Features | Awards

The 99% Award for Making the Cops (and Wale) Useful

By Chris Molnar | 16 December 2011

Wale :: “Slight Work (f/ Big Sean)”
from Ambition
(Maybach Music/Warner Bros./Roc Nation; 2011)

The Major Lazer drum break, the unprecedented beat: “Slight Work” is filthy with Diplo’s fingerprints. Hopefully the place I first heard this song—one of those Stockholm Syndrome megamixes on Hot 97 that slips everybody’s verses over one repetitive new beat—becomes his stomping ground more regularly. Like Diplo’s work on Chris Brown’s otherworldly “Look At Me Now” beat or his rebirth of “Careless Whisper” on Paper Route Gangstaz’ “Bama Gettin’ Money,” “Slight Work” is unique enough to verge on novelty.

But on all those songs, the music—almost wholly made up of the NYPD’s ululating siren—is iconic instead, the sort of inspiring, invigorating beat that will serve as some sort of benchmark. The rapping? Well, it’s Wale and Big Sean. Of the current posse which dominates every second of rap radio in 2011 (Rick Ross, Wayne, Drake, Jay-Z &am; Kanye in particular), those two are the hanger-ons, determined to be a part of the gang no matter the indignity. Wale in particular serves no real purpose, wherever he is, competently doing the indie-for-the-mainstream, mainstream-for-the-indie thing that Lupe does, riffing on Seinfeld or now cozying up with Ross’ Maybach Music.

He may have nothing to say, but he remains thanks to a resolutely commercial ambition, and his blank personality makes him ideal for beats like this, giving it an excuse to be on the radio, prepping us for Big Sean’s one liners (“White America said I’d be doing 25 to life / And just for that I’mma blow 25 tonight”). Witless, Wale finds his purpose through sheer determination, as everybody’s prism, a few bars of interior rhymes and acceptable swagger to prep us neutrally—for anybody, Waka or Rick or Sean (himself the dirty id of today’s self-conscious Drake or Kanye), and the great, police-baiting beats major label money can still buy.