'Rolling Papers' Week, Day 4: How to make very unnatural Wiz Khalifa songs
By Wesley Case
It's Rolling Papers Week at Louder Now. Wiz Khalifa, hip-hop's young pothead-in-charge, dropped his highly anticipated major-label debut Tuesday. Every day this week, I'm going to analyze the tracks: what works, what doesn't and what it means for a rap star clearly interested in crossing over to mainstream success.
9. “No Sleep” (Produced by Benny Blanco and Noel “Detail” Fischer) Who’s to blame for this monstrosity? Is it Benny Blanco, the 23-year-old Dr. Luke understudy who co-penned Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” and Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”? Sugary pop isn’t enough for Blanco — he prefers his songs to sound like Fun Dip to the nostrils. “No Sleep” and “Fly Solo” (more on the latter tomorrow) stick out like a DEA agent at a Wiz show, and they’re the most blatant attempts at reaching for pop success. As if Blanco wasn’t enough of an enabler, Konvict Muzik’s Noel “Detail” Fischer (Ray J’s “Sexy Can I”) puts his cornball fingerprints all over “No Sleep.” (Short aside: Lil Wayne has been working with Detail on Tha Carter IV, and if there’s anything that even resembles “No Sleep” on that, I will turn Louder Now into a Miranda Lambert blog. I’m that scared.) Ultimately, Wiz has to take blame for this mishap. “No Sleep” — with its Old Navy-does-summertime-cook-out beat and lyrics like, “It’s going down tonight / concrete” — sounds wooden. Wiz knows how to do uptempo, raging bangers (dude sampled a “Camp Rock” song on Kush and Orange Juice, and it totally works), but this feels stale, and that’s being generous. Add some chunky distorted guitars to the chorus and it’s a blink-182 “Man Overboard”-era track. Ineffective, sad.
10. “Get Your S---” (Produced by E. Dan) Rolling Papers’ 10th track begins a trilogy of relationship songs, a peculiar decision given Wiz usually isn’t that rapper. Although Wiz claims he has 100% creative control — and I believe it — I’d love to know who was in the studio to construct the album’s final tracklisting. It’s not a huge stretch to believe an Atlantic suit swayed Wiz to put these soft, unrewarding tracks all over the record. But enough conjecture, let’s focus on “Get Your S---,” a bitter (a surprisingly reoccurring theme all over Rolling Papers), angry song to an ex. On tour, Wiz “f---- one or two bitches but doesn’t consider it cheating” because he thinks his relationship is almost over anyway. He shames her like wealthy rappers do, introducing her to a life of luxury she would have never known without him. But to display his sensitive side, he ends the second verse by reassuring the girl he still loves her, and that he’s “just gotta do [his] own thing.” Once again, this is well-worn territory in rap, and Wiz fails to add his own insight or flair. He raps in a very simple way, in both enunciation and word choice, which works for songs about weed and clothes, but not relationship tracks. From the bridge: “Everything was all good then went all bad,” a fitting line to describe the first and second halves of Rolling Papers.
11. “Top Floor” (Produced by Andrew “Pop” Wansel and Warren “Oak” Felder) Wiz is on to the next one, and he chronicles his next conquest in “Top Floor,” a Pop and Oak track built around a sort-of obnoxious, indistinguishable vocal sample. There’s not much to “investigate” on this snoozer: Wiz “let[s her] go tear down the mall like it’s [her] card.” He’ll roll some weed up while she tans on the beach. (That last description is about as detailed as Wiz gets on these gooey relationship tracks.) The only thing notable about “Top Floor” (other than it’s another unnatural track Wiz gets through but doesn’t own) is it features the ugliest line on the album: “Make you feel like a little girl again but f--- you like a grown up.” It’s “To Catch a Predator” Wiz! A glaringly terrible look, kind of like this trilogy.
On Friday: “Fly Solo,” “Rooftops (feat. Curren$y)” and “Cameras”