October 4, 2009 / 11:42 PM / 9 years ago

Still a long way to the top for rapper MC Wale

NEW YORK (Billboard) - MC Wale seems poised to make the leap to mainstream success.

Rapper Wale performs with his band at Virgin Mobile Free Fest in Columbia, Maryland August 30, 2009. REUTERS/Bill Auth

He’s already built up a wealth of hipster cred, making mixtapes inspired by “Seinfeld” and playing parties at wine bars packed with the young and the cool. But Wale could have a more complicated journey to mainstream success.

It’s not for lack of effort. Last month Wale (born Wale Folarin) performed as part of the house band for the MTV Video Music Awards in New York, and he recently confirmed he will be joining Jay-Z, N*E*R*D and J. Cole for a stateside college tour this fall. In the last few months, he also appeared in an ad for the apparel line LRG and a commercial for Nike, inspired by his own “Nike Boots” song.

Now, Wale will be releasing his debut album, “Attention Deficit,” November 3 on producer Mark Ronson’s Interscope-distributed Allido Records. The album boasts appearances by Lady Gaga, Jazmine Sullivan, Gucci Mane and Bun B and production from a slew of top names.

So far, however, the major embrace hasn’t translated into sales. Wale was best-known and acclaimed for incorporating go-go music, a local style that’s little used outside his native Washington D.C. But none of the singles released have been go-go tracks, and the new album’s first single, “Chillin’,” featuring Gaga, entered the Billboard Hot 100 at No. 99, where it remained for only a week before falling off. The second single, “World Tour,” has yet to crack the charts.

Wale’s manager Rich Kleiman says the records didn’t get a reaction not because they didn’t have the go-go sound Wale’s known for, but because of a lack of radio support.

“Go-go is something Wale is heavily influenced by, but not something he is going to force on people. Still, the same way he introduced them to go-go, he wants to introduce to his fans all of the other sounds he’s been influenced by,” he says.

Wale got his start passing out mixtapes in D.C. He was discovered by Ronson in 2007.

Interscope is launching a number of marketing initiatives, including an online video series that “follows his life on a day-to-day basis,” marketing director Andrew Flad says.

Wale also appears in 2K Sports’ “NBA 2K10” videogame, available October 6, as a playable character. Flad adds that Wale and his team are working out a deal for the new “DJ Hero” game that also launches this fall.

In addition to the Jay-Z tour, Wale will perform as-yet-unannounced one-off dates throughout the country starting in the coming weeks and will release a follow-up single, “Let It Loose” featuring Pharrell.

Editing by DGoodman at Reuters

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