Apologies are not ordinarily in order for rappers who have navigated the path from reliab le mixtape purveyor to steady pop presence, but in February, apologize Wiz Khalifa did, in an open letter to fans.
Recalling his influential, woozy 2010 mixtape Kush & Orange Juice he described knowing that he “had created a new genre” that would change music. (For argument’s sake, allow him his hyperbole.)
That mixtape gave him momentum, and a major-label deal, which led to his 2011 album Rolling Papers (Rostrum/Atlantic), which was shinier and less narcotic than his older work, but also successful; it was certified gold and spawned three platinum singles.
Still, something was missing. Wiz Khalifa’s letter laid out his feelings: “The mistake I made on Rolling Papers was thinking it was time to move on from that genre not knowing that it had impacted people so much. The album did great numbers, but creatively wasn’t my best work. No regrets though. We live and we learn.”
And we regress too, if moving backward feels like the right thing to do. Wiz Khalifa’s new mixtape, Taylor Allderdice, named for his high school, is meant to be a return to roots. It’s a move most artists preface with several years of compromising, but in the Internet era, it may become a more rapid phenomenon.
For Wiz Khalifa, this means a resumption of the trippy, cloudy odes to marijuana he made his name with. He’s not a clever rapper, but he’s dedicated.
“I swear to god that I’m so high feel like I’m going up a hill,” he raps on Rowland. On Never Been Part II it’s possible that all the THC is jumbling his sense of timing, as he crams awkwardly structured lyrics into rhyme: “I’m just smoking, living life like in the movies that I watch in my Jacuzzi/ Roll another doobie/ See what’s new, what’s on Netflix, order another movie.”
But Wiz Khalifa isn’t selling precision, he’s selling texture and charisma. The album is threaded together by bits of an often stoned-sounding interview — “I feel like my spirit is worldwide,” etc. And as ever, his flow lags appealingly behind the beat, as if he constantly has to remind himself he’s in the middle of a song and needs to finish. His choice of production adds to the effect — the dank T.A.P., produced by Spaceghostpurrp, and O.N.I.F.C., with its synths that are fat and dripping into each other and recall the warm embrace of quiet storm R ’n’ B. (A notable exception is the elegant Nameless, produced by Dope Couture, which has the easy charm of A Tribe Called Quest.)
What sets Taylor Allderdice apart from the music it’s harking back to is Wiz Khalifa himself. No longer is he a modest stoner. He has success, wealth, a tabloid-ready relationship with Amber Rose — Kanye West’s ex — and a strong belief in his invincibility. Once that lethargy was both a tactic and a goal for Wiz Khalifa. Now he has ambitionless raps about huge ambitions, too.
— JON CARAMANICA, NY Times News Service
The MF Life
SRC/Title 9/Universal Republic)
In theory the most exciting song on Melanie Fiona’s second album, The MF Life, should be I Been That Girl. Written by Drake — the two were part of a group called The Renaissance, several years ago in Toronto — it’s a dark, slow creeper, with weepy piano and weepier lyrics about a no-good man. The sound is signature Drake but, as it happens, something of a struggle for Fiona, who never loosens up enough to melt into the track or the gloomy mood.