By Justin Gold
On the eve of the release of his latest album, “Blacc Hollywood,” Wiz Khalifa found himself in an intriguing position. Throughout his six-year rap career, he has amassed a worldwide fan base that has since been dubbed the Taylor Gang and has managed to string together a few hit records.
Previous projects such as “Rolling Papers” and “O.N.I.F.C” have shown him disbanding from the traditional gritty mixtape-style rapping in favor of a more commercial sound. Not to his disadvantage, though, both albums debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 200, and aside from that, he’s also dropped mixtapes in between major releases in order to keep fans riding high on the Taylor Gang bandwagon. Decent accolades for a guy who spends most of his time rapping about how much of and what kind of weed he smokes, right?
But then something strange happened, he released the “O.N.I.F.C.” follow up mixtape “28 Grams,” which immediately garnered polarizing reactions from critics. As a whole, “28 Grams” felt rushed, incomplete, and underwhelming. Fortunately, Wiz had a remedy: what better way to help fans swallow the sour taste of a disappointing mixtape than with the release of chart-topping album? Enter “Blacc Hollywood.”
His most successful project thus far, and one that saw him bursting out of the rap cellar that “28 grams” landed him in, “Blacc Hollywood” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Top 20. For all intents and purposes, it’s because the LP did everything a mainstream hip-hop album is supposed to do. Production is without a doubt the album’s strongest quality. I.D. Labs and Sledgren did most of the heavy lifting here, with cameos from fellow producers the likes of Ned Cameron, JMike, Ghost Loft, Jim Jonson, Kane Beatz, and DJ Mustard. This production team ensemble did an exquisite job of incorporating a variety of sounds that complement the flow and delivery that Khalifa uses. With that being said, these aren’t beats that anyone will point to in ten years and call them classic inspirational pieces from which all other beats are sprung from, but that’s fine; the beats here are good enough to keep heads bobbing and ears listening.
The point where this LP really leaves something to be desired occurs with the lyricism. This isn’t a direct shot at Khalifa’s rapping ability, or even to say that he is a bad lyricist, but at many points on the album he finds himself muttering the same repeated phrases over and over again. This doesn’t come as a surprise to most, though. Wiz has never been one to dazzle with word choice in songs, but fortunately for him this is an era of hip-hop in which artists typically get by with minimal lyrical prose as long as there is a catchy beat in the background. Besides, no die-hard Wiz fans plug in expecting gut punching lyrical prowess; they plug in because they know they will be experiencing songs that validate their lifestyles. The featured artists also help with the lack of lyrical ability on display. Appearances from Rick Ross, School Boy Q, Nas, Nicki Minaj, Juicy J, Project Pat, and Ty Dollasign are able to shore up some of the weaknesses by forcing Khalifa to step up his rhyming acumen or be out-rapped on his own album.
From a bird’s eye perspective (or a bird’s ear, in this case), this album sounds like the soundtrack to a wild college night, with controlled substances, alcohol, twerking, loud music, and good vibes. Ultimately though, “Blacc Hollywood” is an album that likely won’t be listened to from start to finish, and, by the time fans get to the end, they’ll be left picking only a few songs to add to their smartphone’s music library. Decent production is bogged down by lyrical incompetence and stylistic flaws, and while the hooks are easy to grab and repeat, they are too simplistic in most cases.
I’m sure Wiz couldn’t care less though. After all, who cares about popular opinion when you’re sitting atop the world’s music charts?