Wiz's Blacc Hollywood LP proves where there's smoke, there's not always fire
If Wiz Khalifa ever solicited us for creative counsel, we’d implore the directionless MC to revisit his 2006 single “Pittsburgh Sound.”
Wiz was a whole other kid at the time: His loose-fitting black tees were, by today’s standards, inadmissibly baggy; he had yet to adopt skateboarding as a leisure pursuit. On “Pittsburgh Sound,” you can even hear traces of Juelz Santana in his d-boy talk, barky intonation and fetish for chirping soul samples.
The reformed army brat wasn’t a hip-hop original, but he rapped like he meant it. His delight in tearing into a utilitarian street banger was plain to hear. Wiz’s shruggy, pop-infested third album, Blacc Hollywood (Taylor Gang/Atlantic), could use more of that “Pittsburgh Sound.”
Wiz would likely tell you that his intentions are benign. On Blacc Hollywood, there are several halfhearted appeals to spiritual communion, with Wiz invoking Bob Marley’s namesake and speaking in bungled patois. He indulges his “gentlemanly” side on “Promises,” whispering predigested nothings into a woman’s ear: “Let’s…make the time stand still/Get caught in the moment.” But he’s an uncaring, inattentive rapper, doing the bare minimum to pacify his core constituency (Hypebeast-surfing bluntheads). “Raw” shouts out suburban skate rat MGK, lest we forget the lilywhite demographic Wiz is courting here.
Blacc Hollywood too often settles for Bombay-battered club songs like “Stayin’ Out All Night” and “Ass Drop.” Those aren’t a problem in and of themselves, but absent the funky spark that distinguished Wiz’s 2010 breakthrough Kush & Orange Juice, these tracks are a chore to sit through. “House in the Hills” is pretty enough at least, what with its wavy keyboard smears, scatting drums and blink-and-you’ll-miss it guest verse from a woefully underutilized Curren$y. Otherwise, Blacc Hollywood is repetitious and stagnant.
Wiz purports to live the life of Riley. If Blacc Hollywood is to be believed, there are chin-high pot plants proliferating on every side of the beachfront vista he shares with wife Amber Rose. But his lollygagging, heavy-lidded flow suggests that he can’t bring himself to be excited about anything. It might behoove Wiz to ditch his present environment. The fog never seems to lift in Blacc Hollywood. —M.T. Richards