Live Review: Wale @ The Roxy in LA (02.02.10)

Washington, D.C. based rapper Wale has been receiving his due as of late after toiling in the underground for the last decade. He finally reached the big time in 2008 with the release of his major label debut Attention Deficit, which is packed with such notable guest stars as Pharrell, Lady Gaga, Melanie Fiona, Jazmine Sullivan, and Marsha Ambrosius. Yet no guest stars were needed for Wale to sell out the famous Roxy on LA’s Sunset Strip. Apparently Wale has reached his moment.

A healthy line awaited me at the Roxy on this chilly Tuesday night. A diverse throng of college-aged hip-hop fans made their way efficiently into the packed house. This being an all ages show there was of course some drama to be had at the door but once inside that all melted away. The Roxy was in full effect with an assortment of local MCs and DJs keeping the crowd hyped with an array of hip-hop and electro fusions. Most notable was live hip-hop band Audible Mainframe, who seem bound for Coachella stardom with their easy hybrid of hip-hop beats and indie sensibilities. Their intense energy enticed wild cheers from the sold out venue and warmed the stage for the main event.

Before Wale jumped on the stage, his DJ heated up the decks, creating a California vibe with some classic and new cuts that primed the room. Wale was all fluent energy onstage, obviously having a ball with his hard fought success. His set started off strong with the classic sample of “Mama Told Me” before running through a selection of the best tracks from Attention Deficit. “World Tour” found the audience singing the hook in unison as did the more serious “90210.” One of the album’s finest cuts “Beautiful Bliss” ended off the set in fine style but it was during “Pretty Girls” that Wale took charge of the night. By grabbing a dozen or so ladies from the audience to join him onstage, Wale personalized the show, making it a memorable experience for his fans. Unfortunately security had other plans, systematically making each girl get off the stage (and actually dragging one off). Despite this, it was a special thing to watch an MC from the underground leave his mark on this famous Los Angeles venue.

Norman Mayers