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Wale, Live At NPR's Tiny Desk Fest

Wale performs a Tiny Desk concert on Oct. 30, 2019.
Laura Beltrán Villamizar
Wale performs a Tiny Desk concert on Oct. 30, 2019.

Washington D.C. rapper Wale stands as one of the most distinctive figures in hip-hop today. More than 10 years ago, the man born Olubowale Victor Akintimehin created a local buzz in the D.C. area through a host of mixtapes showcasing his skills atop popular instrumentals. What separated him from the hundreds of hopeful MCs trying to make names for themselves online was his ability to fuse go-go music — D.C.'s homegrown spin on funk — with hip-hop. Well, that and a mixtape tribute to Seinfeld.

In 2011, he joined forces with Rick Ross and his Maybach Music Group and the true breakout commenced. "Lotus Flower Bomb", the lead single from his sophomore album, Ambition, earned him a Grammy nomination for best rap song. It's since been streamed more than 150 million times, and that number probably sells it short.

While he's contributed a few club bangers and is known to stir up frenzies during his live shows, the DMV native is unabashed about his knack for the ladies and his calling card remains the rap ballad. The streak continues on his new album, Wow...That's Crazy, which debuted at No. 7 on the Billboard Top 200 album chart earlier this month. Itillustrates an emcee more self-aware than ever, exposing flaws and struggles while exhibiting a self confidence that seems to be fully intact. You never know what Wale you're going to get, but you're sure to be entertained.

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Bobby Carter
Bobby Carter is a leader on the Tiny Desk Concerts team for NPR Music. He's brought an ever growing roster of big names and emerging artists through NPR's HQ to squeeze behind the desk of All Songs Considered host Bob Boilen and record standout performances, including Usher, Mac Miller, Noname, Anderson.Paak and H.E.R.