Wale, ‘The Gifted’

Those expecting Wale to finally take his game to the next level will have to wait as his third record is inconsistent and mostly forgettable. It’s not unfair to expect more from the brainy Washington, D.C., native, who has made commercial inroads and shown flashes of excellence. The MC has a deep vocabulary, ambition, and little to say here. Despite his rep as a cerebral artist, these tracks — other than a few songs (“The Curse of the Gifted,” “Black Heroes”) — are shallow and mostly bereft of sharp lines. The organic production (dubbed “new black soul”), relying heavily on keyboards and backing vocals, is more compelling than the verses. He offers shopworn themes including the contradictions of success, religious hypocrisy, and, yes, women. Most prominent is, surprise, the struggle of being Wale. The media gets critiqued on “Gullible” with Cee Lo Green, yet insight or irony is nowhere to be found. “Clappers,” a booty anthem, is a hopped-up homage to D.C.’s go-go music. Fun, but completely redundant. (Out Tuesday) Ken Capobianco

ESSENTIAL "The Curse of the Gifted"