Roll yourself a blunt and pour yourself a glass of OJ; Wiz Khalifa has unleashed his latest collection of high-rolling, kush-smoking bangers upon the listening populace. The follow-up to the Pittsburgh-repping rap heavyweight's blockbuster Rostrum/Atlantic debut, 2011's Rolling Papers, O.N.I.F.C. (Only N**ga in First Class) comes heralded by "The Bluff," "Remember You," "It's Nothin" and smash-hit lead single "Work Hard, Play Hard."
O.N.I.F.C. features guest appearances by 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Cam'ron, Curren$y and The Weeknd and production by the likes of Benny Blanco, Drumma Boy, Stargate and more.
DJBooth Album Review
His transformation from everyman stoner to unabashed millionaire, his increasingly eccentric style, celebrity wife (soon to be celebrity baby momma) and laid back charisma have ensured that the world wants to watch and read about Wiz. It’s an incredible accomplishment for a kid from Pittsburgh, and a testament to his hard work, but the danger of fame like that is that it can eclipse the music that earned you fame in the first place. The music isn’t the driving force anymore, it’s the thing you do between the shows and the interviews and the club appearances.
With that in mind, at the very least Wiz hasn’t become a victim of his own success. O.N.I.F.C. isn’t a great album, but it isn’t lazy either. As easily as he could have gone on auto-pilot and coasted through his sophomore major label album, this album isn’t a throwaway. For starters, the production is excellent, although often subtly excellent (there’s no smack you in the face beat like Black & Yellow here). Paperbond is hazy enough to be appropriately hypnotic but with enough small touches to keep things interesting, the same goes for the Killa Cam-assisted The Bluff, and Fall Asleep is lock to be one of the year’s most tragically overlooked instrumentals. (ID Labs is the sh*t, is the point). And of course Remember You is exactly the kind of distorted soul that I love from The Weeknd, although it certainly feels far more like a Weeknd track featuring Wiz than vice-versa; it’s nearly two minutes before we first hear his voice.
Speaking of which, what does Wiz do with all this outstanding production? Well, truth be told not a whole lot. Khalifa’s rhymes on O.N.I.F.C. consist of smoking, drinking, money, buying alcohol with money and possibly smoking money, but not much else. It’s the foundation of lead single Work Hard, Play Hard, and a foundation Wiz returns to time and time again, whether it’s on the downtempo Bluffin’ or the uptempo It’s Nothin. In Wiz’ defense, criticizing Wiz for lacking lyrical versatility is like criticizing an action movie for having too many exploding cars; the entire reason you're watching in the first place is for the exploding card. Whether it’s Deal or No Deal or O.N.I.F.C., no one was ever really listening to Wiz for insane punchlines or to hear his thoughts on global politics. This is music meant to entertain, music to smoke to, and on that level while Wiz may not be in peak form, it’s also hard to say he hasn’t accomplished his mission.
The primary criticism of Rolling Papers, at least from his longtime fans, was that it was too heavy on the pop side of the spectrum, and O.N.I.F.C. is certainly less light and bubbly than its predecessor, although it also does have it share of pop. Got Everything is clearly designed to be the album’s offering to the radio gods, it’s essentially Roll Up part two, and while Up In It is more explicit, it’s essentially aimed at the same demographic. It’s relatively forgettable material, but I can’t fault Wiz for making it. Certain fans will always wish for the Kush & OJ days, but Kush & OJ didn’t have any hits.
Maybe that’s exactly the problem. Wiz is no longer the hungry young rapper we got on Kush & OJ, and it’d be ridiculous for him to pretend otherwise. But it also sounds like he hasn’t quite figured out what it means to be Wiz Khalifa, the famous and rich rapper, what being Wiz Khalifa the rich and famous rapper sounds like. So the bad news is that it’s hard to imagine O.N.I.F.C. having a particularly large impact, it’s more than good enough to let Wiz continue to try to figure out how to please both his hardcore fan base and the general populace. He’s far from the first artist to struggle to find that balance, but let’s hope he does find it, because fame can be taken away as quickly as its given, but great music will last forever.
DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins
Written by richard on 12/5/12
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