Wiz Khalifa has a two-pronged mind set on weed and greed. After locking in mainstream acclaim with his chart-rocking 2010 breakout “Black and Yellow,” the Pittsburgh spitter became one of the sole hip-hop artists in 2011 to blow past gold certification with his major label debut Rolling Papers, a Top 40-leaning bid that might have set back the smoked-out mixtapes of years prior.
Singles are few on Khalifa’s robust, 17-track second album O.N.I.F.C., finally releasing on December 4th after chronic delays. Instead it’s a return to his stoner roots, offset by an inflated need for green. Boasts of king-sized spliffs and stacking cash thread together the album, which was just debuted at the Manhattan strip joint the Westway for wrangled journalists, label personnel and industry vets, including DJ Kay Slay, Statik Selektah and Hot 97’s Peter Rosenberg.
As three jungle-cat-painted strippers gyrated on a rectangular island during the album’s playback, Khalifa puffed a blunt the size of a cotton candy cone before switching out for a modest joint midway through. The LP echoed the event’s atmosphere in musical form: clouded with smoke, glazed with strobing synths and peppered with tales of top-shelf partying.
“I got enough weed to last me the rest of my motherfuckin’ life,” he declares at the onset of “Paperbond,” a melancholy track offset by up-above rhymes and a searing vocal sample. “It’s all about the paper, it’s all about getting paid,” prefaced Khalifa, who emceed the event as nearby associates poured shots of gin. “That’s what brings us all together, this money. We all eatin’ off of this project.”
With that, Khalifa established himself as a coin swallower, tossing out backhanded hooks about fat pockets and riding in his own lane. On stripper anthems “The Plan” (featuring Juicy J) and “Bluffin,” he follows suit, stretching the money-hungry motif present on O.N.I.F.C.: “I got so much paper I just spend it like it’s nothing,” he taunts on the latter. Meanwhile, the album standout “Fall Asleep” is sparse on instrumentation, pockmarked with light taps on a pipe, offset by chest-thumping bars about lavish living.
There are pockets of mild introspection that temporarily lift the veil on dollar-sign eyes. The album takes a breath with “Rise Above,” produced by and featuring Pharrell Williams (“He made the beat for me right on the spot – I sat there and I smoked, like, 40 fucking joints,” recalled Wiz). The velveteen track features his tattoo artist, Tuki Carter, and baby’s mother Amber Rose, who offers a glimpse into the life of the man behind the materialism. On the Jim Jonsin-produced “Up In It,” Khalifa takes it to the bedroom, peeling back the hard-green coating of the rest of the LP.
O.N.I.F.C. is no Rolling Papers, neither in stature nor sound, but that’s actually part of its charm. Khalifa has entered another tax bracket over the past few years and he’s not afraid to show it, setting his triumphs against an intrepid soundscape that plays like a club-friendly version of Drake’s Take Care. His interests haven’t changed – it’s still all about marijuana and cash. While that’s still at the forefront, it somehow feels sincere, something that’s been lacking from his recent tracks.