Wiz Khalifa - Blacc Hollywood Review
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 08.19.2014
Wiz Khalifa returns with his fifth studio album, Blacc Hollywood! But is this a pop-rap classic or a forgettable, watered-down affair? 411's Jeremy Thomas checks in with his full review!
1. "Hope" (ft. Ty Dolla Sign) (5:24)
2. "We Dem Boyz" (3:44)
3. "Promises" (3:10)
4. "KK" (ft. Project Pat and Juicy J) (4:09)
5. "House In The Hills" (ft. Curren$y) (4:52)
6. "Ass Drop" (2:46)
7. "Raw" (3:37)
8. "Stayin Out All Night" (4:17)
9. "The Sleaze" (4:25)
10. "So High" (ft. Ghost Loft) (4:09)
11. "Still Down" (ft. Chevy Woods and Ty Dolla Sign) (4:16)
12. "No Gain" (4:19)
13. "True Colors" (ft. Nicki Minaj) (4:15)
It may be surprising to think of Wiz Khalifa as a relative veteran of the rap game, but that's where we're at in 2014. The Pittsburgh native already had two independent-label studio albums to his name in 2011 when the Steelers-themed "Black and Yellow" became a pop culture anthem in 2011, propelling him to a major label contract with Atlantic. Two albums have followed since in Rolling Papers and O.N.I.F.C., both of which have earned so-so marks by critics but have pushed the rapper to an increasingly higher profile. While Khalifa has yet to achieve that breakout hit LP that throws him to the top of the heap, he's managed to show off some serious potential with some of his singles and has kept himself busy with trying to up his game. After a few months off following the birth of his first son with Amber Ross, Khalifa headed back into the studio to begin work on his third LP.
After a couple of delays, Blacc Hollywood is finally out and shows that Khalifa has at least stayed consistent in his inconsistency. Khalifa once again shows off a lot of potential and the fact that he understands how to merge pop music and rap in an effective manner. To open it up though, he goes in a harsher direction. "Hope" includes label mate Ty Dolla Sign and is a disjoined number, starting off with a rap intro and then transitioning into bass-heavy anthem punctuated with electronic tones and professing a cynical standpoint on fame: "Hope you got thousands in your pocket cause she ain't lookin' for love," Wiz raps, following it up with "Hope you pop a lot of bottles cause she ain't lookin' for love." It isn't a new message and it's not told in a particularly original way; while the production work is solid, this is a pretty lyrically dense effort.
The next track, "We Dem Boyz," provides a much stronger effort. That's probably not surprising because it speaks to Khalifa's strengths; over a kick drum, he raps about turning strippers into pot smokers with some Auto-Tune and a catchy call-out hook. It's not great rap but it's a solid pop trap and the immediately-following track, "Promises," is a catchy piece of slow jam pop. While no one would call it remotely memorable--Khalifa's strengths don't come in his singing voice--when it gets to the rhymes he's able to make it pleasant enough on the ears to satisfy. Never mind the fact that it won't stick with you much longer than it takes for the next song to queue up, because Khalifa isn't here to make you think and reflect. He's trying to give you disposable pop-rap and with "Promises" he succeeds. On "KK" he delivers perhaps his best smoker song yet, with Juicy J delivering a great rhyme that outdoes Khalifa's own solid verse, though Project Pat doesn't hold up quite as well. But one lackluster verse doesn't change the fact that we're on an uphill climb throughout the album at this point.
That upward momentum can't last, but it does hit one more high note on "House In the Hills." The apex of the album, it opens up the middle third of the album and it's a change of pace from the party and blunt-smoking attitudes of the LP's first act. With a trap rap beat and finger snaps in the background, Khalifa rhymes in reflection about the difficult of climbing up the social and economic ladder while battling media prejudice. "They try to hold us back, paint a picture of us, then sell it straight to the public," he spits, "You young, black, then you thuggin'/What they don't talk about the kid that came from nothin'/Who stuck to what he believed in and turned himself into something great." It's a hint at a Wiz Khalifa who really has something to say and it's an enticing look at where he might be in his next iteration.
That's the end of the increasing quality though and the next track, "Ass Drop," is a quick step downward. This sounds like a track that wants to be catchy enough for radio play while at the same time containing lyrics like "Ass so big it could swallow up a stripper pole." You can't have it both ways; either go all-out or tone it down for the radio. What's more, anthems about the booty are nothing new...and that's the problem. There's nothing in here that we haven't heard done before in better ways, making it very forgettable. "Raw" has an impressively heavy bass but a tired lyrical flow and starts to wear the kush vibe a little thin. Pot rap is Khalifa niche, but a little variety would go a long way.
The third act of the album is preceded by "Stayin Out All Night," a Dr. Luke-produced pop track that changes things up nicely and gives some hope that he'll change things around. But he's right back to the same old tired material with the triple-shot of mediocrity that is made up of "The Sleaze," "So High" and "Still Down." By the time "No Gain" freshens up the formula it's too little, too late and as much as it and the radio-designed "True Colors" with Nicki Minaj try, they're too calculated and sterile to bring this back into the win column.
Standout Tracks: "KK," "House In The Hills," "Stayin Out All Night"
Skippable: "Hope," "Ass Drop," "Raw," "The Sleaze"
The 411: Wiz Khalifa has a lot of potential in the trap game, but he has yet to fully achieve it on a major-label studio LP. Blacc Hollywood is the latest frustrating effort from him; we want the highlights of the album to define him but he seems content to sink into his weakest moments. Despite some good guest appearances by the likes of Juicy J, Ty Dolla Sign and even Nicki Minaj sounding better than she has in a while, Blacc Hollywood is a distinctly uneven and ultimately disappointing effort.