He knows how he likes it pronounced – and soon you will, too…
Ian Mathers: So between this, Kristinia DeBarge’s “Goodbye” and Jay-Z’s “Death of Autotune,” I guess the summer of 2009 is when Steam make their big comeback, huh? Of the three, Jay-Z’s song has the most personality, but “Chillin’” is probably the most catchy, primarily because of a surprisingly ingratiating (and relatively unobtrusive) sung chorus from Lady GaGa. Between this and “Paparazzi,” I can almost believe she has an actual career in her. As for Wale, all you can really tell from this song is that he wants to make sure you know his name is Wale and that he’s from D.C., and he seems to think we’re dumb because he keeps repeating both of those things ad nauseam – he’s less interesting than GaGa’s MIA-esque hook, sadly.
Al Shipley: A few weeks ago, when Wale went on a D.C. radio station to premiere this song, he spent over an hour live on the air hyping it up before the needle was dropped, bragging about the meeting he just had with Jay-Z about it, and generally sounding confident that “Chillin'” would be the culmination of the last few years of deafening buzz that’s surrounded him. And then they pressed play, and I just shook my head, changed the station, and wondered how any of us ever thought this chump was ready for the big leagues if he was willing to put his career on the line for this laughable piece of shit.
Jonathan Bradley: Is it any surprise that the District of Columbia’s brightest rap prospect knows how to play politics? Like a candidate on the campaign trail, Wale began his career by shoring up the base with a series of mixtapes packed with thoughtful, creative rhymes distinguishing him as something more than a well-connected MC (Mark Ronson signed him) from a hip-hop backwater. Now that it’s time for him to retool his message for a general audience, he has shifted toward the center, adopting a star running mate in Lady GaGa and procuring himself a chattering, thwacking beat from a pair of proven hitmakers, Cool & Dre. But as much as his early adopters may worry he’s watered down his best attributes, Wale’s pop move is the rare one that is catchy as well as consistent with the rest of his material. Wale always had a bit more swagger than your average underground favorite, and he parlays that into a song that retains the mainstream’s directness without sacrificing the space for inspired and witty lines like “You be with the cops, you niggas is McLovin.”
Alex Ostroff: Wale dumbs down his punchlines for accessibility, and mentions his own name ~5000 times, but fails to spend any of his budget on vocal charisma. Lady GaGa gets some vague street cred, with an A+ sing-song chorus that begs for an M.I.A. refix. But awkward debut single tactics aside, this bangs. The triumphant ‘Na Na Hey Hey’ sample is flipped more effectively here than by DeBarge, and DC’s Go-Go drums keep me coming back.
John M. Cunningham: Wale engagingly bullshits about ex-basketball players, Lady Gaga seems to be channeling M.I.A.’s lackadaisical sing-song (which also carries a whiff of “Walk Like an Egyptian”), and the sample, thankfully, surfaces only in slivers amid Cool and Dre’s nicely multilayered production.
Erika Villani: I was fully prepared to feel bad for Wale. I imagined him down on his knees, eyes squeezed shut and hands clasped in prayer: “Are you there, God? It’s me, Wale. Please let me have M.I.A. on my new single. That would be badass.” But God was like, “No, sorry, you’ll have to make do with the other badly dressed, overhyped Internet favorite.” And it left the poor dear so heartbroken he couldn’t even manage to write the Maya wordplay out of his second verse! And they made him release this old-ass track as a first single, even though it’s chock full of references even more dated than “Paper Planes”! Like McLovin! And Bernie Mac! Who died almost a year ago! Then I gave this another listen and, nope, he shouts out 2009 right there in the beginning. One point for obviously not giving a shit, I guess.
Jordan Sargent: Wale’s ascension to being hailed as the savior of rap for those who want to seem like they pay attention -— GQ just proclaimed him on their cover to be “The Greatest New Rapper Since Jay-Z” 0-— always struck me as odd, because, for all of his thoughtfulness, he often sounds dead and leaden while actually rapping. He’s just as unentertaining when rapping about racism as he is when rapping about his Nikes. Cool & Dre are recruited for radio-readiness but their beat is as unattractive for its sonic ugliness as it is its kitschiness. Wale himself turns in shells of Rick Ross lyrics (“You say you got a lot of whips, well i got ‘a lot'”) and Lil Wayne lyrics (“I remain a Giant and you’re Jeremy Shockey”) that betray his critical narrative. And so Lady GaGa ends up as the most redeemable part of the song, which is reason enough to laugh this crap off.
Alex Macpherson: I can’t figure Wale’s hype and success out at all. He’s not even particularly obnoxious: his lyrics and rapping are merely unremarkable and kind of lazy. Gaga, of course, is hugely obnoxious; for half a chorus it seems like she’s actually trying to avoid that this time, but then she suddenly goes “YUURRRSSS” out of nowhere like she’s puking up and you just have to sigh.
Michaelangelo Matos: M.I.A. really has changed the sound of the hook girl. Now everyone goes for that slightly nasal, rope-skipping thing she does on her choruses, including Lady Gaga. Here’s a minor contribution to the canon.
Alfred Soto: Lady Gaga makes a very promising Fergie.
Tom Ewing: The broken-up sing-song cadence kind of suits her, and there’s no faulting the sample for earworminess. Wale himself is the weak link, spending the entire song hectoring us about how to pronounce his name: epic fah-lay.
Chuck Eddy: No doubt there are plenty of reasons to distrust this song: Backpack hype loaded with pat rhymes glues himself randomly onto deluded art phony blatantly ripping off overrated genius over lazy loop of 40-year-old teenybop standard only loved by geriatric bleacher bums until this summer, when everybody else has sampled it? Gotcha. So now tell me it doesn’t kind of rock regardless.
Anthony Miccio: This is the first I’ve heard of Wale, and I have to assume there’s more to his hype than some unfunny pop culture references and a high-pitched, monotone holler. I mean, he couldn’t have shouted “my name is Wale” all over that Seinfeld mixtape, could he? With Lady Gaga splitting the difference between Gwen Stefani and MIA, this must be a lively if vacuous attempt at a Kanye crossover. Must be.