Album Review: Wiz Khalifa, ‘Khalifa’

By Angelo Gingerelli

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This month both Wiz Khalifa and Kanye West are dropping albums, and while this should have been notable because two of the biggest artists in the game are releasing projects on consecutive Fridays, a Twitter war has turned the release of these records into performance art. The Ye/Wiz/Amber Rose exchange last month is arguably the most entertaining thing to happen in 140 character increments of all time and while Wiz was the least vocal (is typing responses still considered “vocal”?) of the two rappers, Kanye made some decent points about his career and music. Since Khalifa dropped first, let’s take a look at the album in context of how “The greatest artist to ever do music” feels about the man and his music…

NOTE: These tweets are not in order and can be read chronologically on PitchFork.com

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Wiz Khalifa’s place in the rap game in beyond question, he sells out stadiums all over the planet, has several massive singles and has legions of young fans repping Taylor Gang. However, his albums have always left something to be desired. His 2011 debut was so pop-friendly that he actually issued a written apology to fans a few months after it’s release. His two other studio albums, 2012’s ONIFC and 2014’s Blacc Hollywood both had big singles but received a lukewarm response from both critics and fans. With the exception of the mixtape that put him on the map (2010’s Kush & OJ) Wiz has never had a full body of work that consistently exhibited his talents.

Unfortunately, Khalifa doesn’t end this streak. The album is not bad, it’s just not great and like most of his projects there’s nothing that will make fans rush for the Fast Forward button, but there is little that will make them hit Rewind/Repeat either. Khalifa starts off strong with standouts like “BTS,” “Celebrate” and “City View” but by the time the sixth song rolls around (“Bake Sale” an unnecessary and way-too-soon updated version of Travis Scott’s “Antidote” featuring Scott himself) the majority of the remaining songs will only be interesting to Wiz Super Fans.

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While Kanye may have thought “Black & Yellow” was corny, it’s apparent the rest of the world didn’t agree. While the song was a little over-the-top with Pittsburgh pride, it’s that song and Wiz’s pop sensibilities that have elevated his career beyond that of his peers like Curren$y and Mac Miller. Also, while the merit of his album catalog is clearly debatable, his ability to create a big crossover single definitely is not. In fact, his run of hit singles in the 2010’s is unrivaled by most rappers with the exception of major pop stars like Drake and Nicki Minaj.

The biggest issue with Khalifa is there is no anthem-like single to elevate the project to the next level. All thirteen tracks are solid, but there doesn’t appear to be a “Young, Wild & Free” or “We Dem Boyz” on the record. The Ty Dollar $ign assisted “Lit” probably has the best chance at radio play, but the real mistake here was waiting so long after the huge hit “See You Again” featuring Charlie Puth to release this project. If this album could have released last summer and included one of the biggest pop hits of the year, Wiz would have definitely had momentum working in his favor.

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The Twitter battle of the year (Too Early?) started when Kanye changed the name of his album from Swish to Waves and Wiz took it upon himself to educate the world on what “Wavy” music actually meant. Whether Kanye actually uses the style pioneered by Dipset’s Max B remains to be seen, but it’s clear Wiz has been massively influenced by the style of sing/rap. Several of the tracks feature deliveries that would be categorized as “Wavy,” but none more than “Call Waiting.” This track is not terrible by any means, but doesn’t really bring anything new to the table in this era of singing MC’s like Future and Young Thug.

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West’s shots at the child Wiz has with Amber Rose were a low blow (West later apologized) to say the least. The child in question is named Sebastian and is actually featured on “Zoney.” The song itself is pretty solid and ends with a few minutes of father and son in the studio together as Wiz coaches his offspring to say things like “Yooooo” and “Taylor Gang” into the mic. This has been done by other artists and these songs don’t normally have much replay value for casual fans, but it is a pretty cool moment on the album.

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Wiz’s pants are not mentioned on the album, but let’s all be honest, these might both be in the Top 10 Tweets of All Time.

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Kanye has a point, as Wiz Khalifa’s rise in the early 2010’s was clearly influenced by the wave of “Emo Rap” pioneered by Kid Cudi, Drake and West’s 808’s & Heartbreak album. The major difference is that those artists used the emotive, melodic style to expose their vulnerability and internal monologue where Wiz’s internal monologue apparently just continually repeats the phrase “Get high. Make money. Hook-Up with girls. Get high again.”

It’s this lack of depth that has made Wiz into an artist with a string of successful singles but not one classic album to his name. There is no shortage of style on any of his projects, but the lack of substance makes listening to him for more than a few minutes at a time a tough task for anybody except hardcore fans.

And of course, Kanye had one more thing to say…

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*Check back to Pop-Break.com for a review of Waves soon.*

Best Songs: “Celebrate,” “Lit,” “No Permission”

Perfect For: High school kids wildin’ out on spring break

Rating: 7 out of 10

Angelo Gingerelli has been contributing to The Pop Break since 2015 and writing about pop culture since 2009. A Jersey shore native, Gingerelli is a writer, stand-up comic, hip-hop head, sneaker enthusiast, comic book fan, husband, father and supporter of the local arts scene. He likes debating the best rappers of all time, hates discussing why things were better in the “Good Ol’ Days” and loves beating The Pop Break staff at fantasy football. You can catch up with Angelo on Twitter/IG at @Mr5thRound, at his website www.FifthRoundMovement.com or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).