Interview: Wale on How a Glass of Red Wine Helped Him Open Obama's Last State of the Union

Plus, he details his new album title and who he thinks will win the WWE Royal Rumble.

Image via Instagram

Wale is having a pretty good week. Tuesday night, the DMV-native became the first rapper to open a State of the Union address, and he performed "White Shoes" and "Chillin" during the pre-show before President Barack Obama addressed the country. He built on that momentum and shared a brand new song and the title of his next albumSHINE, on Wednesday afternoon.

Things couldn't be going better for Wale at the moment, and he's ready to carry that positive energy into 2016.We hopped on the phone with him yesterday to talk about opening the State of the Union, his relationship with Obama, the direction of his new album, and what he'd do if he won the Powerball.

Tell us a little bit about opening the State of the Union.
I was kind of nervous a little bit because the people—I could hear them and I was like, "They don't sound like Wale fans." I was like, "Can I please get a glass of wine? I need a glass of wine to ease my anxiety." They were like, "Well, you gotta wait until after you perform," and I'm like, "No, I need it before, it won't matter after." At the last second—the music had already started—somebody gave me a cup of wine and I just chugged it like a college kid.

How did the performance come together in the first place?
The Obamas aren't like music industry people. They're famous like music industry people, but they don't use leverage. Industry people are so driven like, "Yo, you ain't on the charts no more so I'm not answering your phone calls." Whereas when I met Michelle Obama, we just started talking, whispering jokes, and having a good conversation about music. She was super impressed by my way of thinking and my sense of humor, and that's what made her bring [Barack] Obama downstairs when I wasn't planning to meet him. He surprised me right before I was about to perform in front of some kids. They're just consistent like that. It's really just about how good you are of a person to them, not how big you are or whatever. 

When did you find out you were going to perform?
I was actually in the White House last week, and when I was there, they were like, "He wants you to come back for the State of the Union." I was like, "Who?" And they were like, "Obama," and I was like, "Obama wants me to come back for the State of the Union?" They were like, "He wants you to perform at it, too, because it's not going to be like any other State of the Union."

What have you learned from Obama?
What I take from Obama the most is how he moves in the room. He's like the ultimate room moover that I've ever seen. I'm oblivious to some of my behaviors sometimes and I'll have a Wale moment. But with Obama, if he's in a room with 150 people, he'll make every single person feel important. I don't know if it's the infrastructure—a lot of it's genuine charisma—but if he's in a room he'll make every single person feel important. It's so crazy to me.

As far as black people, we almost forget that's a black African name. Barack Obama. That sounds like a frickin' rapper from Duck Down Records or something.

How would you describe his legacy?
I'm not a politics person, I won't speak on the politics side, but from a pop culture side alone, the fact that we had a black with an African name, too. As far as black people, we almost forget that's a black African name. Barack Obama. That sounds like a frickin' rapper from Duck Down Records or something. We really had a president say, "If folks wanna pop off." That happened. All these candidates can dab and do all these things, but Barack Obama and Michelle Obama was it. They really understood black issues. 

Who do you plan to vote for in the next election?
I don't know. I'm just going to keep looking and staying informed. I feel like everybody should be "people people" instead of "politics people." Like, what do you stand for? Don't try and put it in a box. 

You also just announced your new album title, SHINE. Where'd the name come from?
I've made so much music, man. I'm in a really good place, and a lot of my career, I've been telling you about doom and gloom. Even on my projects, there's a lot of dark shit, like my last album was probably my darkest. We're always going to have ups and downs, we're always going to have good and bad, I just want to have an album where it's not like I'm fighting to get known. Everyone knows the influence Jay Z has had on my life and career, I think the world of him, and I just think one thing, he's always managed to do it, just be a dope nigga, and do any kind of song he wants. I wanted to do an album that's of the time but still stay in the realm of Wale's brand. I'm on my fifth album, some of the greats never made it to their fifth. I'm very, very young still, and I'm just getting started. I put myself through a lot of doom and gloom, and I'm just like, "Wale, man, just be happier, bro." This one just feels different. It's just about having your vibe and your glow. This is really just about shining. 

You dropped the "Powerball" freestyle earlier. What would you buy if you won it?
I would try and buy WWE. [Laughs.] There's so many things, man. 98 percent of that money would be gone in a day, most likely. I don't need that because having that much money scares the shit out of me. It really does. Do the history on people who have won the lottery, it's a fucking curse. So yeah, I'm getting rid of that in a day. 

Lastly, what's your official prediction for the WWE Royal Rumble?
Man, it's an interesting time, isn't it? See, I don't know man. All the injuries and all the guys coming back and the guys from New Japan coming in. I actually want to go, I think I'm going to go in front row and just sit there in character. We'll put fur coats on and sit there. I'll go with Brock Lesnar though. That's my official prediction, on record. It's going to be Brock. 


Latest in Music