more like original Jordan’s you only remember you have when you’re moving to a new apartment. This is the original Wale, again.
Take “Light Years” featuring Rick Ross. This could have easily been placed on a Maybach Music Volume or Ambition. Ross’ verse literally feels like 2011-2012. Rozay almost steals the show here but Wale belts “Been double M for like a decade though/Nobody seeing it from now to siempre though/They say I’m in insane, I do things and get psycho/I’m pro-black, my cloth talk look like Kente though“. Too good.
At times, FII feels like a flat out love album, but these aren’t your sappy, typical love songs. Once again Wale conjurs up “old” Wale on songs like “Angles” featuring Chris Bown, “Dearly Beloved” featuring Jamie Foxx and “More Love” with Shawn Stockman of Boyz II Men. What brings us most back into More About Nothin era is “Fire & Ice“. In an interview, Wale detailed the tracks “secret” features. It basically has the voice of any man who can sing, born from ’85 and up on this cut. This song is the epitome of early 90’s soul.
Harry Fraud flips the 2005 classic “Still Tippin’” for Wale’s “Down South” featuring Yella Beezy & Maxo Kream. Interestingly enough, this song has been adopted by WWE‘s NXT 2.0. Wale spits possibly the verse of the year on this almost posse cut. We won’t even quote. Google.
It’s here I will mention that this is Wale’s BEST output, lyrically (minus maybe More About…). Even with that, you may find yourself wishing he rapped more. There are a few 8 bar verses, and songs on the shorter side. FII could’ve used a song that mirrors Drake‘s “time stamp” series, “7AM on Bridle Path” being the latest.
“Jump In” featuring Lil Chris of T.O.B is the only possibly clear misstep. If you’re a Wale fan, you’re used to one or two off-the-wall selctions per effort. We eventually end up adopting different views on these tracks but this is so out of sync sonically, even if you love it, you know its better as a standalone. The albums is better without it.
“Beverly Blvd” ends the album with declaration: “Promise we good forever!“. Here, he also mentions and reiterates “I’m one of one“. Love him or hate him, you have to agree with Folarin.