Wale wanted to infuse his debut album with a woman's touch, so the rapper recruited singing divas like Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Chrisette Michele and Jazmine Sullivan to get that feeling across.
"I need a woman to help me convey the message because they're more emotional and my album is 100 percent about emotion," the 25-year-old said of "Attention Deficit," released this month.
"(It's) about feeling imperfect, about feeling like the world is on your shoulders, about feeling good about yourself, feeling great, feeling like the underdog — it's all about those emotions," he said.
The newcomer first garnered underground buzz with the release of his various mixtapes, but his mainstream success has not been as potent. The album's first single, the upbeat "Chillin," only peaked at No. 99 on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart.
But the Nigerian-bred, Washington, D.C.-raised entertainer is pressing on. He recently opened up on Jay-Z's tour and says he lives by his personal motto, "Obsess Over Success."
"You have to be obsessed with being successful," he said.
The Associated Press: You say your album is about emotions — was it emotional to record?
Wale: Some, because it's about real life. The mixtapes are just songs for the sake of being songs, whereas my album is reality, about real situations in my life that tell a story. If I mentioned a girl named Dominique, if you know me, you know Dominique, whether it was high school or early childhood ... From top to bottom it's direct, honest details about my life.
AP: How was it different to record a studio album vs. a mixtape?
Wale: You learn a lot in the beginning. I've been so independent and hands on for the past four years, and now it's like, you got to do an album. You got people telling you what you can and can't do. ... I'm learning as I go. I learned a lot from album No. 1 that album No. 2's going to be a breeze.
AP: I know you recorded a lot of the songs in Miami. Why there?
Wale: I tend to record better when I am in Miami for some reason, I don't know, maybe because I'm outside and I see (producer) Scott Scorch's Phantom outside and that just makes me get hungry, or I see Rick Ross outside with all his jewelry and I'm like, "I got to go back in. I'm not at this level yet."
AP: Are things like cars and jewelry what motivate you?
Wale: What makes me happy is just being comfortable. Being able to go into my house and play video games all day and know that I'm taken care of and there's money in the bank. Or be able to provide for my family when I decide to have one and I just want to get to that level. Not necessarily the Phantom, it would be nice though.
AP: Your parents are from Nigeria — how did their culture influence you growing up?
Wale: Everything is a lot stricter. I grew up in D.C. and so it was bad, real bad at that time. And a lot of African parents are easily influenced by the news or whatever they see or hear. Like if somebody gets shot in Southeast (area of D.C.), my mother's like, "Come inside right now because they're shooting right now." It was tough but it made me what I am today. My discipline is very intact as well as my work ethic.
AP: You growing up difficult?
Wale: I had a problem with authority. I never really liked people telling me what to do, and it's benefited me because I'm in this game right now with no major co-sign and I don't even have (people like Lil) Wayne, Kanye (West), or this or that person like a lot of my other peers, which is all good. But it's like I got to do it on my own, and I've learned to do a lot on my own.
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