“I’ve learned how to persevere. I’ve grown so much as an artist and person since Attention: Deficit, and I want people to see that reflected in my music.” – Wale
Washington, DC’s Wale is a study in record industry politics, and proof positive of the lessons taught in the Old Testament of the Bible’s King James Version in the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter nine, verse 11: “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” On Tuesday afternoon, I watched an artist best known for internet outbursts and witty mixtape adlibs appear like any other pop star, unusually calm and at a semi-detached level of peace with his status as 1500 rabid fans filled Lakeforest Mall in Gaithersburg, MD and nearly caused a riot.
Though tensions ran high between organizers, Wale’s suburban teenage fans and security, DC the autograph session at the Downtown Locker Room (DTLR) location Lakeforest Mall for Wale’s latest release, rap superstar Rick Ross owned Maybach Music Group compilation album Selfmade was a rousing success and a true display of the superstar potential of both the area emcee and the high powered label with which he recently has signed.
“I’m trying to shift into a new place. I’ve got a national responsibility and a responsibility to Maybach Music and Rick Ross as well. I’m still from DC, though. This is my home,” stated Wale, whose relationship with his hometown has been tenuous at best, but it appears that a younger generation has overlooked these initial tensions. “I’m happy with my output as of late. I have my label, the Board Administration, that I want to make into hip hop’s best. As a rapper? Check out “Rise” and “Renegades” on Selfmade. I’m really proud of those.”
The event, from 6-8 PM was part of an ongoing partnership between the East coast retail urban wear giant and the promotional arm of Baltimore based Unruly Records. Alongside events like the in store signing in question, Unruly handles the promotion of the Direct Drive Record Pool listening events at U Street Music Hall, involving such well respected and renowned acts as Wu Tang Clan member Raekwon, without a significant uniformed security and local police presence. When reached for comment, Unruly co-founder Shawn Caesar stated, “we’ve had a partnership with DTLR for 11 years. We’ve had events with larger artists like Monica or Fantasia in other markets that have been nearly shut down, but nothing quite like this. We met with the fire marshals and a sergeant with Montogomery County’s Police Department, and once they realized we were on their side, we were able to devise a strategy to get all of the patrons in and out of the store and safely on their way.”
Wale, flanked by members of his Board Administration label, arrived in the store through a back mall entrance at roughly 6:15 PM. Outside of the DTLR store, the crowd, which snaked through most of the southern half of the lower level of the mall, had grown boisterous and restless, and what started as rambunctious teenage energy turned into a group of people violently eager to meet the rising DC area star emcee. Pushing and shoving outside of the store led to the Montgomery County Fire Marshals to be called to the scene along with more uniformed police officers and already deployed mall security, who were attempting to prevent a riot from developing. Subsequently, the sector of the lower level where DTLR is located was shut down, only allowing stores in that area patrons for the Wale signing as customers, and the area was cordoned off until 8 PM. Those in line beyond that area were asked to leave the scene.
Maybach Music Group’s Selfmade, featuring Rick Ross and newly minted MMG rappers Meek Millz, Pill and Wale is available on iTunes and all major local music retailers.