High and Rising

Rock the Bells returns to Miami with a fresh crop of legends and up-and-comers

His blogosphere reception has been nothing short of rapturous, at least partly because he raps over beats culled from popular indie artists like Justice and Lily Allen. And he seems to be aware of this appeal, having told Entertainment Weekly's blog last year: "Lily + Ronson + Wale = blogger's wet dream."

"I feel like bloggers are just a representation of people," he says now, speaking from L.A., where he's working on his debut album, due out early next year. "It's more representative of the average person than television."

He lists Bloc Party and Kaiser Chiefs among his other indie-rock favorites and also name-drops folks like Jay-Z, Black Thought from the Roots, and UGK's Bun B, all of whom regularly give him advice.

M-1 of Dead Prez rocks the bells and the system.
M-1 of Dead Prez rocks the bells and the system.

Wale is trying to break new ground by merging radio-friendly jams with a hipster's sensibility. While The Mixtape About Nothing is ostensibly about his Seinfeld obsession — Julia Louis-Dreyfus even gives him a shoutout on it — its underlying message concerns the inanity of most mainstream rap. "Most people like stuff that's not really about anything," he says of snap music fans and the like. "I'm trying to poke fun — trying to throw them off a little bit."

It sounds like a bit of a tightrope act, trying to appeal to a wide audience while simultaneously making fun of them. But even if Wale falls, he will be fun to watch. BEN WESTHOFF

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