Release Date: Aug 19, 2014
Record label: Atlantic
Stoned immaculate with a self-professed monthly weed bill of ten-thousand dollars, Wiz Khalifa isn't the type of rapper to make clear-headed, well-defined albums, but his fifth studio effort gets back to serious, sullen business often enough that it almost has a theme. It almost has a key track, too, since the midtempo "Still Down" finds Wiz doing an inventory and listing all his million-dollar blessings with some appreciation, while some venom is thrown at those irresponsible fall-behinds (he calls them "pussy ass" you-know-whaters). Wiz got his slice, then settled down and checked out as "Just bought a real home/Me and my watch: real stone" leads to stories of smoking pounds back at the crib, while elsewhere, "Hope" opens with Hendrix-styled guitars and the sounds of a strip club VIP room turning into the set of Caligula while the hook goes "Hope you got thousands in your pocket/Cuz she ain't lookin' for love.
This past spring, rap's top weedhead scored a lung-busting hit with "We Dem Boyz," a street anthem unlike anything he'd done before. It was a surprisingly fun departure, but the rest of Khalifa's fifth solo album sticks more closely to his usual formula: supremely chill singsong flows about how much Wiz loves to get high, over beats as softly enveloping as a cloud of sweet smoke. "KK" is a heartfelt love song for his favorite strain of sticky green (the custom-crossbred Khalifa Kush); on the misleadingly titled "Raw," he daydreams about "book[ing] a flight with Miley Cyrus, and we're going to the stars." Blacc Hollywood makes you want to come along for the ride.
For the most part, the significance of third albums has changed drastically. On the second album, an artist combats the dreaded “sophomore jinx,” but the third album is when the artists cements themselves in the game, or proves that the “sophomore jinx” was no jinx after all, and they simply don’t belong. While Blacc Hollywood Is considered Wiz Khalifa’s third proper, studio album, (previous projects such as Deal Or No Deal were retail) with several album quality mixtapes under his belt, Wiz is far past proving he belongs.
Long extinct are the days when mixtape culture was the means to its own end, spawning cult heroes of rhyme that never crossed over; free, home-grown projects have served as a catapult to pop stardom for more than a decade. (Credit 50 Cent for that.) So now when we think of B.o.B. or Nicki Minaj or Wiz Khalifa — rap artists who slowly cultivated devoted followers on a grassroots level and still churn out downloadable freebies on a regular basis — our first notions are instead of their pop anthems.
Wiz Khalifa's carefree flow shines early on his fifth studio release. The album's second track, We Dem Boyz, showcases his ability to glide over a beat while the production builds into a powerful earworm. The tune also illuminates a rarely revealed sense of humour from the Pittsburgh-bred emcee primarily known for being stoner rap's lone current crossover superstar.
Wiz Khalifa's modus operandi has always been simple: rap about smoking loads of weed and create earwormy tracks built on repetitive hooks. He perfected the combination on his 2011 hit, Black and Yellow, an ode to his favourite colours and the Pittsburgh Steelers. On Blacc Hollywood, he's at it again. We Dem Boyz was online months ago, and its simple call-and-response chorus and booming kick-drum was enough to start building hype.
Wiz Khalifa’s half-decade tenure as Snoop Dogg’s weed rap heir apparent has been restless: after scoring his first hit with the Pittsburgh Steelers anthem “Black and Yellow”, he followed up with Cabin Fever, a collaboration with Flockaveli architect Lex Luger, and Rolling Papers, with ebullient pop-minded production from ‘Burgh locals I.D. Labs and dance-pop whizzes StarGate. Cabin Fever 2 matched wares with Bay Area production squad The Invasion and L.A.
Wiz Khalifa is not a risk taker, unless you count his insistence on carrying his own weed and all the resulting police hounding. Now 26 years old and on his fifth solo album, Blacc Hollywood, Wiz has developed a prodigious ear for melody, puts it to regular use, and continues to write songs that could be subtitled “Smoking with Wiz 101 — Swishers Strictly Prohibited”. Above all, he remains in full control of his ability to make entire high schools chiller by extension — too chill, maybe, considering that he’s shown virtually no interest in ramping up his style.
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.
Brace yourselves, Wiz Khalifa fans: One of rap’s most relentless stoners wants to show his soul. The cover of the Pittsburgh emcee’s new album, “Blacc Hollywood,” depicts him in in a thick haze of smoke, but the lyrics find him pleading as often as he puffs. In the would-be club anthem “Staying Out All Night,” Khalifa earnestly begs his friends to take care of him.
Wiz Khalifa's latest album opens with “Hope,” a song marked by two conflicting messages: the laudatory bombast of the intro, orated by Taylor Gang labelmate Chevy Woods, and the not-so-hopeful tenor of the track itself, which shifts into a nihilistic riff on the inevitable emptiness of money and fame. It's an odd transition, but it's far from the last instance of tonal confusion on Blacc Hollywood, which seems equally focused on carefree party rap and emotional, self-lacerating message music, less an agglomeration of these two modes than an uncomfortable tug of war between them, one style undercutting the other. Continuing to circle the mainstream in the wake of his first #1 hit, Khalifa remains an outsider both by choice—part of his shakily defined bad-boy persona and refusal to fully identify as a rapper, dotting his music with sing-song passages and anthemic hooks—and as a consequence of his continuing failure to deliver a coherent album.
The word “evolution” is generally considered a good thing when it comes to a variety of things; animals, plants, and yes, music. When people speak of a certain artist evolving musically, this is usually said with positivity, leaving unsuspecting people under the assumption that evolving is always a good thing. With that being said, after the release of Wiz Khalifa’s fifth studio album Blacc Hollywood , it is fair to say that the Pittsburgh native has, in fact, evolved.
Wiz Khalifa the brand has progressed far faster than Wiz Khalifa the MC. In fact, the popular rapper’s fifth record is an alarming regression and a head-shaking misfire. Since his 2006 independent debut, Khalifa has proved to be a limited artist buoyed by charm, guile, and sprinkles of wit. Here, the shine has completely worn off; the lazy rhyme schemes and familiar subjects (weed, booty, cash) are so numbing that the pop-oriented, synth-dominated production can’t even compensate.
A quick exercise: Take 10 seconds or so and list as many of the most popular rap stars of the moment as you can. Most lists will probably include some combination of Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Jay Z; some might throw in Rick Ross and 2 Chainz. Whichever rappers were listed, they likely share two things in common: They’re all eager entertainers and unmistakable, outsized presences, with personalities big enough to anchor their own Saturday morning cartoon shows.