At the beginning of, “The Race” Wiz Khalifa casually says, “Yeah, it’s nothing new / ‘Cause this is exactly what I do…” and that essentially serves as his mantra and an example of everything else on Rolling Papers. Much like Deal Or No Deal this album is catchy and melodic—possibly more so than anything else out right now not made by a member of Young Money.
Anyone who listened to his first two albums knows Wiz isn’t the rapper to go to for intricate rhyme patterns or socially conscious subject matter. Much like his elder contributors Snoop Dogg and Too $hort, he does a few select things well and he’s smart enough not to mess up the formula. “Black And Yellow” proved sticking to the script isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In Wiz’s case, what you usually get is an equal amount of rhymes dedicated to women, weed and flossing over smooth production that compliments his laid-back delivery.
While longtime collaborators E Dan and Big Jerm still make their contributions, a majority of the production on Rolling Papers seems like a failed attempt for more Top 40 radio play. Experiments like the Loose Ends sample on “The Kid Frankie” from Kush x OJ are ditched for songs like “Roll Up.” If the hollow basslines and heavy use of synthesizers seem better suited for an R&B singer, it’s probably because Stargate’s production works best with their usual clientele of Rihanna and Ne-Yo not Wiz Khalifa.
Additionally, some of the witty wordplay Wiz has been employing since “Ink My Whole Body” is nowhere to be found. “Hopes And Dreams” finds Wiz using the simplest of A, B, A, B cadences, rhyming, “Buy this drink for you / You said tell the DJ play this song for me / Here’s my number in case you ever need company / Better weed / Tons of drink / Love the way I dress / Let her rub my ink.”
Wiz has a habit of mixing in singing with his rhymes. When properly executed over a beat with some teeth, it’s reminiscent of DJ Quik’s work with 2nd II None. “The Race” and “Star of the Show” are two examples. Wiz shines on songs like “Rooftops” and the Too $hort-assisted “On My Level” because he’s not purposely catering to the charts. Tracks by Jim Jonsin and E Dan incorporate the proper mix of thick basslines, slow tempo and melody to compliment Wiz’s naturally catchy style without sounding soft. When it works, you get flashes of how much Wiz has improved since his early days. A shorter tracklisting would make Rolling Papers at least equal to Wiz’s critically acclaimed 2010 mixtape. But even when he panders to the radio, Wiz’s ability to make singles equally embraced by the corner and the club has improved.
As his 2010 success shows, Wiz Khalifa has grown considerably since his debut. Unfortunately, most of that growth is showcased on radio-friendly attempts to recreate catching lightening in a bottle with “Black And Yellow.” Hardcore Taylor Gang fans will be happy to add this to their collection, but if you’re expecting another round of Kush x OJ, this album will probably disappoint you.