Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Wiz Khalifa returns with his clumsiest album yet

Illustration for article titled Wiz Khalifa returns with his clumsiest album yet

A quick exercise: Take 10 seconds or so and list as many of the most popular rap stars of the moment as you can. Most lists will probably include some combination of Lil Wayne, Kanye West, Drake, Nicki Minaj, and Jay Z; some might throw in Rick Ross and 2 Chainz. Whichever rappers were listed, they likely share two things in common: They’re all eager entertainers and unmistakable, outsized presences, with personalities big enough to anchor their own Saturday morning cartoon shows. That leaves Wiz Khalifa as the odd man out among rap’s colorful elite, a characterless interloper on an A-list that, if nothing else, can usually be counted on to filter out the dullest voices. Khalifa’s only distinguishing traits are that he enjoys weed and never seems to notice that he’s rapping a step behind whatever beat he’s on.

Of all the rappers in his tax bracket, Khalifa is also by far the least concerned with the craft of rapping, as he demonstrates repeatedly on his dreary third major-label album, Blacc Hollywood. Every line out of his mouth is imprecise and underwritten, screaming for a punch-up. That fumbled prose wouldn’t be such a problem if he injected his disinterested boasts of money spending and womanizing with some semblance of humor, but the closest he comes to a complete punchline is the crack “The way she give me brain, she need a degree.” Mostly, he raps in half thoughts like “They say I run the game, literally,” slowing songs to a crawl with his nagging flow and clumsy verbiage. He makes even the punchiest tracks feel a good minute or two longer than they actually are.

On “No Gain,” Khalifa misuses his favorite L-word again, insisting, “Man, I work hard, literally,” but there’s no evidence of hard work on Blacc Hollywood. Khalifa’s 2011 breakthrough, Rolling Papers, compensated for his bland rapping with sticky pop hooks, and even his 2012 snoozer, O.N.I.F.C., offered some varied production to offset the tedium, but there are no such respites on Blacc Hollywood, an album every bit as vacant and unappealing as the artist who made it.