Grab your lighters. Wiz Khalifa’s abundance of potent material has been removed from his Ziploc, fine-tuned through his grinder, and stuffed to satisfaction into Rolling Papers! Chris Hart has already taken flight courtesy of the Pittsburgh representer’s major label debut, and has reflected upon his travel for your those of you contemplating a trip, yourselves. As always, it is with great pleasure that I provide him with a landing strip in Muzik’s My Life. Spark a flame, but please keep in mind: we don’t smoke blunts, bitch! Rolling Papers burns up the shelves Tuesday, March 29! Don’t miss this plane . . .
Wiz Khalifa Rolling Papers
Reviewed By: Chris Hart
On “The Race”, Wiz states “It’s nothin’ new / Cuz this is exactly what I do.” The words couldn’t be more perfect. This is what Wiz does. Those in search of intricate wordplay, complex rhyme schemes, socially conscious subject matter, and an excess of big-name producers and star-studded guest features are looking in the wrong direction. What you will, however, find listening to Rolling Papers is simply the best Wiz Khalifa to date, doing exactly what he does best; making radio-friendly, pop-accessible rap music while “Keepin’ it so G.” This album is full of hits, music that will not only satisfy longtime Taylors, but also propel Young Khalifa Man to unseen heights of super stardom.
The album begins with a piano solo, slowly bringing in effects and snares while Wiz gives you a look into his life on “When I’m Gone”. Champagne, paper planes, liquor, women and money. He celebrates his success so far, claiming that he can’t take his money when he’s gone, so he’d rather spend it all on himself and his family of Taylors. It sets the tone of the album right away, essentially laying out the ground work for Rolling Papers.
The next three tracks chronicle the past and present of the current Wiz. “Black And Yellow” is included, being his first major hit—becoming the number one ringtone, a platinum single and the unofficial anthem for the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was written by Wiz as an ode to his vehicle, but became a nationwide sensation and call to arms for Pittsburgh. This is hometown pride done right. “On My Level”, featuring Too $hort, is the current street single, bringing what some will see as street credibility to an album that has so much crossover appeal. Wiz is on point after a night of heavy smoking and drinking, and brings $hort Dogg along for the ride. While the pairing seems odd at first, these are two artists that are so similar, and Too $hort complements the overall tone of the song well, as the minimalist bass-heavy production from Jim Jonsin has this dark, underground feel to it. The song doesn’t pander to the Top 40 or Billboard charts, which is to the benefit of the track and the album overall.
“Roll Up” is the current single, absolutely dominating the charts and dividing new and old fans. At the end of the day, the song is good. While it isn’t completely original, that isn’t what Wiz goes for. This is a Wiz record for the masses. He manages to do what very few artists can do, which is maintain individuality while still catering to pop-culture. I honestly cannot remember the last time a hip-hop artist was able to blend their style so well, without compromise, into a song that just about any rap fan can like.
“Wake Up”, “Star of the Show”, and “Top Floor” are serviceable tracks, all utilizing the spaced out production made famous on Kush & OJ. “Star of the Show” isn’t a brand new track (at least not to hardcore Taylor Gang fans), but the production is great, borrowing heavily from Drake’s “Light Up.” Chevy Woods is the second of the three total guest spots, and as evidenced on his recently released mixtape, Red Cup Music, has grown leaps and bounds as a lyricist over the past few years. “Top Floor” utilizes an arabic-language loop over the usual synth keys and hollow bass lines, creating a smooth, club-ready track. “Wake Up” finds Khalifa exclaiming “Yeah I’m straight, never switch lanes / On my job everyday ’cause it’s hard not to see I / Came up in a big way / And I hardly ever sleep but it’s like a dream / I don’t wanna wake up from.” The rap is delivered with Wiz’s usual highed-out lazy passion, full of honesty and sincere thoughts.
Two of the more curious tracks on the album are “No Sleep” and “Fly Solo.” Both are very unique for Wiz, as “Fly Solo” feels so much like Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire” with its use of acoustic guitar and radio-friendly sing-along chorus. Real drums are a welcome departure from the computer generated snares and bass, but with “Billionaire” having come and gone, it feels like familiar ground, which is not a bad thing. “Billionaire” was a great song, and “Fly Solo” serves as a great follow-up of sorts. While “Billionaire” found Travie wishing he was rich and famous, Khalifa is already there, and gives us his view from the other side of the fence. It’s the “grass is greener on the other side” viewpoint that keeps the song fresh. “No Sleep”, which was released recently on iTunes to those that pre-ordered the album, is primed to be the anthem for parties through the summer. “No job and, no sleepin’ / Live it up like it’s the weekend / When the DJ play the right song / Gon’ drink gonna party all night long.” While he does rap two verses, and the production by Benny Blanco couldn’t be better for this type of song, Wiz sounds eerily like Mark Hoppus (of Blink-182 fame) on the chorus; so much so, that I had to read the liner notes to see that Mark wasn’t indeed featured.
Hands down the two strongest tracks on the album are “The Race” and the Curren$y-assisted “Rooftops”. “The Race”—which Wiz has stated is his favorite record on the album—chronicles his hustle with usual swagger, taking you from the beginning to the present, from times he is alone to when he is surrounded by friends and family. It’s easily the most personal track Wiz has ever done, as he opens up about his ascent to the top of the rap game. On “Rooftops”, Wiz has never been better lyrically. He has completely mastered his flow and delivery, on the chorus exclaiming “A lot of shit done changed / New clothes, new cars, new things / Them same boys that used to be on the bottom came up / That’s what they say / We used to not be allowed in the building / But now we on the rooftop.” Producers E. Dan and Big Jerm (whom handled the majority of Kush & OJ) also bring their A-game, maintaining that spaced out feel, but adding bass kicks, hand claps and a simple piano loop. Curren$y, who pops up to deliver the third verse with so much hunger, states simply “You niggas ain’t help us; on second thought you did / The hatin’ was the fuel for this shit.” His feature is the best on the album, and we as fans can only anticipate a follow-up to their joint mixtape How Fly.
What is the greatest achievement a hip-hop artist can attain? A rabid fan following? Great mixtapes? Exciting live shows? A stellar major label debut? Fortunately for us fans, Wiz Khalifa embodies all of these qualities and celebrates these achievements. From Prince of the City to Flight School, Kush & OJ to Cabin Fever, Wiz Khalifa’s growth as an artist and as a rap sensation has been nothing short of amazing. Much like Deal Or No Deal, this album is catchy and melodic—possibly more so than anything else out right now. He is able to showcase his immense talent by eloquently blending his past, present and future into one package, which is why Rolling Papers is a wild success. At this point, there is nothing left to do but roll up a paper plane and fly away . . .
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