First Spin... Wiz Khalifa's Blacc Hollywood
Wiz Khalifa has come a long way since his 2006 debut, Show and Prove. That first LP showed plenty of promise and helped the rapper & singer-songwriter build a reputation on the underground scene, but by the time of his third album Rolling Papers Wiz Khalifa had gone from promising underground artist to full-blown, gold-selling rap star. That's thanks in part to his Billboard Chart-topping singe 'Black and Yellow', named after the colours of his home NFL team the Pittsburgh Steelers, but ever since he's been churning out slick, R&B-influenced rap and earned himself a loyal following, with more than 15 million Twitter followers and a string of hits to his name.
Next week he returns with his fifth studio album, Blacc Hollywood. So what can we expect this time around? Is he still preoccupied with lyrics about champagne and weed? Judging from that cover artwork with his face obscured behind a thick cloud of smoke, we're going to guess that he is. Let's give it a spin and find out...
'Hope' (Feat. Ty Dolla $Ign)
Right from the beginning, this expansive intro track gives a signal of the kind of sound we can expect from the record, kicking off with a monologue about making decisions in life over distant piano chords and dreamy, wah pedal-drenched guitar licks, before the whole thing gives way to a twinkling synth riff over a a deep, grinding bassline and slow, trap-style drumbeats. We're a few second in and already we're onto some of the rapper's favourite subjects, champagne and girls. Welcome back Wiz...
'We Dem Boyz'
One of the singles already released from the album, the track leads in with staccato strings and some heavily auto-tuned vocals with Wiz rapping about money-grabbing girls and show-off guys hanging around in clubs. It's big, it's brash and it continues pretty much where 'Hope' left off...
A bit of a shift of gear here with a slow and surprisingly melodic number with a big pop chorus and, of all things, it sounds like he's singing about love. Wiz is in romantic mood here, but still manages to drop in a reference to smoking weed in his second verse rap.
'Kk' (Feat. Project Pat & Juicy J)
This time it's ALL about weed - his own favourite brand in fact - but it's underpinned by a gorgeous, spooky string sample and a minimalist arrangement that just screams 'this is music to smoke to'. It's chilled, it's heavy and it's one of our favourites on the album.
'House In The Hills' (Feat. Curren$Y)
There's a bit of an 80s vibe about this track with Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa's long-time collaborator, and 'House in the Hills' is one of the album's highlights with it's big piano stabs, slow groove and melodic hook. Wiz seems to produce some of his best tracks when collaborating with others and his partnership with Curren$y here is another good example.
“If you got an ass like the girls in the video, bring it my way” sings Wiz over a thudding bass drum and some chopped up sampled vocals. It's like the trap equivalent of Sir Mixalot's 'Baby's Got Back', only with more weed references.
Another of the album's highlights, 'Raw' is exactly that – it's a sparse track led by spooky synth line and some very minimalist beats, but turn it up loud and sounds heavy as hell, despite it's spacious arrangement.
'Stayin' Out All Night'
Another of the album's more melodic moments, this is Wiz celebrating the night life and it's held together by a huge, lush chorus with some pounding drums, swelling synth pads and a heavy bassline, all backing up his vocals about getting wasted (“I'mma drink so much I can't make it home”). The perfect pre-clubbing track for Wiz Khalifa's legions of fans.
'The Sleaze' contains one of our favourite moments on the album owing largely to it's huge, filthy Moog-like bassline that seeps in right from the beginning, but it also has some his best lyrics on the album and another big, melodic hook that threatens to embed itself deep in your psyche for days to come.
'So High' (Feat. Ghost Loft)
With a title like that there are no prizes for guessing what the lyrics are about and, sure enough, we're back onto the rapper's favourite subject, but this track featuring Ghost Loft features one of the catchiest hooks on the record and it's another of the LPs standout moments. It's got a real summer vibe to it and that 80s flavour is back again, which is no bad thing.
'Still Down' (Feat. Chevy Woods & Ty Dolla $Ign)
Amidst all the talk of drinking champagne in clubs and driving a Mercedes, this is a pause to remember his roots and point out that he's 'still down' with those he grew up around. Ty Dolla $ign and Chevy Woods add some different rap flows to the proceedings and make this another of the album's best moments.
One of the more mellow moments on the album, there's almost a porno groove feel to 'No Gain', all slow-jam rhythms and dreamy keyboards. If Barry White was just coming up now, we imagine this is the kind of thing he'd be doing. It's pretty sexy...
His recent single with Nicki Minaj, 'True Colors' is the closing track on the standard version of Blacc Hollywood and it seems Wiz has saved the best for last here – it's a radio-friendly R&B tune with a big chorus and more of the slick, immaculate production that can found all over this album, Like most of the tracks, it's pretty downtempo, but it features another catchy hook that's bound to have his fans' heads nodding in appreciation.