Wale, "Ambition" (Maybach Music Group/Warner Bros.)
With a slew of mixtapes, Wale built a reputation as a witty rapper who delivered quick punch lines. His skills eventually landed him a major-label deal and debut album, "Attention Deficit," two years ago.
But while his first record received favorable reviews, Wale says he felt artistically stifled under Mark Ronson's Allido Records, a partnership with Interscope Records. So the rapper parted ways with the label and found a new home with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group, and so far, the marriage seems to be a perfect fit, as shown with his sophomore album, "Ambition."
Wale's clever wordplay meshes well with the high-energy, well-produced tracks typically associated with the Maybach Music brand. The rapper doesn't waste time showing that on his confident intro, "Don't Hold Your Applause."
Throughout the album, the Washington, D.C.-raised rapper shows how his hard work has paid off creatively, with songs such as "Focused" featuring Kid Cudi, "No Days Off" and "Legendary."
Unlike his previous album, which featured mostly female singers, male R&B crooners are the featured guests, including Ne-Yo, Lloyd, Miguel and Jeremih. Each of the slow-tempo ballads with Wale rapping are easy listens, especially on the album's single, "Lotus Flower Bomb," with Miguel.
Wale also provides some thought-provoking perspective on "D.C. or Nothing." He raps about his concern on how a checkup from the doctor strikes more fear into people from his hometown than the local police.
CHECK OUT THIS TRACK: The album's title track, featuring Meek Mill and Ross, is a well-crafted track by Canadian producer T-Minus.
Follow Jonathan Landrum Jr. on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/mrlandrum31