Back in February, Wiz Khalifa admitted that there were some mistakes on Rolling Papers in the open letter to his fans. The Pittsburgh native wrote that he would return to the laidback vibe found on Kush & Orange Juice and the more recent Taylor Allderdice. Going from pop rap back to the old Wiz—the melodic hooks, rhymes about weed and money—is expected on his latest effort, O.N.I.F.C. But the Taylor Gang general now feels it’s time to mark his territory in hip-hop. While talks of a slump are natural for a young artist like Khalifa, that’s not the case on O.N.I.F.C.—an album that showcases his strongest material through more confidence and boasting.
“Only Nigga In First Class”—or the edited “One Night In First Class”—is a bold statement on Khalifa’s journey of where he stands in hip-hop today. It shows with his attitude of just making music for fun and entertainment, retracting to his stoner-rap atmosphere—many of which are done by his in-house crew Cardo, Sledgren, and I.D. Labs. Weaving in his usual boasts about Taylor Gang, smoking, money, hard work and ambition, Wiz sticks to what he knows. It’s pleasant sounding, especially with lines that talk big. (“Still the same nigga/Still walking all up on your airplane with all gang members/Smelling like—money and champagne/part of my campaign/I’m fucking rich my nigga, some things I can’t change” on “The Bluff.”)
What works for Wiz is crafting similar songs to perfect the Taylor Gang aesthetic. The lead single “Work Hard, Play Hard”—which became certified Platinum by selling over one million digital copies—aims to be Wiz’s progression from the ubiquitous “Black and Yellow” as another heavy-hitter. More on the variations come in his solo tracks such as the Drumma Boy-produced “Bluffin’,” “Time,” and “Up In It.” But while Wiz’s music—heavily embedded in weed-rap culture—sounds exciting, it rarely opens up about personal details. And where it would give O.N.I.F.C. a well-rounded edge, listeners are left with his guest features to break up the monotony.
These songs contain some of his best work—“The Bluff” with Cam’ron, “Initiation” with Lola Monroe, and “Remember You” with The Weeknd. Cam’ron shines strongly on his verse and The Weeknd keeps things experimentally dark, while Monroe fires off a tough verse. Wiz also shares the spotlight with Memphis legend—and Taylor Gang member—Juicy J on two occasions: “The Plan” and the exceptional “Medicated” featuring Chevy Woods.
For diehard fans of Wiz, O.N.I.F.C. is 17 tracks that perfectly describe his stance in the game right now. Some might argue his commercial success has narrowed his focus. But as the old saying goes, art intimates life. Although more of the former Wiz is abundant than on Rolling Papers, he doesn’t sound like he’ll be switching the style up anytime soon. His superstardom will continue to grow, along with more glimpses of fame and luxury. (“Never smoke weed that was quite this strong/Never took a flight this long/Never drink champagne in Italy/Never spent a night in Rome/But it’s funny cause that was the exact same thing that made me write this song” on “No Limit.”) Consider O.N.I.F.C. his taste of what’s to come. —Eric Diep (@E_Diep)