As the year 2017 draws near, anticipation builds for what’s next. For music fans, "next" happens to include the next slate of new material from your favorite artists. So far, a look at the 2017 release calendar features Rick Ross, who is set to drop his ninth studio album Rather You Than Me, Drake with More Life, Big Sean's recently announced I Decided, and Wale's Shine. While all eyes may be on Drizzy’s "playlist" and Sean's post—Dark Sky rebirth, the one release that should be on everyone's radar is Wale's fifth set.
Originally announced as one of two planned 2016 releases by the MMG spitter, SHINE was expected to arrive earlier this year, but has since been pushed to 2017. The album was preceded by a slew of notable releases, including the underrated mixtape Summer on Sunset, his seventh Top 20 hit single on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart "My PYT" and a series of lyrical gymnastic displays that all live within his SoundCloud.
Beyond the release strategy, what makes SHINE a project to watch for in 2017 is the fact that it once again finds Wale in the position he performs best in and that's with a chip on his shoulder while back against the wall. We witnessed this within just about every road to an album of his, whether its his Attention Deficit comeback and MMG debut Ambition (which went No. 1), the critically-acclaimed (and gold-certified) The Gifted, and last year's Jerry Seinfeld-hosted chart-topper Album About Nothing. On every occasion, the rapper, despite outperforming his peers in the lyrical department, is always pinned with "slept on" and "underrated" tags. "We're on the 20-something interview in a row when they're telling me I'm underrated or slept on, so I know it's happening," he told Exclaim! in an interview last year. "It's very visible, so hopefully one day I can put that to bed." It's a tough position to be in — just ask all the other emcees who have dealt with the underrated tag all their careers — but the pressure from critics only strengthens Wale's focus.
Skill set wise, the D.C. rapper is far from a rap underdog. Besides, the guy can rap circles around around just about every emcee who is brave enough to stand alongside him on a track. Guess that's why he isn't featured on many rap collaborations? But "underdog" happens to be the position he is often pitted in due to popular opinion — one he pays close attention to. Earlier this month, Folarin (aka "the most hated on Twitter") found himself under the said spotlight after J. Cole sent out a call to action (of sorts) for his friend, who is apparently "so bitter he can't see his own blessings."
In response, Wale released "Groundhogs Day." But more than a response record, the rapper takes the three-minutes to pick apart his flaws and all for what can arguably be one of the year's most brilliant lyrical displays. "I'm heavily flawed, but far from a false prophet," he notes. "I'm a muhf—kin honorable Folarin, Cassius, Mohammad, McGregor Connor of these rap artists."
All that considered, the fuel behind "Groundhogs Day" only ignited a flood of output from "the coldest poet," as he went on to release a slew of standout freestyles and freebies in anticipation for SHINE.
With his skills proven and attention now drawn his way, all Wale has to do now is SHINE above the rest and the clouds of adversity. And he is certain of this.
In an interview with REVOLT earlier this year, Every Blue Moon captain noted that his eyes are fixated on a new plateau. "We been legendary, iconic is the next step," he answered, after being asked about his goal for the upcoming chapter. "To be a legend is told, but to be an icon, can you do it? It's an uphill battle and music is changing, but I got some good fans."
Look out for Folarin to SHINE next year.