When we first met Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa, he was the young de facto general of the Taylor Gang, a musical collective that rose out of his home city. He still holds this enviable position (though the Gang has changed), but his career has constantly been in flux since his come-up. Pop-rap blockbuster, “Black and Yellow”, from his 2011 major label debut, Rolling Papers, made certain that there was no regressing to his low-key mixtape and independent roots. An arena-sized anthem (that was eventually remixed as an unofficial song for the Super Bowl) has a funny way of doing that. But Khalifa couldn’t be more content with the way his career is unfolding. And why shouldn’t he be happy? His net worth has skyrocketed, he wed a supermodel (with whom he now has a child), and now he can smoke all the weed in the world. And, for a monster stoner like Wiz who’s never been shy about his chronic habit, that might be the most important aspect of this fame game.
Part of Blacc Hollywood is a massive feat. The fact that Khalifa can still come up with so many various ways to talk about his weed (after four previous albums and innumerable mixtapes) is impressive even though he’s starting to re-use quips. “I blow it by the O,” he raps on “So High”, a tired line that he’s recycling here from past tracks. When Khalifa’s not bragging about the pounds he inhales, he boast about his wealth, his cars, or how much he can drink (consider Wiz a tank when it comes to that).
Wiz isn’t a gifted lyricist at this point and he utilizes a limited lexicon here, but he still has an ear for catchy melodies. His singing voice has never been anything to write home about either (at least until the auto-tune rescues him), but bangers “Staying Out All Night” and “So High” still flourish despite his blatant weaknesses. Sizzling trap beats are frequently Khalifa’s saving graces especially on the insipid choruses of “Ass Drop” and “The Sleaze”. Where Big Sean’s “A$$”, was a similarly childish ode to a woman’s curves, at least he was clever (and witty) with his wordplay. Khalifa is often too blunt(ed) for his own good to come up with any real punchlines or “did you catch that?” moments.
There are two ways to look at Blacc Hollywood. If you’re in it for the live-it-up-till-morning jams (and they are entertaining), then you’re going to be spinning this record at plenty of house parties. But artistically speaking, the album isn’t a progression of the rapper’s career; it’s content to stay on the same eternally- stoned playing field as 2012’s O.N.I.F.C.. Sure, Wiz is singing here more than ever, but that was (and never will be) his forte. Moving forward, it seems unlikely that Khalifa will hang up his stoner persona even though it’s become such an exhausted routine for him; after all, it’s half of what made him a star in the first place. And who cares? When Wiz is having fun, we’re having fun. Maybe next time amidst all the partying he’ll make us think a little bit more. Where there’s a Wiz, there’s a way.
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// Notes from the Road
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