It feels like Wiz Khalifa is still an upstart -- a kid with a hot mixtape and a whole lot of major label suitors.
'Black and Yellow' blew up and the Pittsburgh rapper was selling out stadiums overnight. But at 26, with much younger stars like A$AP Rocky and Chance the Rapper getting their feet set, you wouldn’t be wrong to call Wiz a veteran. He’s on his third major-label release, he’s married (to Amber Rose), and still famous. In a world where Kid Cudi has been pretty much rendered a nobody, Wiz Khalifa has shown he’s here to stay.
His new album,' Blacc Hollywood' (out August 19), shows a Khalifa with a lot less to prove. It's a straightforward big-budget rap album, no punches pulled or explanations needed. He’s got the Juicy J stop, the Nicki Minaj feature, the Snoop Dogg collab, appearances by up-and-comer Ty Dolla $ign, a remix with Nas and ScHoolboy Q and Rick Ross, and the rest is history.
You probably already know what this record sounds like: premium club beats and that ubiquitous smoke-burnt drawl. Call it paint by numbers -- say whatever you like -- that won’t change the fact that Wiz is really enjoying his life right now. If that makes you mad, so be it. He’s got enough good songs that he doesn’t have to care.
So today we present the three best songs from Khalifa's new album; you can listen to 'Blacc Hollywood' while supplies last via mtv.com.
This is a very romantic, very physical love song, with Khalifa in full-tilt cornball flow. But if you cut through his misplaced self-confidence, you’ll find the best beat on the record. An aching, blood-red whine of guitar and paved-over choral incantation. Wiz repeats “let’s get caught in the moment” over and over again; it’d be empty sentiment if the swirl behind him wasn’t so intoxicating. 'Promises' will inevitably get overshadowed by the larger, feature-heavy singles, but don’t forget about this surprising burst of warmth hidden in the deep cuts.
2. 'Stayin Out All Night'
This is a really weird turn for Khalifa, who’s made a career being the goofiest fratboy around the keg, but here you can catch him saying things like “I’m gonna leave my problems out on the floor.” That’s right, an uber-confident, incredibly popular rapper earnestly admits he’s hitting the dancefloor to clear his mind, which is something you’re far more likely to hear Madonna sing. Then the steely guitars pick up and you realize “Oh, this is a Dr. Luke joint.” It certainly is, the venerable producer best known for transcending Kelly Clarkson with 'Since U Been Gone' delivers Wiz’s most transparent attempt to recapture the invincible 'Black and Yellow' days, and he’s not exactly far off. As much as I love 'We Dem Boyz,' I always prefer a Khalifa who’s willing to get a little vulnerable and any rap song that isn’t afraid to invoke something a little softer-than-usual is probably a good thing.
1 'We Dem Boyz'
I’ve been trying to convince myself that 'We Dem Boyz' is not my favorite song of the year for a few months now. It’s literally just Wiz Khalifa shouting “HOLLA HOLLA HOLLA, WE DEM BOYZ” for a solid four minutes. That might sound like the most brainless essentials of the proselytizing, slogan-based gutter-rap that guys like Waka Flocka Flame have built a legacy on, and that’s not entirely untrue. Khalifa gargles some auto-tune, and commits every non-violent crime he can think of over a machine-gun, string-soaked thwock. This is Wiz at his best. He certainly phones it in on his bad days, but he’s always around to remind you he can absolutely unleash hell when he wants to.