While it has been almost a month since Wale dropped his surprise EP, “Free Lunch,” I am simply not over it! Consisting of only 5 incredible records, Wale manages to not only do it for the DMV area yet again but delivers a refreshing, necessary element that Hip-Hop has lacked for some time now – realness.
Free Lunch arrives as Wale’s third EP this year, following May’s “Self Promotion” drop and March’s “It’s Complicated” release. This time around, the DC rapper enlists the talents of friends J.Cole and Eric Bellinger. Also, Free Lunch arrives as Mr. Folarin’s first release since signing a new (and hopefully much more meaningful) contract with Warner Bros. Records. With a title such as “Free Lunch,” Wale is telling us all… “Look, no more games, no more jokes, it’s time to eat.”
Wale immediately brings the nostalgia and vintage realness with the EP’s first track, “Dummies.” The production is very theatrical, very cinematic, and serious as Wale literally BLAZES through the track. He begins,
“These n***** be hating on the low. I just play it cool and confident, they would never know / My intelligence is a weapon I use on them first. It takes a smart man to play the fool and them rules don’t reverse. / mmm, dummies could never play me!”
What’s actually great about this track is that Wale really covers a multitude of topics. He sets the atmosphere coming out the gate with straight confidence as he raps about being one of the best of his generation but being portrayed poorly by the media (which I can actually understand). He lightly taps on his new contract with Warner Bros. Records and a new beginning. He passionately raps about violence in D.C. and even speaks on the death of 10-year-old Makiyah Wilson who was killed in Washington D.C. in August as a result of a planned drive-by shooting. One thing about Wale is, he always provides pure truth and authenticity in his bars. At one point he literally says, “If we killin’ our people then we become powerless.” Wale understands the social climate that we have been in and are currently in and he just does not understand the dummies who carry out such senseless activities.
Wale also speaks on the dummies within the music industry who have tried to play him, hate on him, degrade him and more. He speaks his truth on how cold the industry really is and how essentially nobody is really there for you like they say they are. He gets right to the point saying basically he is about to body each and every one of them and start embarrassing them with the skill that he truly possesses. Delivering trademark Wale, the track ends with an outro that reminds the listeners, wale lovers, and even the haters that we all are in the presence of a king, and no matter how much they want Wale to stop… he won’t and the time to take his throne is NOW.
“Ungrateful & Thankful” showcases a bolder Wale as he starts the track rapping, “I just had dinner with the Obamas, what did you do? Hop on Twitter talkin’ about the stuff you don’t do.” He manages to not only boast about his skill but put on for the city (as usual). He raps that he balls like he’s in the Goodman league, which is a widely known basketball league in D.C. in the Barry Farms area. Wale always uses his craft to make sure he puts on for the city he loves and that cultivated him to be this poetic, heavy bar delivering veteran that he is now. It’s not too often that Wale really gets in his bag and gets COCKY but this track he really reminds everybody that he’s been killing the game, he’s been on top and he’ plans to remain there. Wale feels he’s so great he even asks, who is messing with him in this rap game. However, while managing to deliver the braggadocious lines and bars, as usual, he still somehow remains humble and appreciative as he raps “I been ungrateful, I’m thankful.”
He ponders on whether or not he claimed the success too fast to the point that he’s become too ungrateful and he admits it to God even asking for forgiveness. “Ungrateful & Thankful” is very genuine and vulnerable. Wale continues to stay true to the city kid he was and he never loses sight of the struggles he’s endured to reach the level he’s at now which is why he even has to remind himself, “I’m tripping, maybe I’ve been a little ungrateful lately.” He definitely follows the same pattern as “Dummies” as he continues to speak directly to his haters and tell them he’s not scared, nor has he never been afraid of them, and he’s prepared for whatever they throw his way. Wale’s flow is so smooth, effortless, but still impactful. He floats over the entire track but as a listener, the message is received without any interruptions. Even without telling poetry in the song, the delivery is very soothing as if it were a poem. He’s calm and sure of himself.
“3 Days 3 Hours” is actually one of my favorites on the EP. Of course, it would not be a Wale project without a love song of some sort that puts both men and women in their feelings as they can relate to the words and story Wale paints with his pen. The production exuberates 90’s nostalgia and glory as a mysterious voice begins, “Can’t be without you, baby. Not even for a night. And so I’ve been thinking lately, of being with you for all time.” Wale begins the record talking to his lover. He this woman are not physically together as he is away from her but he desires her presence. He asks for her location. It is no new thing that Wale is not necessarily the relationship type as he has opened up about before in the music. He shows his insecurities on the track as he begins to doubt the potential love and questions would she even still want him. Wale peacefully breaks down the relationship from beginning to end, from being cordial and friendly to going even further and deeper than that. The production does an amazing job of painting this picture as the second half of the song begins. A crowd screaming “Wale” can be heard, and as it fades away, a raspy, hoarse Wale is heard desperately asking for his phone so he can contact this woman because she called him. As her voicemail sounds off, the song picks back up where it left off. He raps to her telling her he just got off the stage and his voice is gone but none of that matters because her face is all he could think of while he performed for that crowd. Consider this a… rapping version of a serenade as he really spills his feelings to this woman like ink on a sheet of paper. He gets descriptive and raw as he tells her how he desires the need for her presence and her body as if she is the remedy to the pain he feels fresh off the stage. They both miss each other and it is obvious. Wale counts down from three days and three hours away until they are finally within arms grasp. They never want to be without each other again.
I appreciate this song for so many reasons, For one, Wale yet again uses the pen game to deliver a true storytelling approach of this budding, long-distance relationship that leaves listeners wanting more. He transforms the record into a sort of imaginary television program that keeps the audience literally ready to tune in for more. We are literally listening hoping the two get together. Secondly, the flow of this record?! Amazing! Wale breezes through the track with clever wording, lines, and bars, but he does it as if he’s not even trying. Thirdly, I love when Wale brings the poetry out. At the end of the song he delivers lines that just seem to come naturally and it literally adds even more beauty to the song. It is definitely one of those tracks the ladies will love long after this EP.
On the other end, “My Boy” comes at the perfect moment and this time for the fellas. Enlisting Mr. Cole World himself, J.Cole, Wale, and Cole deliver one of the best freestyles I’ve heard in a little while People have desperately been wanting to hear these two come together and just KILL a beat, and the two did it with pure EASE. The production quickly mimics a track you would expect to hear on a Cole project which is funny to me but it’s perfect for the freestyle. It possesses a bass-heavy beat without all of the futuristic bells and unnecessary sounds to distract from the lyrics. However, it still makes you want to get up and Diddy bop still. Wale gets straight to business with the hard yet comical flow. You can tell he was having fun with the track but was still serious enough to leave a stink face on every listener’s face as they played the track. He gets raw and holds nothing back and again addresses the haters. “Thank you for your services, invoicing all my haters. / Be sure to leave your armor and your woman penetrated. / I give her back, I hate her, poof, get out of her hair. I say congratulations, your old lady renovated.” Wale literally ATE this record. He unapologetically talked his s**t and was proud of it. It was as if he were saying, “Yeah you boys had your moment, you all continue to count me out but now I’m about to flex on each and every one of you right now.” He held nothing back and I am very grateful for it.
Cole follows Wale’s lead and gets right to it in the bridge rapping, “Who gon’ bring my crown, who gon’ try to f**k with me?” I literally love the moment Cole starts rapping because it literally is just so cocky. Cole knows nobody is on his level and he just starts having fun with the beat. He even jokes about knowing how great he is rapping, “Slide on the beat like my God, I’m so brilliant.” Using heavy imagery and metaphors Cole chin checks the competition, calls out the frauds and also gives a friendly yet unfriendly reminder that it would be in their best interest to never try him or the squad unless they want to suffer the consequences. He even throws some shade saying the rap game is really too crowded to the point he’s ready to get out of it. The flow is CRUCIAL. Like a rapper’s version of Picasso, Cole paints pure visuals on the canvas of the audiences’ minds the way he strings his words together, delivers HARD lines, and brings the pure charisma. He and Wale deliver in the best way possible and it makes for such a great record.
“Right Here,” the EP’s last track is a pure R&B vibe. Wale calls on Eric Bellinger to deliver that pure oldies R&B vibe with his soothing yet powerful voice. Bellinger begins the record, “Everything you want is right here. Everything you need is right here. Everything you dreamed of is right here.” Wale begins the track asking what is a poet to a rapper, and then describes himself as the “sharpest.” He then shows love for his baby girl, his daughter and expresses how she comes first before any other woman. He raps about his influence in the industry, and the accomplishments he’s already seen early on in his career. Wale while remaining humble still goes off about his greatness really. He speaks on his love for the city and his love of being black, as well as throwing a couple of shots at the haters who are heavy on the blogs with the gossip always saying something about him. He takes the time to acknowledge but still show that it is not doing anything to stop his bag, his grind, or his craft. He really hypes himself up and essentially is saying, “that everything that you’re looking for… I’m it. I’m everything you need.”
Overall, Free Lunch is yet another hit and makes Wale 3/3 with each of his EP releases. People love to downplay the skill and talent that is Mr. Wale Folarin but the proof is in the pudding… None of these releases have been trash. Free Lunch is a statement. He’s warning us now that it’s his time to eat and he’s about to take off. With a new contract and an even hungrier state of mind, Wale is really about to kill the rest of 2018 and 2019 easily. The bars only continue to get better, the delivery is stronger than it has ever been, and Wale’s confidence is at an all-time high. He knows the skill he possesses and he knows that he is great. Free Lunch also peels back yet another layer to Wale as he continues to grow and progress. Fans literally can see the growth in him as a person and a rapper and it’s a great thing to witness. And as always, Wale ALWAYS puts the city on his back and makes sure listeners know exactly who molded him to be the talent he is today.
Thank you, Wale, for another amazing body of work. I can’t wait for the next project.