I’m not a hater, I swear. Wiz and I go wayyyy back. I mean, my younger days blasting “Mesmorized” while smoking a joint with friends are ones fondly remembered.
Artists change, their style evolves, yadda yadda yadda– I’m all for rappers’ transformation and experimentation. But the only thing that O.N.I.F.C. says loud and clear is that the off the wall fun of Khalifa’s well-tailored mixture of money, weed and women that imbued his sounds with groovy, party smoking vibes has been swiftly replaced.
Mostly, O.N.I.F.C. hears the Pittsburgh native bragging about how much money he’s stacked and also serves as prime evidence of Khalifa’s obvious ongoing effort to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records for the ‘Most Times Nigga is Used in a Song’ title.
Wiz’s fourth full length effort Only Nigga in First Class), carries a title that homages Prodigy of the infamous Mobb Deep‘s 2000 release H.N.I.C. (Head Nigga in Charge) and this 17 track collection hears Wiz rapping mostly about the major changes that have come about in his life. So really, we’re hearing about the rappers’ self-described superstar status and engagement to his preggers bride-to-be Amber Rose.
“Work Hard Play Hard”, is Khalifa’s attempt to recreate his Pittsburgh Steelers mega anthem “Black and Yellow”. But instead of talking about the hornet-colours of his beloved P.A., Wiz makes an unabashedly repetitive song that could secure him that Guinness Book of World Records spot all on its own.
Directed by Wiz’s Day Today Vlog director Bill Paladino, The video for “Work Hard Play Hard” was released on May 23 and is the first set of visuals for O.N.I.F.C.. Referred to as a “tribute” to Jimi Hendrix because of Wiz’s hippie attire, it’s hard to understand what else in the video–like its champagne drenched ending– has to do with the late-great Rock and Roll legend it so boldly dedicates itself to.
The I.D. Labs’ produced “Paperbound”, is a much more focused track that hears Khalifa distancing himself from the frantic, less lyrically driven noise that his later mixtapes like Cabin Fever suffer from. This spacey beat quickly rolls out into an undeniable head bobber that will have you vybing out as Wiz’s bars impressively careen off each other and dutifully remind us of Khalifa’s lyrical skills buried beneath his Scrooge McDuck piles of money. Assuring us “I got enough weed to last me for the rest of my muthafuckin’ life”, “Paperbound” is a celebration song that anyone who grinds for anything could get down to.
“Bluffin'” features Wiz’s fellow chronic fanatic Berner, and benefits from a snared-up beat that’s as southern sounding as its Memphis born producer, Drumma Boy. Yet this high-times, money-focused track fails to take off probably the moment Khalifa begins to mindlessly spit his raps that ooze with THC overloaded redundancy. With a 5 minute and 32 second running time, “Bluffin” is far too long and gets burnt out faster than you would after devouring a fat burrito.
“The Bluff” finally hears Khalifa working with one of his greatest influences: Harlem World Diplomats front runner Cam’ron. The third music video released for O.N.I.F.C., “The Bluff” sees Khalifa making an favorable change from his usual studio set music video back drops to chillen on porch steps in Harlem. As a young and faithful Killa Cam and Dipset fan, “The Bluff” is one of the more catchy tunes off the album and has been rumoured to be the third official single for O.N.I.F.C.
Trying to hold in laughter while hearing Akon‘s crooning voice on “Let It Go”, this commercially oriented collaboration quickly begins to bore as Khalfia brag-raps about getting dealers to supply him with more ounces of sticky and the woes of a man who wears high priced sun glasses frames.
Quite honestly, there are only two more notable tracks which follow on this 17 song LP:
“Fall Asleep” gives us a taste at Khalifa’s experimental side with its more or less A cappella sounds. Although this certainly isn’t the most cohesive effort on O.N.I.F.C., the track’s occasional deep drums and creepy little kids’ voices give “Fall Asleep” an adventurous and impressively unpredictable feel.
The only other track worth mentioning is “Rise Above”: a song that cashes in on a phenomenal as usual production effort from Star Trak trendsetter Pharrell Williams. Featuring Wiz’s boo Amber Rose on the hook, “Rise Above” hears Khalifa giving us one of those increasingly rare sound bites of the mellow wisdom associated with his exotic, yet now household, moniker. And just like “Never Been Pt.II”, the simple hook comprised of Rose’s sultry voice samples works very well and has one thinking that the young rapper should team up with his wife-to-be more often
A track worth noting would also be “Initiation”, which features Taylor Gang first lady Lola Monroe. Unfortunately, the thing worth taking notice here is that Monroe delivers an ultimately lack lustre addition to this song that hears the Taylor gang diva’s speed-rap, Barbie girl growls sounding mostly like a Nicki Minaj imitation.
Unlike his freshman Atlantic Records release Rolling Papers— which housed some lovely dovey, surely Amber Rose inspired affection ballads like “Hopes and Dreams”– O.N.I.F.C. carries less of the charm of hearing a big label newcomer on the mic. Instead, O.N.I.F.C. puts Khalifa in the same league as hip hop moguls like 50 Cent, Rick Ross and Jay-Z. Its good to see young Khalifa getting his money, but in other words, he’s aligned himself with rappers who only know how to rhyme about the one thing they know about best: mula.