The self-proclaimed “Ambassador of Rap for the Capital,” Washington, D.C.-based rapper Wale (pronounced “wah-lay”) was able to transcend his local sensation status and become a national rap contender using go-go-inspired hip-hop as the vehicle for his lyricism and clever wordplay.
Olubowale Victor Folarin was born in D.C. in 1984 to Nigerian immigrants who first arrived to America five years prior. Moving to Maryland at age ten, however, Wale was mostly raised in suburban D.C. He attended both Robert Morris College and Virginia State University on football scholarships, but then transferred a third time to Bowie State.
The music bug already had bit him hard, and soon he quit Bowie State to turn towards a recording career.
Wale got his first airplay circa 2003-2004 with “Rhyme of the Century,” thanks to the help of a local radio DJ who believed in his potential. This landed him in the “Unsigned Hype” column in Source magazine the following year.
In 2006, Wale signed to local start-up imprint Studio 43, owned by a former VP of Roc-a-Fella Records, and enjoyed a string of hits in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia area that year.
Many of those records sampled from ’80s go-go, a more raw, percussion-driven offshoot of disco originating in D.C., like the popular “Dig Dug,” a tribute to Ronald “Dig Dug” Dixon of go-go band the Northeast Groovers.
The use of the Internet and /MySpace were big factors for his success, which is how British über-producer and DJ Mark Ronson (Amy Winehouse, Christina Aguilera, Rhymefest) caught wind of the go-go MC in 2007.
Wale then struck a production deal with Ronson’s Allido imprint and released the 100 Miles and Running mixtape that summer. Despite not being signed to any major label yet, tons of press, ranging from XXL magazine to The New York Times, started to cover the D.C. sensation in 2007 and 2008. After a bidding war that included Epic, Atlantic, and Def Jam, Interscope finally grabbed Wale for its roster in early 2008. Cyril Cordor, All Music Guide.