Meet Wale, a rapper with a jones for indie rock

Wale might seem like the kind of rapper only a blogger could love, but music-industry titan Jimmy Iovine's betting he can move units to the masses. His recent signing with Iovine's Interscope Records has been the culmination of a startlingly rapid ascent for the Washington, D.C., rapper, who, after catching the ear of DJ and producer Mark Ronson, released a pair of compulsive, pop-culture-referencing mixtapes. Last year's 100 Miles and Running and the recent The Mixtape About Nothing have outlined his style — rapidly spit rhymes that reference his favorite television shows and his love for his home town and include lots of silly jokes.

"My mind is set on one thing — bringing that Grammy back to D.C.," Wale says at the beginning of "DC Gorillaz." "I'm gonna have a Grammy around my neck, like fuck it. I'm going to tie it on a shoestring and put it around my neck, walk around with no T-shirt on, and flip-flops and camo shorts."

Wale's a blogger's dream come true.
Wale's a blogger's dream come true.

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Rock the Bells, with A Tribe Called Quest, NAS, Mos Def and more, noon Saturday, August 23, Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre, 6350 Greenwood Plaza Boulevard, Englewood, $24.50-$74.50, 303-830-8497.

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His blogosphere reception has been nothing short of rapturous, at least partly because he raps over beats culled from popular indie artists like Justice and Lily Allen. And he seems to be aware of this appeal, having told Entertainment Weekly's blog last year: "Lily + Ronson + Wale = blogger's wet dream."

"I feel like bloggers are just a representation of people," he says now, speaking from L.A., where he's working on his debut album, due out early next year. "It's more representative of the average person than television."

He lists Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs among his other indie-rock favorites, and also name-drops folks like Jay-Z, Black Thought from the Roots, and UGK's Bun B, all of whom regularly give him advice.

Wale is attempting to break new ground by merging radio-friendly jams with a hipster's sensibility. While The Mixtape About Nothing is ostensibly about his Seinfeld obsession — Julia Louis-Dreyfus even gives him a shout-out on it — its underlying message concerns the inanity of most mainstream rap. "Most people like stuff that's not really about anything," he says of snap music fans and the like. "I'm trying to poke fun — trying to throw them off a little bit."

It sounds like a bit of a tightrope act, attempting to appeal to a wide audience while simultaneously making fun of them. But even if Wale falls, he'll be fun to watch.

 
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