Wiz Khalifa has become a star. After his 2010 mixtape, “Kush & Orange Juice,” the buzz surrounding his name hit an all-time high. After signing his record deal with Atlantic, the hype continued to build in anticipation for his debut album “Rolling Papers.” With the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers this past season, Khalifa’s “Black & Yellow” took off and eventually topped the Billboard hit charts. If you haven’t heard this song by now you probably live under a rock, or you made a point to avoid listening to it.
When I first pressed play on “Rolling Papers,” I wasn’t sure what the direction of the album would be. The singles from the album ranged all over the rap spectrum, and his new mixtape, “Cabin Fever,” was more street-based rap than some of the singles. The first single was the Billboard-topping hit, “Black & Yellow.” His second single was a more pop-based song entitled “Roll Up.” Khalifa fooled his audience with the name of the song, because unlike many of his other songs, it is not about marijuana at all. The other promotional single that was released well before the album dropped is “On My Level,” featuring West Coast rap legend Too $hort; the track presents a classic rap sound.
After listening to the singles, I really didn’t know what the album would sound like. When I listened to the first song on “Rolling Papers,” entitled “When I’m Gone,” Khalifa set the tone for the rest of the album by rapping over a slow, piano-based record while singing the hook. Khalifa follows this blueprint of rapping his verses while singing the hooks for the majority of the album.
The thing I haven’t figured out yet is how it works. By nobody’s standards is Wiz Khalifa a singer. But somehow, some way, he makes it work, and well, at that. I honestly believe there is no way to explain it. The music is incredibly catchy whether or not you want to like it, and the sound throughout the album is relatively consistent. There are a few stray tracks, such as “On My Level,” which I feel would’ve been better fit on his latest mixtape, “Cabin Fever,” and “No Sleep,” the latest single from the album, sounds more like a Blink-182 song than a rap song.
The tracks that stood out the most to me were “The Race” and “Star of the Show,” which both feature Khalifa’s good friend Chevy Woods. Both are slower songs that Khalifa again raps the verses while singing the hooks. Lyrically, Khalifa is at his best on these records. “Rooftops,” which features Curren$y, is also one of the best tracks on the album. It’s an unordinary beat for Curren$y to rap on, but he still delivers a great verse.
Although the lyrical content isn’t as deep as some of his previous projects, the album flows quite well and is a very enjoyable listen. The album is another example of a rapper going with a pop-based vibe, but it’s consistent throughout, and Khalifa really owns the sound. Khalifa dropped off “Rolling Papers” at the perfect time, just as spring begins. This album will definitely get a lot of plays on the way to the shore this summer.