I was hurt man. Just because I felt like Complex was trying to perpetuate certain things. And it was a real part of my life. I knew I was going to be good, but I just didn’t know where I was going or what I was doing. That’s when you feel like your world’s crashing down. Imagine leaving your job, for whatever reason. You leave and you don’t know what you’re about to do. You just don’t have faith in your craft. Then your favorite publication and your brother seem like they’re like...it just felt real bad. Not a lot of things can hurt Wale, but that did. And no matter what I would have said at that time [of the Kid Cudi cover story], it would have looked like sarcastic or whatever. It’s a weird place in your life man.
You’re older now, so you can regroup. But you’ve got to keep going. I’m glad we got to do this, because I just want to build with Complex again. It’s a different me now. I’m not trying to compete. A lot of us were getting caught up in that, so we didn’t really work as much. Now everybody is cool because we know what it is now. We’re just happy to be around.
Were you depressed at that time?
Nah. I just didn’t want to do shit.
You didn’t want to do shit? That’s depression.
I wasn’t really depressed because I was still living my life, dating, and doing shows and shit.
What got you through that time?
The fans did.
Because you were doing shows and they’d still be there supporting you?
It never dropped at all. And a lot of people, if you do 28K it will drop. They’ve got more rich. The shows didn’t slow down. It never slowed. It was weird for us, we were kind of waiting for the big [dropoff], but it just never happened. And then the looks just kept coming in. We would do shows and I’d ask, “Is the quote going down?” And it’d be like, “Nah.” It’s like it never connected with the fans that I wasn’t selling records. That’s why I love my fans to death. They were the people who bought Attention Deficit. The people who bought the album are the people who went to those shows. It was a hard album to find. Very hard to find.
Do those same fans want you to be on Lex Luger beats, rolling with Maybach?
It shouldn’t matter. If you’re a real Wale fan, it shouldn’t matter to you. How can you tell somebody who to hang with? You know what I’m saying? Some of my fans may hang with fucking atheists and devil worshippers. I can’t tell you who to hang with. I grew up with niggas like Ross and them. They’re more like the people I grew up with than Mark Ronson. I might listen to Mark Ronson’s shit more than I listen to fucking Lex Luger’s shit.
I hope the fans understand that the album's not going to sound like a hundred Lex Luger beats and Wale. Itâ€™s going to sound the way Attention Deficit meant to sound.
But I hope the fans understand that the album's not going to sound like a hundred Lex Luger beats and Wale. It’s going to sound the way Attention Deficit meant to sound. It’s still going to have the great syntax. I still want to work with K’Naan. But you know how hard it was to get such and such in the studio before? Such and such ain’t no problem now. No problem. But this time now, I’m at the point where I realize I don’t need such and such. I could do my whole album with any producer. I’m so in a zone right now. When I signed with Warner and they heard my new songs, even they were surprised. They were like, “I didn’t know Wale was like that.”
I’m not playing. I want to be known as the best rapper in 2011. The best. I want to be the best lyricist. If you could read Wale's words, you could sing his words, you could fucking put them in braille, you’re going to know that’s one of the best fucking rappers of 2011. Wale emerged as the best rapper. I want niggas to be like, “Man, when it comes to spitting that shit, you’ve got to put Wale’s name with anybody.”
I’m going to always have money. If I stopped tomorrow I’d find a way to make money. I’ve always been able to make money. I want to be the best. Listen to “4 AM.” It’s another Wale on there. I’m evolving. Right before your eyes it’s evolving. I’m turning into something that nobody can really put a finger on. Ross told me the other day, he was like, “Dog, you are about to be one of the best rappers in the game, lyrically.” I believe in that. I don’t know if I believed in that all the way the first time around. I knew I was good. Now I know I can be great.
Where would you be now if you didn’t sign to Maybach Music?
We had some deals on the table. A lot, actually. A lot of other artists were like, “Yo, I can get you a better joint.”
What is your situation with Interscope? Did you get dropped?
It was a mutual thing. We sat down and were like, “How into this project are you?” The money was going to different little places. It was good. I love all of those guys: Jimmy, Andrew Flad, all of those guys. It was just time for another vibe.
So now when your album drops it’s like Warner Brothers and Maybach Music?
Yup. No Interscope. And Roc Nation still manages me. I just talked to Jay-Z today. I’ve known Jay for about six years and I’ve never seen him that excited for me, ever. He was like, “I just need you to know that I love your energy. I love your vibe. I love everything you’re doing right now.”