Wale's 25 Favorite Rap Albums

The Maybach Music signee talks about his love for albums by Kanye, AZ, Camp Lo, Noreaga, and more.

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Complex Original

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Last week, when we dropped our epic Q&A with Wale, we had a very serious conversation about topics like his relationship with Kid Cudi, his new affiliation with Maybach Music, and what’s next for his career. But that’s only because here at Complex, we know it’s business before pleasure. So after we got all that serious stuff out of the way, we decided to have some fun and let Mr. Folarin pick out his 25 Favorite Rap Albums. So click ahead and read about which Chicago rapper he thinks opened doors for the new school rappers (no, it's not Kanye), who he stole his copy of Life After Death from, and how he spoke to Drake for an hour the day before So Far Gone dropped.

[Ed.—At Wale’s behest, we must mention that although there are two non-rap albums on this list, this should be considered Wale’s favorite rap albums and not his favorite albums in general. Despite allowing him to choose whatever he liked, he intentionally did not want to mix genres.]

As told to Insanul Ahmed (@Incilin)

#25. Young Dro, Best Thang Smokin’ (2007)

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Favorite song: “My Girl”

Wale: “That’s a sleeper. That’s just fun to listen to. The summer [that it dropped] me and my cousin Bo used to drive around listening to that joint all the time. ‘Shoulder Lean’ was crazy. That’s a timeless club record. It’s forever.”

#24. Lil Wayne, Tha Block Is Hot (1999)

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Favorite song: “Fuck The World”

Wale: “That’s when Lil Wayne had the city for real. He’s still got it, but young niggas like us? ‘And I don’t curse, but in this verse man, fuck the world.’ Wayne’s always been big in D.C., I’ve been a Wayne fan from jump.”

#23. Mac, Shell Shocked (1998)

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Favorite song: “Tank Dogs” f/ C-Murder & Fiend

Wale: “[I like this because] at the time I was going through some school issues and shit like that. It’s my wildcard pick because I want everybody to listen to that album that came out in ‘98 and see how this guy [rapped]. If he wasn’t incarcerated right now, I feel like we’d be talking about him.”

#22. Noreaga, N.O.R.E. (1998)

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Favorite song: “Banned From TV” f/ Big Pun, Nature, Cam'ron, Jadakiss & Styles P

Wale: “I remember getting that joint, [Cam’ron’s] Confessions on Fire, and Benzino’s album at the same time. No knocking Benzino—it’s just that I was very influenced by The Source magazine’s ratings. I was a kid! I was like 13 at the time. I was like, ‘If The Source says it’s a three-and-a-half mics, let me get this shit.’

I wasn’t really familiar with Noreaga, because niggas wasn’t bumping him in D.C. like that. But when I heard that shit, ‘Banned From TV,’ I was like, ‘That’s how you start a fucking album!’”

#21. Daniel Merriweather, Love & War (2009)

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Favorite song: “Water And A Flame” f/ Adele

Wale: “That’s airplane music. Daniel’s one of the most talented musicians in the game. We got an opportunity to spend a lot of time on the road together. He has a song called ‘Water And A Flame,’ a duet with him and Adele. If you have an amazing relationship with a girl or if you had one, just listen to that shit.”

#20. Bun B, II Trill (2006)

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Favorite song: “You’re Everything” f/ Rick Ross, David Banner, 8Ball, & MJG

Wale: “I like the record ‘You’re Everything’ with the K-Ci and Jo-Jo sample. That’s when Bun B was really starting to brand himself as a solo act the most.”

#19. Dr. Dre, The Chronic (1992)

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Favorite song: “Let Me Ride”

Wale: “That’s when I was living in D.C. and I was so young, it took a couple of years for that album to catch up to me. It’s one of the first complete bodies of work in hip-hop, the most memorable sonically.”

#18. Lupe Fiasco, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor (2006)

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Favorite song: “American Terrorist” f/ Matthew Santos

Wale: “I can’t tell you how big of a Lupe fan I was when he first came out. I didn’t know a damn thing about skateboarding, but I was like, ‘This fly Chicago nigga man, he’s spitting. For real.’ That Revenge of The Nerds mixtape? Fucking crazy. And it was the start man. People think Kanye started these new niggas. But Lupe Fiasco started all of this shit for us to get a chance and for Complex to really fuck with niggas like us. I can’t even really compare it to B.O.B. and Meek, because they’re more street-based. But for someone like myself, Cudi, or even my artist Black Cobain, that kind of gave us that other look.”

#17. Fiend, Street Life (1999)

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Favorite song: “Talk It How I Bring It”

Wale: “I loved Fiend’s Street Life. [At the time] I was thinking I was a drug dealer trying to do what everybody else was doing, and I was doing that shit. I never took myself too seriously, but listening to that shit will give you that extra motivation. Fiend was always my favorite from No Limit. I just think that was his best album. I’ve got a song that’ll probably never come out—because Ross hates it—but my second verse I go, ‘I hit the block when the coppers leave, smoking the ghetto’s best marijuana tree.’ That’s Fiend. Like I’m about to start quoting Fiend the way niggas quote Rakim and shit. That shit used to get me so hype back in the day. The most underrated rapper. Ever.”

#16. Drake, So Far Gone (2009)

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Favorite song: “Brand New”

Wale: “It changed music, for real. Nobody’s been able to balance melody and consistent raps that well since Lauryn Hill. And it’s a completely different vibe than Lauryn, but the dude proved to everybody that he could rap with the best of them, sing, and make great records that connect with the people. Every song on there is an amazing record.

“I remember talking to Drake for an hour the day before he dropped that mixtape. I was on my way to Australia for the Good Vibrations Festival, and we had an emergency landing in Hawaii. We talked and I just knew like, ‘Young’n is going to blow up after this mixtape.’ He was like, ‘Man, what do you think people are going to say? I’m singing a lot on there.’ I said, ‘Dog, you’re making good records though. You’re singing but you’re making good records.’ You can’t deny good records, it doesn’t matter. Fucking Andre 3000 can wear a yarmulke with fireworks on it, if he’s making good songs, nobody says anything.”

#15. Lil Wayne, Tha Carter (2004)

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Favorite song: “Walk In”

Wale: “I was a big Lil Wayne fan when he first came out. I always supported him, but that’s when I knew he was going to have his time now. There’s a lot of people that watch me like, ‘Man, I love Wale. I just hope he blows up.’ That was my time where I could be like, ‘All y’all niggas that doubted Lil Wayne, look now.’”

#14. The Roots, Phrenology (2002)

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Favorite song: “Thought @ Work”

Wale: “I first really discovered how great that was at an airport listening to my iPod. I’ve always been a big Roots fan, obviously. But that joint just had so many records that make me feel like rapping. It makes you feel like rapping over drum breaks and mad hip-hop shit. ‘Thought @ Work’ inspired a lot of Wale records man. If I get stuck, I listen to ‘Thought @ Work.’”

#13. AZ, 9 Lives (2001)

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Favorite song: “Problems”

Wale: “I remember that’s when the Napster phase first came, at least for me. And I was so infatuated with AZ’s voice since that was the first time I had ever heard him. But that’s when he was really doing his own thing heavy. I was in love with that album. I remember getting on my cheap ass computer and just listening to that shit. He’s still one of my favorite rappers today.”

#12. Eminem, The Slim Shady LP (1998)

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Favorite song: “‘97 Bonnie & Clyde”

Wale: “One of my friends who got murdered a couple of years ago, he was like, ‘Yo, this white boy tight.’ I was like, ‘I’m not listening to that shit.’ But then I heard '‘97 Bonnie & Clyde.’ When I heard that shit...he raps like I’ve never heard before and you can follow it. After that, I’ve been a big Eminem fan.”

#11. Kanye West, Graduation (2007)

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Favorite song: ”Glory”

Wale: “I remember hearing it at the Allido office the day that it leaked. I was like, ‘This nigga Kanye!’ The production on that album, the synths, and all the shit that he was using was crazy. I’m such a big Kanye fan that I didn’t want to listen to it until it was out, but everybody at Allido kept playing it. So I was like, ‘Fuck it, this shit is retarded.’"

#10. Ma$e, Harlem World (1997)

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Favorite song: “Jealous Guys” f/ 112

Wale: “That’s the first album I probably knew front-to-back. That was around the time when I first started going to a detention center school, so my bus ride to school was like 45 minutes and I would bump that every day. I feel like to this day nobody has ever come in the game as cool as Ma$e did. Puffy did an amazing job with Mase. He didn’t stay around long enough to become over or underrated, it’s just Ma$e now. But he was on the cusp. He had that sophomore slump, but people were ready to see what he was going to do after that.”

#9. Juvenile, 400 Degreez (1998) / Jay-Z, American Gangster (2007)

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400 Degreez

Favorite song: “Gone Ride With Me”

Wale: “That joint makes me feel like success amongst me and my friends, living our dreams. My man Greg, he makes us listen to it every day. Every day we have to listen to ‘Sweet.’ My whole company, we listen to that every day because it’s about getting rich and being successful with your friends.”

#8. Kanye West, The College Dropout (2004)

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Favorite song: “Spaceship” f/ GLC & Consequence

Wale: “That joint was crazy! The sequencing of that shit. That was my second year in school. I was a big Kanye West fan, big Roc-A-Fella fan. He’s amazing. I love his personality. When you really sit back and realize how great of an album that is, you’re just like, ‘Fuck.’ I knew that music was changing for the better and that albums would be more balanced from that day forward.”

#7. 2Pac, All Eyez On Me (1996)

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Favorite song: “How Do U Want It” f/ K-Ci & Jo-Jo

Wale: “To some people—and a lot of people I grew up with—that’s the soundtrack to their life. Pac is still the most influential person in young, black culture because of the mentality he instilled and he’s been gone for like 15 years now. By that I mean, the I.D.G.A.F. (I Don’t Give A Fuck) Attitude. He didn’t really care about shit. He was more for the people and I’m learning that. I put my music and the people first, that’s where I’m at with it.”

#6. Rick Ross, Teflon Don (2010)

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Favorite song: “Tears Of Joy” f/ Cee-Lo

Wale: “That was the moment when it all changed for Rick Ross. That was huge for him. It connected a lot of dots. It put him in another caliber of emcees, like he’s one of the best rappers. Fuck how catchy his hooks are, he’s an emcee. He can rap. When I first heard ‘Tears of Joy,’ I heard it on RapRadar. It was special man. It’s the pain, it just touches you. I could see the 18-year-old me getting up, going to school, going to football practice, and listening to it.”

#5. Notorious B.I.G., Life After Death (1997)

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Favorite song: “Notorious Thugs” f/ Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

Wale: “I was so consumed in go-go music—and a lot of other things—but I was such a hip-hop head. I just never dedicated myself to nobody. Right when I was about to start dedicating myself to Biggie, he died. And that was his last piece of work. I cherish that shit. That was a great album. I remember how I felt when I first heard ‘Mo Money Mo Problems.’ I was like, ‘Man, this is the jam. He’s really spitting on this joint.’ I remember having it on a double-CD. I stole it from somebody at school. I think it was an Asian kid in my class that had it and I got that shit from him.”

#4. Camp Lo, Uptown Saturday Night (1997)

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Favorite song: “Sparkle”

Wale: “I was listening to Camp Lo before I was listening to Jay-Z. The production and the delivery was all I could really understand because they were making up their own shit, but I just liked it so much. That was the first time where people were actually speaking English, but I didn’t understand what they were saying, but I felt it. The production on it was incredible.”

#3. Jay-Z, The Blueprint (2001)/Lauryn Hill, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill (1998)

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The Blueprint

Favorite song: “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”

Wale: “That’s just one of those other albums where you know there can never be anything like that. It’s just a retarded album. Lauryn Hill could’ve been that female Bob Marley. People think Lauryn Hill could have been the best female emcee. No. Lauryn Hill could have been the best musician since Michael Jackson.

#2. Jay-Z, Reasonable Doubt (1996)

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Favorite song: “Brooklyn’s Finest” f/ The Notorious B.I.G.

Wale: “I’m into poetry, like I really write poems. Jay-Z wasn’t rapping on that album. That’s something the fuck else. His vocabulary, delivery, and honesty—that shit was something else. That shit was freaky. If you get high listening to that joint, it’ll freak you out how good he is. I didn’t get hip to Reasonable Doubt until Vol. 1 was out. When he said [on 'Hard Knock Life'], ‘I brought you prophecy on the first joint, and y’all all lamed out,’ I was like, ‘Yeah. I did, but I won’t again.’”

#1. Micheal Jackson, Thriller (1982)

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Favorite song: “Baby Be Mine”

Wale: “That’s a no-brainer. Play me any song off Thriller and I can play it for ten hours straight. I remember trying to teach myself all the Micheal Jackson dance moves while watching Moonwalker all day. I can still do the moonwalk, I might do it on stage at a show every once in a while. My favorite song on there has changed throughout the years. That’s why it’s the best album that ever came out.”

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