Rapper, and sports head, Wale knows 'the hustle'

Tue, Nov 1
WaleRaymond Boyd/Getty ImagesWale's new album, "Ambition," was released Tuesday.

Wale is an actual sports head. That's not necessarily because he played (although he did, finishing his career as a running back at Robert Morris University). Nah, he's a sports head because he shows up on ESPN talking about his hometown Washington Capitals and Alex Ovechkin and debates Skip Bayless about LeBron James. He doesn't just rap that he scrambles like Randall Cunningham, he says he scrambles like Randall "getting chased by John Randall."

His new album, "Ambition," dropped Tuesday (iTunes | Amazon). It's sure to have a slew of sports namedrops, insider jargon and obscure references. That's what he does, some might say, best. But it was "The Eleven One Eleven Theory," his pre-"Ambition" mixtape, that included his most ambitious rap-sports marriage yet, in the form of "Varsity Blues," the most socially conscious sports-related rap song in recent memory.

We got Wale on the phone to talk about it all -- LeBron included.

The Life: Somebody hipped me to your mixtape ("Eleven One Eleven Theory") not too long ago and I was impressed with "Varsity Blues," in particular. I mean, anyone familiar with your music knows you're a sports head -- like, a serious one. I've seen you pop up on ESPN to talk sports before. You drop sports analogies in your rhymes all the time. But "Varsity Blues" was different. A lot of rappers talk about sports, but few critique it, you know, socially. Give me the genesis of that cut.

Wale: Well, for one, I played sports for about 12-something years. I come from an environment where, for a lot of dudes I grew up with, sports was their hustle. Not drugs, but sports. So it's an important subject to me. I'm actually surprised ESPN is just now picking up on "Varsity Blues." But it was really my first attempt to speak on something I believe in and something I'm knowledgeable about. A lot of people that try to be conscious about a certain subject actually don't even know what they're talking about. I came from that world in a lot of ways.

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