Wiz Khalifa has never been afraid of experimenting. While it may sometimes turn out for the better (“Up” from Kush & Orange Juice) other times, like say, his debut album Rolling Papers, it may not have turned out as well. In turn, he apologized, but how much can an artist really be knocked for a willingness to try new things with their art? With every project released by Wiz Khalifa there is the question of whether the new work will bring forth a new sound from him or a return to one of his past. His latest mixtape, 28 Grams is a mixture of both. While part of the project bares resemblance to some of his pre-Kush & Orange Juice works like Burn After Rolling, or Flight School, the majority of the mixtape finds Wiz’s new alter ego “Trap Wiz,” taking on a sound similar to a blend of relative Atlanta newcomer Rich Homie Quan, and Chicago’s popular drill music sound. Essentially, 28 Grams is 28 tracks of repetitiveness, with its few gems drowned out by bass and excessive Auto-tune.
There are several issues with 28 Grams, the main one being over usage of Auto-tune. To be fair, the pairing of Wiz Khalifa and vocoder type effects is nothing new. Those who have been fans of the Taylor Gang captain know he’s been using Auto-tune before the popularity of Future or Rich Homie Quan. The over-usage of it however—especially on a 28-track mixtape—make the project almost unlistenable. On “Incense” the effects are used so strongly, there’s barely any remnants of Khalifa’s own voice, making the track sound even more like a song from Future. On “Like Jimmy,” a bouncy, flowing, tuned out Khalifa attempts to convince you he’s like “Jimmy” because he “woke up in a bed full of bitches that he ain’t even fuckin’,” and smoking purple haze. Ignoring the fact “Jimmy” should have been Jimi, the song itself is ridiculous.
When not trying to recreate the life of “Jimmy” Hendrix, Khalifa adopts a Jamaican accent for tracks “Pure” and “On the Way.” If listener’s can get past the phony accent, “Pure” could be another stoner anthem added to Khalifa’s long list of such tracks. The airy, laid-back vibe fits the Kush & Orange Juice/Taylor Allderice sound that Khalifa’s fans seemed to love the most a lot more than that of “Trap Wiz.” “On the Way” on the other hand, fits in perfectly with 20-plus other tracks on 28 Grams, making it redundant if for nothing other than the fake accent.
That said, 28 Grams isn’t without its positives. “On A Plane” finds Wiz rapping over a sample of New Edition’s “Can You Stand the Rain.” Wiz’s flow rides the beat perfectly as he speaks on his progression. Songs like “The Last” and “Something Special” (featuring Thundercat) shine as well. The latter features a sample of Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful.” But, ultimately, five or six songs can’t save a 28-track project.
Experimentation and trying new things with an art form are great. However, when the new things one tries are really just catering to popular trends, it’s less experimentation, and more imitation. Thus, 28 Grams is too all over the place, overall and it feels like too much music, too much Auto-tune, and too much music that sounds as though it was already created by someone else. It has its positives, but they are few and far between and significantly outweighed by the negative aspects. Hopefully, those positives are a reflection of where Wiz is going with Blacc Hollywood.