I never thought Wiz would still be around for this long, but full credit to him for dragging out his career into 2016. It’s hard to believe Kush & OJ came out six years ago, and in revisiting that seminal project, it’s more than apparent that this dude has completely run out of ideas on his newest album, Khalifa. 2010 saw Wiz break through as one of the standout MCs of the 2010 XXL Freshman class – one of the strongest ever with Freddie Gibbs, Big Sean and Fashawn. I remember this with great detail because it marked the birth of the DatPiff era and the resurgence of mixtape-rap. Wiz was cool to all my 14-year-old friends and me because he could rap about weed all day and never run out things to say; Mary Jane has and always will be his muse.
Yet, like his fans (who are definitely too old for this shit now), Wiz’s career hasn’t aged so well. There’s nothing wrong with his one-dimensionality; Pusha T has rapped about cocaine for 20 years and it still hasn’t gotten old. The problem is when the artist himself loses sight of his raison d’etre. On Khalifa, Wiz sounds tired of his own shit, like he sighs before he hits each joint.
The Khalifa experience is almost an exercise in cringing. One of the earlier cuts is a track titled “Celebrate,” where he rhymes “Rolex” with “mo’ sex.” Naturally, you have to wonder what reason Wiz even has to celebrate; what was the last major development in his career as a rapper? In the six years since Kush & OJ, all he’s given us are watered down versions of “Mezmorized.” What happened to all of that youthful energy? What happened to the poetry he used to conjure about Polo socks and expensive sunglasses? This album is so unimaginative that he unironically starts a verse off with “One for the money” … all that’s missing is a Skizzy Mars feature.
On “City View,” he spits “All this paper got me shitting in public.” After cleaning off the water I spat onto my computer screen, I ran the song back because I was almost certain I’d misheard him. Lo and behold, it’s right there in the first forty-five seconds. Nah, we’re not letting that slide this year.
The album has a few negligible features from the Taylor Gang crew, but the one surprising inclusion is Travis Scott. Including the rap-game chameleon on Wiz’s album is a dead giveaway that he’s lost all sense of direction. Travis has a proven track record of shape-shifting into the flavor of the month, and sadly it’s gained a lot of commercial traction. People actually get excited about Travis Scott features these days, and “Bake Sale” is one that your friend rocking DC shoes will likely text you about.
“Call Waiting” is another album cut that highlights the descent of Wiz, namely because it’s just a weaker but more commercially appealing version of “Huey Newton.” The end of “Lit” is actually so generic that it sounds like a parody of itself: “I’mma get money n***a / I’mma get money / I’mma keep it real / and I love getting high.” Dude sounds like he just picked up “Rap Music for Dummies” and is still going through tutorials.
Just like “the guy on the couch” from “Half Baked,” Khalifa is essentially a reminder that Wiz has overstayed his welcome. At this point he’s just polluting the hip-hop scene with recycled weed paraphernalia, and no one really knows what he’s going for. Many will argue that he’s more “lyrical” than recently celebrated artists like Young Thug and Playboi Carti, but I would argue that Wiz is simply more decipherable and less expressive. Khalifa is what happens when you run out of ideas, but how about just making something that genuinely moves people?