Back in 2012, on his second major-label album, Wiz Khalifa told the world that he was the "Only N**ga in First Class." Two years later, the Taylor Gang ringleader has touched down at his destination: Blacc Hollywood.
Preceded by lead single "We Dem Boyz" and its Nas, Rick Ross and ScHoolboy Q-assisted remix, as well as the Booth-acclaimed "KK," the Pittsburgh native's senior set boasts a total of 15 original tracks.
Additional guest appearances come courtesy of Chevy Woods, Curren$y, Juicy J, Project Pat, Snoop Dogg and Ty Dolla $ign. Beats come courtesy of Jim Jonsin, Ricky P., RMB Justize, Sledgren and more.
Blacc Hollywood Album Review
Many of those Wiz fans will accuse critics, or more specifically me, of not being objective and bringing my personal biases to this Blacc Hollywood review, but that's not the problem. The problem is that I am objective. Unlike fans, I don't know what it's like to spend an afternoon smoking with my friends while Wiz plays in the background. Unlike fans, I don't have memories of making out with my girlfriend at a Wiz concert. And those experiences matter, it's what makes the music really matter, which is maybe why Wiz' music doesn't really matter to me. I first heard him in '08 and since then I've listened to every album and mixtape he's done because he's a hip-hop superstar and it's literally my job to cover hip-hop, but nowhere along the way did I feel myself particularly inspired or repelled by him. (Probably related, I don't smoke much weed.) I was completely comfortable letting Wiz and his Taylor Gang grow while keeping his appearances on my personal playlist few and far between.
If that reads like a giant disclaimer for an album review, it's because it is. I've been spending a lot of time lately thinking about how to work professionally in music without losing the essential ability to just be a fan. Writers often disguise their subjectivity in a cloud of journalistic objectivity, and readers are smart enough to pick up on when that happens. I've come to believe the only real solution is to be as transparent with my subjectivity as possible, and the transparent, honest, subjective truth is that I don't particularly feel any kind of way about Wiz Khalifa in general, and am pretty thoroughly bored by Blacc Hollywood.
For an artist whose personality and style are so daringly original, you'd think his albums would take more chances venturing off the musical map, but instead Wiz sticks pretty close to the current Billboard chart blueprint, alternating between trap without the menace and straight up pop with just enough rap influence to keep him in the hip-hop sphere. Case in point, We Dem Boyz, a typically banging song that features some Future-esque Auto-Tune without any of the intimidation or hardness of a cut like Move That Dope. It's unclear why anyone's holding anything up - perhaps someone else suggested that they are, in fact, dem boyz? - but why bother with something like a concept when the hook's catchy? And the same holds true for songs like Raw and Sleaze, turn up records that give us a chance to do a little cooking dance, but not much else. Although, let's be honest, if Ass Drop makes some asses drop, Wiz has done a service to humanity as far as I'm concerned. Hard to hate on that.
On the other end of the sonic spectrum, but fundamentally similair, are Wiz' forays into the same pop-rap territory that's currently dominating the airwaves, and first really put him on the map. Stayin Out All Night is produced by Dr. Luke, the same master of pop that's helped make Katy Perry an international star, and you can tell by the live fast, die young subject matter and subtly rock-infused song structures. It's fine, it's fun, but it's formulaic. Speaking of pop, Wiz brings Nicki Minaj on for True Colors, a song that borrows the vibe from Cindy Lauper's song of the same name for a jam that's essentially a very melodic way of saying, "fuck the haters." Throw in the outright ballad Promises and you've got a few offerings that radio might eat up faster than Wiz in front of a plate of pot brownies.
While the vast majority of Blacc Hollywood is primarily concerned with partying - partying to pop music or trap music, it's all partying - there are some more serious moments that can't be ignored, primarily the "if I made it you can too" inspiration backing House in the Hills. Still though, it feels like Wiz is mostly coasting through this album, giving his already loyal fans exactly what they'd expect from him and not much else. And while that predictability leaves me unimpressed, maybe that's exactly the kind of consistency those same fans are looking for. Maybe they'll manage to finally make out with that one girl (or guy) they've been after for months while Promises is playing and years from now Blacc Hollywood will give them that same feeling. Or maybe, like me, they'll enjoy the first few listens but be hard pressed to return to the album again after that.
Maybe, but I wouldn't know, I'm not a fan.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins