Better Than: Waiting until December 4th
Some hip-hop formulas are eternally foolproof: Incorporating new slang into the lexicon (“Turn My Swag On”), something inspired by a ridiculous or simple dance move (“Teach Me How To Dougie,” anything by 2 Chainz) and of course, the stoner record. After Snoop Lion (née Dogg), rap’s heir apparent for most lovable pothead is Wiz Khalifa; who, aside from crossover hits like “Black And Yellow” and Maroon 5’s “Payphone,” has devoted his repertoire to the Cannabis soundscape.
– Live: Wiz Khalifa Smokes Out Central Park
– Why Wiz Khalifa Isn’t Snoop Dogg
The rapper took over gentlemen’s club-turned-lounge The Westway last night to preview his second major label studio effort O.N.I.F.C. (slated for a December 4th release) for critics, Atlantic Records staff and strangely out of place exotic dancers painted in animal print. “It’s just fucking great music to get stoned to,” the lanky 25-year-old grinned, as he nursed a freakishly enormous blunt (or more accurately, fire log) in hand. “I hope you guys have a great time tonight … I just like to smoke weed and ride out.”
Life imitates art and O.N.I.F.C. is a stoner album; 17 tracks about little more than rolling, smoking and basically everything else Wiz does with weed. The title is an acronym for “Only Nigga In First Class” or the edited “One Night In First Class” so nouveau riche bragging also makes its way into songs like “Time,” “Paperbond” and “The Bluff.” “Oh, still the same nigga/Still walking all upon your airplane with all my gang members/Smelling like, money and champagne/Part of my campaign,” Wiz raps on the latter. It’s pleasant enough if not particularly inspired and guest contributions from Cam’ron, the Weeknd and Juicy J break up the monotony.
What really works on O.N.I.F.C. is the production. Wiz’s goofball flow and simple rhymes are super charged at the hands of longtime collaborator Sledgren (who helmed “Initiation” in his attic), Jim Jonsin (“Up In It”), Southern rattler Drumma Boy (“Bluffin,” “It’s Nothin”) and Illangelo, one of the masterminds behind the Weeknd, who brings haunting sensuality to “Remember You.” “Got Everything” oozes with ’90s r&b nostalgia while the minimalist “Fall Asleep” showcases a completely unexpected beat that features what sounded like the glockenspiel upon first listen. Experimentation has its limits though. “No Limit,” which Wiz said was inspired while listening to Pink Floyd and Marvin Gaye, borders on cross-genre cacophony or as one fellow scribe put it, “This is a huge mess.”
After the mixed reception to last year’s Rolling Papers, it’s clear that Wiz set out to revert to his mixtape core with this album. Fans of Taylor Allderdice or the Cabin Fever series will not be disappointed as O.N.I.F.C. is enough of an incremental progression comparatively so as to justify the purchase. “Black And Yellow” may have upgraded Wiz into First Class but he wants to bring his ardent Taylor Gang base along for the ride. “I fucking love you,” he closed. “I know whatever you gotta say about this is gonna be real.”
Critical Bias: In music (and life in general) I’m a sucker for a loveable stoner.
Overheard: “I love your ears” – Wiz Khalifa, thanking the audience.
Random Notebook Dump: It takes two shampoo “rinse and repeats” to get the smell of Wiz Khalifa’s strain of weed out of your hair.
“Let It Go” (featuring Akon)
“The Bluff” (featuring Cam’ron)
“Work Hard, Play Hard”
“Got Everything” (featuring Courtney Noelle)
“It’s Nothin'” (featuring 2 Chainz)
“Rise Above” (featuring Pharrell & Amber Rose)
“Initiation” (featuring Lola Monroe)
“Up in It”
“The Plan” (featuring Juicy J)
“Remember You” (featuring the Weeknd)