Stay Winning: Wale On R&B, His New Album, And Black Excellence
Ahead of his performances at the Royal Ravens Inaugural Call of Duty League Event and XOYO, Clash sat down with Wale at the Nobu Hotel in Shoreditch to talk his sixth studio album, video games, Nigerian food, Black History Month and more.
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“I’m nervous. It’s been a long time. Hopefully, y’all still fuck with me!”
Seven years have passed since Wale last touched UK soil. Last weekend saw him make his explosive return, kicking off opening night at London Royal Ravens Home Series first inaugural event for the Call of Duty League with international DJ Nicky Romero at the Copper Box Arena in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. “I’m a gamer, but I’m not like some who can do it with their eyes closed. I play Ultimate Smash, street fighting games so Mortal Kombat... I’m not a FIFA guy, but I do play Madden NFL,” he tells me.
The Home Series event specializes in mixing music with the gaming world, inviting those ready to bring their A-game to the professional tournament-style esports composed of 12 professional teams, representing 11 markets across North America and Europe battling for the ultimate prize: The Call of Duty League Championship.
Mixing EDM and hip-hop, performances by Wale himself and Nicky Romero opened the first day of gameplay. “Video game music is its own little genre. If you know, you know. Nintendo has some of the most iconic music - even early Sega have songs bigger than most records, you know...”
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Born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin, our first introduction to Wale was back in 2005 with the release of self-released mixtape 'Paint A Picture'. But it wasn’t until 2009 when he released his debut studio album ‘Attention Deficit’ that he started gaining the attention and credit he truly deserved.
Last October, he dropped his sixth studio album 'Wow… That’s Crazy' featuring collaborations with some of R&B's most noble acts like Kelly Price, Ari Lennox, Bryson Tiller, and many more. “I wanted my fans to take away whatever resonated with them the most. I spoke my truth and gave a lot of me on the album — a lot of raw emotion. I view the album as like a life-coming-of-age album focusing on the highs and lows”.
In comparison to his 2017 album ‘SHINE’, an abbreviation of Still Here Ignoring Negative Energy, 'Wow… That’s Crazy' has more of an R&B feel, exciting fans who adore his previous smooth R&B collaborations with artists like Miguel, Jeremih, and Rihanna. “I’ve never had a particular formula when it comes to collaborating with other artists, especially R&B artists because it never feels authentic. We get together, vibe it out and make beautiful music”.
With February being Black History Month in the US, he spoke to me about what it means to celebrate Black art and the one artist he would love to work with. “Beyoncé. That’s it. It’s crazy cause I feel like everybody who makes music and doesn’t make music wants to make a song with her. She’s top tier”.
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Proud of his Nigerian roots, he tells me about whether he’d be ready to deliver an Afro beats album. “If people want me to, I would. I’ve got a lot of unreleased songs with a lot of artists in Nigeria so who knows. It’s an ever-growing genre. It’s a big vibe for me with me being Nigerian. I like most of the artist I hear out there” he tells me. “Wizkid, that’s family to me. I listen to Davido and Olamide, who was on my last album. When it comes to Afrobeats, I feel like it reaches the US last. It goes from Africa to the UK and then the States”.
He continues: “I fuck with a lot of UK Afrobeats artists too. I like J Hus. I worked with Afro B a few years back on a song called ‘Stay Winning’ with Sneakbo and TeamSalut”.
Keeping quiet about the electrifying performance at XOYO in Shoreditch, he tells me what most excites him about being in back London. “Besides seeing my fans and connecting with them, I’m looking forward to eating the food over here. I got my Nando's Black card ready. I want them Peri-peri drumsticks, the wrap; I’m ordering everything except the mushy peas, y’all can keep those,” he tells me laughing.
“I’m ready to eat some Nigerian food, that’s what I want”.
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Words: Shakeena Johnson
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