“Ooh, I got so much swaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAG!”
The moment I heard this on “Fall Asleep,” one of the many ornately detailed yet haphazardly written songs on Wiz Khalifa’s new album, was the moment I wanted to indeed fall asleep. After all, he’s never been a rapper I could even remotely admire or enjoy, much less an artist I could tip a hat to for creativity. This album really blows.
Sometimes it’s hard to say such things about pop artists because of the rabid fanbase they acquire, fans that are willing and ready to cut off your head and shit down your neck for criticizing their objects of pleasure. But I cannot beat around the bush for this release.
Wiz Khalifa, of course, has never really piqued my interest in the past as well, but I suppose he was only a minor nuisance when listening to one track alone, or even when testing out Kush & Orange Juice. That album set pace for Wiz’s claim to fame, which is that he makes lounge music for gangsters. The caveat to that, however, was an revolving door of weed puns and empty brags given with a rather stale, weak delivery. And that laugh, ugh. “Ah-ah-AH-aA-aAh-aH-” SHUSH!
And the standard case usually drummed up against me for liking more consiously-minded rap does not fully apply here. I am a fan of Currensy and dig his projects (the ones he takes time on, mind you), so weed rap by the genre is not bad to me. But ONIFC solidifies why mediocre rappers with nothing to say fail to impress. I was literally freestyling a la Khalifa just to see how aggressively systematic and inhibited each song was. When you’re able to ironically freestyle in a poor way and easily pass as a performer, something is wrong.
It’s amazing how many times and permutations a person can use the words “weed, paper, cash, cars, crib, haters, etc.” while boring me to tears. I’d at least expect him to throw in a “Benjamin” or a “cannabis” every once in a while to keep me focused. If smoking weed means that my vocabulary is limited to the things that I own and the drugs that I use, then lock me up in rehab and keep me unemployed.
And of course, his flow only adds to the ridiculous monotony and borderline depressing experience of listening to this. Wiz has a weird, oblivious personality that allows him to keep doing certain things without fixing them, because his flow rarely changes, his listless, anemic energy rarely gets amped even on “Work Hard, Play Hard,” and his spontaneous speed-verses seem unwarranted and distracting at best. It got so bad sometimes that I thanked God for the numerous guest features; They’re never great, but even 2 Chainz sounds like Nas compared to him on “It’s Nothin.”
Wiz does know how to choose solid production, certainly a major reason for the album’s appeal. Big Boi’s Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors takes the trophy for best pop-rap production of the year IMO, and maybe Rick Ross’s GFID in close second, but ONIFC makes a strong effort in constructing the score for the greatest hip-hop lullaby. It’s appropriately loaded with cool, breezy synths, Southern-trunk bass and even some warm instrumental touches.
Pharrell whips up a pseudo-Curtis Mayfield groove for “Rise Above,” and producer Illangelo’s truly thematic, cavernous beat on “Remember You” almost makes me want to give The Weeknd another try, but once again, the lyrics on both songs reciprocate no qualm of taste or candor to their respective backgrounds. It’s as if there’s no “swag” points given for actually taking the time to write some provoking, or provocative, lyrics that make the listener chuckle at the wit or pick up the developed symbolism from repeated listens.
I get it, this is background music, but he does not justify the difference between his mixtapes and his albums other than the obviously expensive production.
Myke C-Town’s concept of “drive-by hip hop” fits this album perfectly, because it feels like Wiz came to my house, shoved a bag of green in my mouth, counted money, laughed a lot, and let Amber Rose repeat the word “nigger” for an entire hour before leaving with this Taylor Gang group (is there an application? People want to follow him around???).
When an artist allows “I got enough weed to last me for the rest of my motherfucking life” to be the first thing people hear on an album, I really have to wonder if he actually cares about his craft or the longevity of his career. After all, if he’s wearing the garish clothes on the album cover in first class, then being in coach while jamming some Public Enemy doesn’t seem that bad.