The Gifted is by no means bad. If anything, it’s aggressively competent (to the point of being dull).

On 2011’s Ambition, Wale showcased his dynamic flow and catchy beats (best of all on the Diplo-produced standout ‘Slight Work’), however the album lacked cohesion and was lyrically uninspiring, alluding to Wale’s potential, but nevertheless falling short of the mark. With this in mind, I was keen to check out how Wale had grown as an artist and lyricist, particularly when I noticed that The Gifted managed to knock Kanye West’s Yeezus off its number one spot (on July 4 no less).

 

However, given the album’s lofty title, I should have known I was destined for disappointment. To his credit, the album is much more cohesive than his previous releases and has a unified sound characterised by soul samples and heavily-produced, nuanced beats. No stranger to the pulling power of guest stars (his debut album featured Lady Gaga), the star power is once again out in force, with guest spots from Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa and others. The outro, affectionately titled ‘The Outro About Nothing’ in reference to Seinfeld and Wale’s 2008 Mixtape About Nothing, even features a cameo from Jerry Seinfeld.

 

Despite a strong opener (the cinematic intro ‘The Curse of the Gifted’), and the soul-inspired standout ‘LoveHate Thing’, things quickly get monotonous and predictable (tracks like ‘Heaven’s Afternoon’ seem like filler). By the time we reach the middle of the album, it all takes a distinct turn for the worst, with ‘Vanity’ featuring a poorly conceived (verging on embarrassing) sample of Tears For Fears’ ‘Mad World’. The chilled out concluding tracks (‘Rotation’, ‘Simple Man’ and ‘Bad’) are all catchy and provide a solid wind-down, but aren’t enough for the album to live up to its title.

 

3/5 stars

 

BY MARISA LUGOSI

 

The Gifted is out now through Maybach Music Group.

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