Noise Pop: Running with Wale

Pub date February 20, 2008
WriterBilly Jam
SectionMusicSectionMusic Features

Back in 2006, when Washington DC music veteran Ronald "Dig Dug" Dixon, of legendary go-go band the Northeast Groovers (NEG), first got wind that some rap upstart named Wale (pronounced Wah-lay) had not only sampled NEG’s music without permission but also jacked Dixon’s stage name for his single’s title and refrain, he was not happy. But when Dixon learned that Wale also hailed from the nation’s capital, better known for its go-go scene than its hip-hop, and that the single "Dig Dug" was in fact a heartfelt homage to both NEG and go-go, all bad vibes soon subsided and the young hip-hop hopeful got his elder’s blessing.

In the two years since, Wale’s career has taken off at an accelerated pace. The unsigned artist performed at last year’s MTV Video Music Awards, appeared on the cover of Urb, and gathered countless other write-ups and gushing features in such publications as XXL, Rolling Stone, the Washington Post, and Entertainment Weekly, which honored him as one of the top eight new faces to watch this year. And Wale, who has rightfully dubbed himself "the ambassador of rap for the capital," seems poised to live up to all this hype, especially since last July’s mixtape 100 Miles and Running caught the attention and respect of one Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Lily Allen), who has since produced the still-unsigned rapper.

Wale, who performs at Mighty on Feb. 29 as part of Noise Pop, is taking all of this in stride. Speaking recently by phone as he drove around Los Angeles with his manager, the MC — who was born Olubowale Folarin 23 years ago in DC to Nigerian immigrant parents — proclaimed confidently that talent is what got him to the position he’s in today.

"Lucky?" he asked, somewhat surprised when I questioned him about the recent hype and accolades bestowed on him. "Lucky? That implies that I don’t have talent. I do. And that comes first. And after that, there is some luck….

"My manager is good at his job."

And what label will the much-sought-after artist sign with? "Actually, I may not even sign with a label. I may not need to…. Just wait and see how it goes," said the ambassador, who seems destined to put DC firmly on the rap map.


With Trackademicks and Nick Catchdubs

Feb. 29, 9 p.m., $15–$20


119 Utah, SF

(415) 626-7001

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