Fifteen years after making his mixtape debut, 10 years since he dropped his modern classic, “Folarin,” and several months after getting over COVID-19, Nigerian-American rapper Olubowale Victor Akintimehin – better known as Wale – is popping off with his first live shows since the pandemic’s start with his nationwide Under a Blue Moon Tour starting Sunday, Jan. 23, at The Fillmore Philadelphia.
To make this showcase even more special, Wale is in Philly on the heels of his new album, “Folarin II,” (which includes his most recent hit “Poke It Out” featuring J. Cole) and just weeks before his appearance in the Michael Bay action-adventure flick, “Ambulance,” hits the big screen.
“I think it’s important for the younger generation to know that I will always have pride in my culture,” Wale told Billboard this winter on the subject of being a Nigerian-American presence, using the words and traditions of his Yoruba culture in his music.
“The good, the bad and the ugly makes us who we are. I take a lot of pride when I see successful Nigerians and kids in the diaspora because a lot of us had difficult upbringings or pressure to be perfect for our parents. They’ve been calling me Folarin since I was early in the game, and we ran with it. I’m still amazed sometimes when people say they didn’t know I was Nigerian — it catches me off-guard still to this day.”
Considering that all things Afropop are hot on the charts – e.g. WizKid’s Grammy-nominated singles and albums for the 2022 awards ceremonies – Wale sees what he has done, over these many years, as but the start of a bold continuum. “I think this is just the beginning. There will be more and more big pop stars collaborating with Afrobeats artists. I think it’s just getting started.”
Though Wale started his career on mega-DJ-producer Mark Ronson’s Allido Records in 2007, and became the center of a label bidding war the next year that introduced him to Interscope, since 2011 Wale has been part-and-parcel of Philly-friend Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group, wherein he joined legendary local rapper Meek Mill for several recordings such as “Ambition,” “Actin’ Up,” and “100 Hunnit.”
On Mill and Ross the Boss, Wale said, “Ross is one of my biggest influences. His work ethic is unmatched. He’s like my oga (‘boss’ in Yoruba) and I look at him like one of my uncles or elders. He set the tone and gave me a lot of game. He didn’t have to take a chance on me or Meek (Mill) at the time he did. He changed our lives… Them giving me the platform enabled me to reach more people and learn from one of the best rappers and businessmen. I’m blessed. I learned a lot of game from Ross since I’ve been there.”
And when it comes to touring and hitting up Philly after wrestling with the ails of COVID, Wale is ready and able. “I had to shut everything down for about a month,” Wale says of battling the virus. “I was in the hospital for a couple days, and then I was on bed rest. The album would have been out significantly earlier for sure. It was a lot, but I’m glad I made it out, and I’m excited to get back on the road and see my fans…. I’m passionate about what I do. I get up and I go to work.”