Wale: From Free Mixtapes To Billboard Hits

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Born to Nigerian parents in Washington, D.C., Wale calls himself the "Ambassador of Rap for the Capital." He first caught the press' eye few years ago with a series of free mixtapes and incendiary live shows.

Then came big record deals. In 2011, he signed with Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group to release Ambition, his second studio album. When Ambition's first single, "Lotus Flower Bomb," reached the top of Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart, it was Wale's biggest hit to date.

Music journalist Danyel Smith says the single has been one of her favorite songs. She says she still plays it three times a day.

"I'm always super-happy when someone says to themselves, 'I don't care what anyone thinks about the kind of record I make. I'm going to make something that makes me feel good,'" Smith says. "That's the attitude I get from 'Lotus Flower Bomb.' It's unabashedly romantic — rare for a hip-hop [song]. And it's rare that someone gets it right — but Wale got it right."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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