Key Tracks: “BTS,” “Zoney”
Wiz Khalifa’s new, half-eponymous release is his sixth studio album, and it comes out right in the middle of a stacked month for him. Khalifa was, now infamously, involved in a quick Twitter feud with Kanye, in which the only real winner was Amber Rose. West – rightfully – attacked Khalifa for a career’s worth of mediocre music, and then – not rightfully – brought his ex-wife and son into the mix. Brushing that aside, Khalifa is up for a major Grammy nomination, for Song of the Year for the Furious 7 song “See You Again,” with Charlie Puth. Perhaps unexpectedly, this was an apropos time for him to drop a studio album.
And it’s okay. Khalifa has never been interested in being a truly innovative rapper, nor has he ever gotten political. Those are critiques in 2016 – the rap scene is getting more and more bloated, with seemingly hundreds of famous rappers trying to find their unique voice (and many of them doing it through rough, political tracks). This is, much like his previous album “Blacc Hollywood,” just a passable rap album.
There’s more interesting things going on from a musical standpoint than on “Hollywood,” which was just boring all-around. The more energetic songs have some oomph that was missing before, and there’s decent use of piano lines throughout that complement trap beats. And “Call Waiting” sits at the midpoint, breaking up monotony with some reggae that ends just before wearing out it’s welcome (although the Fugees reference at the beginning – undeserved). A tender moment happens at the end of “Zoney,” when he brings his young son into the recording (which comes off as a Win, given Kanye’s recent and incredibly inappropriate comments towards the child). There’s also a general lack of the empty ballads that divided “Blacc Hollywood,” with Khalifa sticking more closely to bangers and weed songs.
And weed songs aplenty. All but one, I think. There’s at least three songs that start with the sound of Khalifa smoking. He raps about buying weed, smoking weed, listening to songs he can smoke weed to, you know, diversity. The 6+ minute track “Lit” seems like it might be something innovative for Wiz, given it’s length, but it’s just him (and Ty Dolla $ign) rapping about weed for six minutes instead of four. Lead single “Bake Sale” is a corny joke, some of the corniest lyrics on the album. Every single song disappoints, lyrically, and although Khalifa’s flow has improved, he just sounds uninspired. He wanted to be known as a “weed rapper,” and he pummels us with that so much that he has become his own parody; his own walking advertisement for a product that cannot actually exist. In a world where rap is changing by the week, Khalifa is throwing himself into the heyday of three years ago – and he’s being left behind.
-By Andrew McNally