Review : Wiz Khalifa - Rolling Papers
AbsolutepunkI love me some Entourage—not only for its colorful characters like the irascible Ari Gold and the laughably cocky Johnny Drama, but also because it’s, in a weird way, relatable. I’m certainly no millionaire movie star, but I can say with a fair amount of certainty that if I were somehow to fall ass-backwards into piles of cash, the show’s depiction of Vinny Chase and his boys’ shenanigans would be a close approximation to those of me and mine. While their antics occasionally border on contemptible, there’s an undeniable—and perhaps universal—appeal to opulence and indulgence. Wiz Khalifa peddles in this same sort of escapism, the type of light entertainment that requires no emotional or intellectual investment but nonetheless allows for a few short moments of shameless vicarious living. So it goes without saying that Rolling Papers is short on substance, but as with any popcorn flick, there’s a lot of guilty pleasure to be had with a little suspension of disbelief.
Given the album’s, well, blunt title, Khalifa’s pot-smoking ways are the primary lyrical focus, followed closely by boozing, banging and bragging about bling. And that’s really where it ends topically. He oozes bravado to an extent that would be unreasonable were fierce self-belief not a hip-hop prerequisite. It remains believable because he’s a lot like that one dude—I think we all know someone like this—who attracts scores of chicks and friends despite being pretty average-looking and kind of a douchebag. Perhaps it’s that easy charisma that makes Khalifa’s music itself so irresistible despite being, on paper, nothing exceptional. He acknowledges his own limitations on opener “When I’m Gone”: “And they say all I rap about is bitches and champagne.” Over the next hour, he does little to prove the naysayers wrong. Rolling Papers is also almost uniformly sedate. The bumping runaway hit “Black and Yellow” is hardly representative of the record, which is dominated by R&B-flavored slow jams, most notably the burning “On My Level” and the truly sublime “The Race”. Khalifa’s mellow Drake-esque delivery and meticulous flow impart a sing-songy melodicism that makes it all very smooth and pop-friendly....full text
MtvLast year, a relatively unknown rapper from a city not traditionally known for hip-hop graduated from the mixtape circuit to the mainstream and became one of the biggest names in the business. That rapper was Drake, the cerebral MC from Toronto who immediately established himself as a major player. This year, that ascension story belongs to Wiz Khalifa, the Pittsburgh-based rapper who went from underground favorite to mainstream superstar almost immediately. In the wake of his chart-topping hit "Black and Yellow" (which was adopted by fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the team's run to the Super Bowl) comes his major label debut Rolling Papers, a stout collection of ear-bending rhymes and smokey beats.
But does the album live up to the considerable hype surrounding Khalifa's arrival? All signs point to yes. "The Pittsburgher's debut on Atlantic is lyrically limited to getting high, stealing chicks, and blowing cash," wrote Brad Wete in Entertainment Weekly in a B+ review. "Yet it burns with an underdog's passion and a champion's spite. Marijuana may not be legal, but Rolling Papers surely will be enjoyed and passed around among Wiz's fans."
Rolling Stone also approved of Khalifa's approach, and critic Jon Dolan appreciated his reinvention of some tropes. "On Rolling Papers, Khalifa manages to give life to those kinds of cash-gorged perma-baked clichés by warmly luxuriating in the space between pop's fresh-faced exuberance and hip-hop's easy arrogance — between skater and playa, Bieber and Biggie," he wrote. "Khalifa hustled for years to get his big break, suffering record-label indignities, releasing mixtapes and using Twitter to build a following. When he raps, 'I don't wanna wake up,' on 'Wake Up,' you can't help but hope his dream lasts a while."...full text
HiphopdxAt the beginning of, “The Race” Wiz Khalifa casually says, “Yeah, it’s nothing new / ‘Cause this is exactly what I do…” and that essentially serves as his mantra and an example of everything else on Rolling Papers. Much like Deal Or No Deal this album is catchy and melodic—possibly more so than anything else out right now not made by a member of Young Money.
Anyone who listened to his first two albums knows Wiz isn’t the rapper to go to for intricate rhyme patterns or socially conscious subject matter. Much like his elder contributors Snoop Dogg and Too $hort, he does a few select things well and he’s smart enough not to mess up the formula. “Black And Yellow” proved sticking to the script isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In Wiz’s case, what you usually get is an equal amount of rhymes dedicated to women, weed and flossing over smooth production that compliments his laid-back delivery.
While longtime collaborators E Dan and Big Jerm still make their contributions, a majority of the production on Rolling Papers seems like a failed attempt for more Top 40 radio play. Experiments like the Loose Ends sample on “The Kid Frankie” from Kush x OJ are ditched for songs like “Roll Up.” If the hollow basslines and heavy use of synthesizers seem better suited for an R&B singer, it’s probably because Stargate’s production works best with their usual clientele of Rihanna and Ne-Yo not Wiz Khalifa....full text
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