Playing second fiddle to a rap star has always been a delicate predicament. The benefits that come with a big name co-sign are juxtaposed with the shadow cast by the star, so many artists struggle to pave their own separate lane aside from big brother. With Wiz Khalifa playing sous chef throughout Chevy Woods’s latest mixtape, The Cookout, the Pittsburgh rapper looks to find his place in the quandary that is being a rapper’s No. 2.

The Cookout is aptly titled, and for appropriate consumption should be played outside on a sunny Sunday afternoon with burgers, red cups, and paper planes in the mix. On the title track, Wiz and Chevy kick verses about the usual Taylor Gang activities consisting of rolling doobies, boarding private flights, keepin’ it G, stealing people’s girlfriends, and the overall novelty of being a Taylor. It turns out that's not unique to the title track; actually, that’s the subject matter of nearly every song.

Lyrical substance aside, the biggest triumph of the mixtape comes from the men behind the boards. Like Wiz, Chevy proves to have an ear for strong production. Big Jerm’s luscious cuts on the groovy “Cassette,” and the 1970’s soul sounding “Aunts n Uncles,” serve as perfect backdrops for the two Steel City emcees. Woods holds his own without Khalifa on the Sledgren & Cardo produced “Chi-Town,” a wavy, dreamy affair where he tries his hand at singing his hook, and finds some success. The album worthy beats serve as the backbone of the project and are why the tape can be played so enjoyably.

Chevy's name is highlighted on the mixtape cover, which also purports the tape "featuring Wiz Khalifa as cap." Indeed, The Cookout is a collaborative effort through and through. Chevy plays a solid Robin to Batman throughout The Cookout, but isn’t quite able to get the better of the TGOD head honcho just yet. Like Wiz, he’s got a radio-friendly voice and the potential for mainstream success; an effort to craft his own sound would help build his case as far as being more than just “Wiz’s guy.”

For now, though, Chevy is able to achieve what any good cookout sets out to do: Provide a good time for all involved, and leave the people wanting to come back for more. —NMB