Olubowale Victor Akintimehin (born September 21, 1984), better known by his stage name Wale, is an American rapper. He first rose to prominence in 2006, when his song “Dig Dug (Shake It)” became popular in his hometown.
Wale became locally recognised and continued recording music for the regional audience. Producer Mark Ronson discovered Wale in 2006 and signed him to Allido Records in 2007. While signed to that label, Wale released several mixtapes and appeared in national media including MTV and various Black-American-focused magazines. A song called ‘Ridin’ in That Black Joint’ was featured in the popular video game Saints Row 2’s soundtrack in 2008.
In 2008, Wale signed with Interscope Records for $1.3 million, and his debut album Attention Deficit was released in 2009 with the singles “Chillin”, “Pretty Girls”, and “World Tour”. The album, although under-shipped, received positive reviews from critics. In early 2011, Wale signed with Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, where members of the label released a compilation album, Self Made Vol. 1 on May 23, 2011.
His second studio album, Ambition was released November 1, 2011, with mixed reviews. His third studio album, The Gifted, was released on June 25, 2013, to mainly positive reviews; it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200. His second Billboard number one album The Album About Nothing was released on March 31, 2015.
Wale, who is a Nigerian-American, was born on September 21, 1984, in Northwest, Washington, D.C. His parents are both from the Yoruba ethnic group of the southwestern Nigeria and both of them came to the United States from Austria in 1979.
Wale’s family first lived in Northwest, Washington, D.C., and then moved to Montgomery County, when Wale was at the age of 10. In 2002, he graduated from the Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and moved to Largo, Maryland in Prince George’s County.
Wale attended Robert Morris University and Virginia State University on football scholarships, then transferred to Bowie State University. However, he dropped out due to academic reasons. Wale’s love for the game of football and the Washington Redskins has led to a longstanding rumor that Wale had a tattoo of tight end Chris Cooley.
He’s also the cousin of an actor Gbenga Akinnagbe, who is best known for playing Chris Partlow on HBO’s The Wire. Wale’s first recorded track, called ‘Rhyme of the Century’, which became his first song to ever play on the local radio. In 2006, he was featured in the ‘Unsigned Hype’ column of The Source magazine, and later signed to a local label, Studio 43. The track, called ‘Dig Dug (Shake It)’ became popular in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia, and was a tribute to Ronald ‘Dig Dug’ Dixon, who was a percussion player for the go-go band Northeast Groovers. The song became the most requested song by a local artist in Washington D.C. radio history and Wale was the first local artiste to get some BDS spins since DJ Kool in the early 1990s. The song was included in Wale’s first mixtape, Paint a Picture.
In July 2006, Wale found representation in Daniel Weisman, who is a former club DJ and promoter, who has no previous experience in management. Weisman had been tipped off about the rapper by a friend in Washington, D. C and connected with him through Myspace.
In September 2006, after dropping another go-go influenced single, called ‘Breakdown’ (sampled from Huck-A-Bucks ‘Sexy Girl’) has been getting a mention on The Washington Post, Wale released his first non-go-go original single, called ‘Uptown Roamers’.
On September 14, 2006, ‘Uptown Roamers’ debuted on XM Radio Channel 66, where it’s been played twice in one day. Both ‘Breakdown’ and ‘Uptown Roamers’ were on Wale’s second mixtape, Hate Is the New Love. The song, ‘Breakdown’ was featured on the video game Madden NFL 2009.
Wale won the award for ‘D. C. Metro Breakthrough Artist of the Year’ at WKYS’s Go-Go Awards in November 2006. On December 15, The Fader magazine associate editor Nick ‘Catchdubs’ Barat visited Wale for an interview and photo shoot, which appeared in the March 2007 issue of The Fader. Manager Weisman told HitQuarters that the Fader feature, given the magazine’s music/culture/fashion orientation, laid an important foundation for Wale to position himself as a ‘cool, smart, up-and-coming hip-hop artist who might actually be Drake’.
In January 2007, Wale released a new single to radio called ‘Good Girls’ produced by Gerard Thomas and Demario Bridges for TeamMusicGroup. Wale later appeared on Mark Ronson’s remix of Lily Allen’s ‘Smile’ and was a headliner on Ronson’s UK tour that year promoting Ronson’s second album Version.
In June 2007, Wale signed to a production deal with Ronson’s Allido Records. In May 2010, Wale abruptly canceled a scheduled performance at DC Black Pride, an annual black gay pride event. In an email to the event’s organizer, Wale’s manager claimed he was unaware it was a gay event when he agreed to perform. However, on May 28, 2010, it was announced he would perform alongside the headliner for free.
Wale released his third mixtape, ‘100 Miles & Running,’ on July 11, 2007, as a free download on his Myspace page. This mixtape includes features from Mark Ronson, Daniel Merriweather, Amy Winehouse, and Lily Allen. It was released on the same day as his performance at the Highline Ballroom, in Manhattan.
The Highline show was to promote the US release of Mark Ronson’s album and included performances by Mark Ronson, Wale, Saigon, and Daniel Merriweather. Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Maroon 5, Clive Davis, Eve and Danny Masterson were all in attendance. There, Wale was interviewed by MTV News correspondent J. D. Tuminski for his first national TV feature on August 16, 2007. With Ronson, Wale performed ‘W. A. L. E. D. A. N. C. E.’, a remix of Justice’s ‘D.A.N.C.E.’ from Wale’s 100 Miles mixtape, at the 2007 MTV Video Music Awards in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Washington Post profiled Wale on the front page of the Sunday Style section in the October 21, 2007, edition. Wale was featured on the cover of the 150th issue of URB along with French electro group Justice.
In March 2008, Wale signed a joint venture deal with Mark Ronson’s Allido Records and Interscope, joining Rhymefest and Daniel Merriweather as Allido artists. Epic Records, Atlantic Records, and Def Jam all competed to sign Wale. On May 30, Wale released his fourth mixtapeThe Mixtape About Nothing, heavily produced by Best Kept Secret.
Wale said that the television show Seinfeld inspired The Mixtape About Nothing: ‘the TV show’s ‘honest dialogue’ mirrors his lyrical style, which frequently references pop culture and politics while avoiding gangster-rap bluster’.
After signing with Interscope, Wale began recording tracks for his major label debut: in a 2008 interview with Express, a newspaper published by the Washington Post Company, Wale announced that he was recording a song with Chrisette Michele called ‘Shades’, which discusses inter-black racism. Wale also appeared on Interscope label mate DJ Greg Street’s single ‘Dope Boys’ which samples Hip Hop classic T.R.O.Y. alongside Lupe Fiasco and Kardinal Offishall. Rapper Young Chris of rap duo Young Gunz also began plans for a collaboration mixtape with Wale.
In an interview with Flavorwire, Wale said that he incorporates elements of go-go in his music. Cyril Cordor of allmusic described go-go as ‘a more raw, percussion-driven offshoot of disco’ that originated in the Washington, D. C. area. Wale’s early singles that were played primarily in his local metropolitan area heavily sampled 1990s go-go records. Reviewing Attention Deficit, David Jeffries of allmusic remarked that Wale had a ‘post-Kanye, post-Lil Wayne, alternative-meets-hardcore style’ and commented that Wale’s single ‘Chillin’, which featured Lady Gaga, ‘crafts an instant floor-filler out of a sample from the 1969 hit ‘Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye’.
An avid professional wrestling fan, Wale has made several wrestling references on his songs. Wale hosts the annual WaleMania during WrestleMania weekend. He’s also made several appearances on WWE television where he hosted a rap battle between The New Day and The Usos on the 4th of July episode of Smackdown Live in 2017 and was the guest commentator during Noam Dar and TJP’s match on 205 Live in 2018.
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