The course of pop culture history often hinges on artists stepping up after a competitor turns down an opportunity. John Travolta rebooted his career in Pulp Fiction only after Michael Madsen turned down the role of Vincent, and D'Angelo made "Devil's Pie" only after Canibus passed on the instrumental.
Early Sunday morning, Wale revealed he is now one of the poor souls who will be forever remembered as a footnote rather than a benefactor of a massive hit. Participating in a conversation about music trivia, the D.C. native confessed he was offered the opportunity to work on "See You Again," the song Wiz Khalifa would eventually help turn into one of the biggest rap songs in history.
That's Timbaland on the hook on "clappers" in the background . I turned "see you again" down cuz it was way too sad for me to write— Wale (@Wale) June 11, 2017
He's not the first rapper to admit to passing on the track. 50 Cent explained during a radio interview that he and Eminem skipped out on "See You Again," primarily because he was involved with the soundtrack for the movie Southpaw. 50 even went so far as to say "See You Again" was originally developed for Eminem.
While it was a bad miss for Em, he has plenty of huge records to fall back on. "See You Again" would represent the biggest record in Wale's catalog by a country mile, just like it does for Khalifa. Wale's biggest record to date was "Bad," which peaked at No. 21 on the Billboard Hot 100, compared to 12 weeks at No. 1 and a billion plays on YouTube for "See You Again." It has to sting to miss out on the opportunity, because there's no telling how it would have changed the trajectory of the rapper's career.
We shouldn't assume the song would have had the same impact regardless of who was on it, though. While Khalifa is often chided for how narrow his music can be thematically, he's better than a lot of his peers at sounding natural while blending rapping and singing. Fast and Furious' huge audience and Charlie Puth's killer hook would have remained on "See You Again"—and that's an undeniably huge part of the success of "See You Again"—but there's no telling how big the song would have been if another rapper like Wale had been attached to it.
While you would never want an artist work on something that isn't authentic, Wale probably should have taken a crack at "See You Again." It might have felt strange for him to write such a sad song, but sometimes you have to expose yourself to new opportunities to achieve massive success.