Wiz Khalifa‘s Rolling Papers dropped today, which seems a bit odd, as the album would have been more suited to an April 20 release. As you might expect from the title – Rolling Papers isn’t exactly ambiguous – and the content of most of Khalifa’s singles, this is a stoner-centric album. While that alone wouldn’t necessarily make Rolling Papers a bad album, the overall lack of variety and absence of noteworthy guests also holds it back. Overall, Rolling Papers (order/download right here) has some memorable music but doesn’t live up to the hype machine that has been pushing Khalifa to mainstream popularity.
Lyrically, Khalifa can be alternatively impressive or mind-numbingly uncreative. The rapper waxes philosophical on the album opener, “When I’m Gone,” which essentially explains his habit of blowing money by noting that he won’t be able to take it when he dies.
“No MBA, they say I’m a baller, live for today, sound like my father,”
Khalifa raps before the final chorus, suggesting a maturity that doesn’t really resurface on the rest of the album, which reps his skills as a ladies’ man and weed connoisseur.
The following track and hot single, “On My Level,” has a spacey, funky instrumental backing track that accentuates Khalifa’s comfortable, casual flow, and the track, despite being devoid of subject matter other than getting wasted in and out of clubs, is solid. The major offense here is Too Short’s contribution, in which he essentially rolls down a laundry list of drugs he’s planning on giving your girlfriend. Way to branch out.
“Black and Yellow” is the track that is credited with Khalifa’s resurgence to fame after earlier record deals fell through, and there’s no question as to why. Pittsburgh isn’t a town that often has anthems dedicated to it in an “Empire State of Mind” style, so the track is somewhat refreshing and is intensely catchy. Probably the best track on the album.
“Roll Up” is Khalifa’s attempt to be a tender, caring platonic friend, but it comes off as pretty hollow and insincere. That said, the track is catchy and will likely be popular as a best friend anthem. Expect to see quotes from “Roll Up” popping up in your Facebook news feed in no time. The singing interlude is a bit painful, but at least Khalifa tried branching out.
The next track, “Hopes and Dreams” features a smooth, guitar-tinged backing track that sets the stage of this low-key track. The lyrics can be a bit stilted (“Hell yeah I’m fly, that’s why they all beneath me”) but it’s a bit of a different sound for Khalifa and is a pretty solid track.
“Wake Up” is a catchy track in which Khalifa toasts his own success and suggests that his life is a dream from which he never hopes to wake. Not the most original track, but it does have some funny lines (“I seen n****s fold like paper, got money, seen friends turn haters, got money, minor league turn major, got money, white people turn neighbors”).
“The Race” is another solid track, but it’s not particularly fascinating or catchy, while “Star of the Show” is a bit repetitive and bland, although Chevy Woods drops a refreshing guest verse. “No Sleep” has the makings of a club hit in the “hell yeah, it’s the weekend” segment, and the following track “Get Your Shit” has some nice acoustic guitar picking, but the vibe is an angry one, as this is a frustrated break-up song.
“Top Floor” features an annoying, repetitive sample and the rapping is nothing to write home about, either. “Fly Solo” is probably the most creative track on the album, as it’s not a track entirely about getting high, and features a lot of guitar, which will make it stand out from the rest of the rap world. Khalifa channels his inner Jack Johnson on this one, and it’s among the best on Rolling Papers.
“Rooftops” is Khalifa’s testimony that he balls harder than everyone else and how everything has changed (“Used to not be allowed in the building, but now on the rooftop”). Currency provides a solid guest verse to wrap up the track.
The final track, “Cameras,” is a bit of a poor way to end the album, as it’s a mediocre track that is outdone by a handful of other tracks on Rolling Papers.
Rolling Papers is by no means a bad album, but it’s a bit disappointing, considering all of the hype and anticipation surrounding Khalifa’s second coming in the rap industry. While littered with highlights, there are also plenty of tracks that may have you hitting fast-forward before the half-way mark. Rolling Papers isn’t an expansive effort, but Khalifa does switch things up a bit in terms of subject matter and style a few times, which makes the album engaging without sacrificing a cohesive feel.