Smoke DZA’s smoked-out offering, Rolling Stoned, should come with a sticker reading “Weed Required” on the cover. Marijuana music is en vogue, and the Harlem native blows much of this forty-one minute project embodying his buddah love. Ironically, this thirteen track offering is much stronger when he veers away from the obvious.

Take the Big K.R.I.T. and Bun B-assisted, “On The Corner”, where DZA drops a solidly visceral narrative about a promising basketball player who goes wayward and ends up getting caught slipping at a dice game. “He used to wanna be a Laker / Now he won’t wake up / Damn, what a way to make the paper,” he raps, summing one of his few truly compelling verses. Opener, “The Wonderful World Of The Kushed God” qualifies DZA’s resume for those who know him more for his suitable sidekick status after rocking with Curren$y, Big K.R.I.T. and others over the past 18 months, providing a glimpse into his broader aspirations in the process:

“Harlem’s own / Certified / I ain’t a new jack that just started coming out side / I been roasting / Battles on 2-5th / When Mob 125 was open / Ask about me / I put in enough work to get the brag rights / I was a bastard in my past life / Fast forward / Still mad nice / The goal ain’t changed / Til’ the whole world know my name.” 

“Notorious” (featuring Fiend and Big Sant) is arguably this project’s crown jewel. Both guest appearances decimate the horn heavy, ’70s sounding backdrop and DZA’s rapid fire flow blends perfectly. It’s the type of track that rocks righteously in Beats By Dres or 808s. “Ball Game,” is another winner, as Kendrick Lamar shows up to drop Rolling Stoned’s most rewindable verse.

“It ain’t about the popularity / Measure me by success,” DZA raps on “Quiet,” again highlighting his ambition. Unfortunately, those ambitions are stated more often than practiced. Where “Pow Wow” (featuring Dom Kennedy) declares his Big-Dog status, “Loudest Batch,” “Live Life,” and “We Out,” sound like the exact opposite. The entire album is littered with largely forgettable production, underscoring a slew of forgettable bars.

Smoke DZA has always played a suitable Robin and, on Rolling Stoned, he’s still a ways away from driving the Bat Mobile. Maybe that’s why there’s twelve guest appearances on a thirteen track album. Maybe he feels he resonates more in limited doses. With only four solo joints, it’s difficult to get a feel for the artist. Instead, he flaunts the caricature while the person behind “The Kushed God” is still hidden in a cloud of smoke.