Last year, when Pittsburgh Taylor Gang rapper Wiz Khalifa announced he was hard at work on his next album Rolling Papers 2, the future looked bright and exciting for him and fans. Then at the beginning of 2016 the “See You Again” rhymer announced a different album, Khalifa, and soon after started a short-lived beef with Kanye West over the unconfident, disagreeable name change of the latter’s forthcoming LP, and people started to question Wiz’s motivations and behind the scenes efforts (not to mention Kanye’s too). Released February 5th by the very corporate Atlantic Records (Warner Music Group), Khalifa is not the highly anticipated, heavily exalted sequel to Rollings Papers (2011), but a mix of easygoing rockstar raps over slow hazy show-beats full of under-ambitious good times and wimpy Wiz rhymes.
Wiz is just absolutely obsessed with loads of cash and spending it on garbage for the first four songs, diamonds and partying in “BTS” (should be called “BS”), weak dreams of getting rich in “Elevated,” and US financial system whoring in “City View.” The vague, uninspiring, completely uncontroversial platitudes in “Elevated” then mean nothing whatsoever. It’s downright depressing that this is what is being fed to the populace as art and an utter shame to hip-hop in what should be way more progressive times. Though typical, “Cowboy” and “Call Waiting” can be singled out as breaks from the album’s main topics, as they cover Wiz’s dope-slinging ghetto past and some sing-y lovey mush in the second song. “Most of Us” is almost entirely useless as Wiz raps about random pointless bullsh*t from a high celebrity’s perspective.
The only good cuts in the meat of the project would be “Make A Play” and “Zoney” because in the first, Wiz raps about caring for his son and in the second he hits on the topic of ambition, something he has in modest supply (what he means to say he has is the propensity to fall to his knees for Atlantic). The rest of the songs here are mainly devoted to the clueless rap-caliph’s favorite plant (no, not khat, marijuana) and a staged show of stupid grandiose big-sh*t and flimsy persuasions into the realm of childish ignorance.
Knowing that Wiz was raised in the slums probably of Steel City, Pennsylvania, it makes sense that he wants to be super wealthy, right? He most likely grew up poor, and hasn’t it been the dream of many a pauper of any makeup anywhere since the beginning of time to get money and get out of dire monetary straits? Well in striving to fix his poverty problem by selfishly getting rich, he is only helping himself, feeding into the corrupt capitalistic system of the world and making the people at the bottom suffer more once again. He is not fixing the underlying economic problem, which would be to help to spur a change in the system that would benefit everyone including himself. Wiz Khalifa has bought into the backwards global paradigm that has enslaved people identical to his former self since forever.
Produced by a group of lesser known beat-makers who have hit whatever keys they think will pulse our pleasure sensors, the music flies by without striking a chord or giving us good chills like past Wiz hits have. The Wiz has taken his idiosyncratic voice and decent rhyme scheme out of his pocket more so than in previous LPs with his singing minimized it seems. This vocal ratio is good for the heads though the melody-minded folks will have to lean on supple singers Rico Love, Courtney Noelle, JR Donato and Ty Dolla to get their rocks off. Other guests include Travi$ Scott, Juicy J, Chevy Woods and Sebastian (Wiz Khalifa’s son). The skinny tatted man from the “Black and Yellow” of course has done several wonderful things for hip-hop and rap in the past, but in Khalifa he is trotting down a troubling shady path. You can tell from listening that he does know and care that people depend on him to say important things, but he hasn’t taken care of that responsibility enough or in the requisite ways here.