The first Wiz Khalifa album for a major label – Atlantic Records – is on lockdown. To hear it, you must visit the label’s offices, and sit with headphones on. This was doubtless not the case with his 2006 debut, ‘Show & Prove’, released on local Pennsylvania label Rostrum Records, which sold just in excess of 10,000 copies.
Second album, the (possibly) Noel Edmonds-referencing Deal Or No Deal, also on Rostrum, peaked at 25 in the US R’n’B charts, but it was not until he released – sorry, “dropped” – the Stargate-produced ‘Black & Yellow’ that such security measures came into play. This became his first ever US Billboard Number One Single, and Wiz Khalifa, Pittsburgh’s finest, became officially A Big Deal.
The title, he says, “is not just a weed thing”. It’s also to do with him leaving his contract with Warner Brothers, and how he doesn’t really write lyrics down anymore. He just makes notes.
Anyway, here’s the sketch…
When I’m Gone
Beginning with a lengthy, tinkling piano intro, the title refers to Wiz’s belief that he may as well blow all this money he’s making right now, because it won’t be no good to him when he carks it (plus inheritance tax is a bee-atch, you know?). The key lyric is: “I spend it all on my niggas/When I go shopping I tell ’em to pick one/’Cos they was with me when nobody saw the vision”. Turtle from Entourage will like this one.
On My Level
This was the first promo single from ‘Rolling Papers’, the video for which you can see below. “Gin got me drunk as fuck, stumbling out the bar,” he slurs laconically at one point, “plus I’m struggin’ trying to find the keys to my car.” Good tune, but it seems wise here to point Wiz in the direction of this website (scooterman.co.uk).
Black & Yellow
The big single. In the words of its creator, “Ya’ll know this. If you don’t, where you been at?” To be fair, it has sold over 2 million copies in the US. The title refers to the jersey colours of the Pittsburgh Steelers and, as well as an official ‘G-Mix’ featuring Snoop ‘The Opening Of A Vocal Booth? I’m There’ Dogg, has inspired a large number of remakes, most notably the one by Tom Hanks’ son Chet Haze, who is one of those “faggots” that rappers go on about.
A pound of skunk to the first reader who can tell me what this tune is about? Weed, you say? Well… NO! Ha! The hook goes “Whenever you call, baby, I’ll roll up.” So it’s about chicks. Musically, this one is straight out of the Nelly school of pop, lullaby-hook hip hop, and is one of the album’s best mo… Oh yeah, it’s also been a single, so you can listen for yourself below.
Hopes & Dreams
This is one of those reminiscing-back-to-when-I-was-a-boy, Southern Fried mellow tracks, of which there are many on here, and is very pleasant. Wiz moved about a lot as a child, coming as he does from military parents, who divorced when he was three years old, and settled in Pittsburgh where he got his nickname because, according to him, he was "brilliant at everything he did.”
This is the last of the Stargate-produced songs on the record – the others being ‘Black & Yellow’ and ‘Roll Up’ – and is another shining example of their irresistible brand of dreamy-yet-punchy, spaced out electronica. They have now had about sixty thousand hits with an array of artists in the US and the UK, which is not bad considering their first foray into chartdom was over in England with this:
...and also made a single for Richard Blackwood.
I’ll shut up now for a minute and let you “twist one up” while you make up your mind about this one.
Star Of The Show (feat Chevy Woods)
Who be Chevy Woods, you may be wondering? Well, aside from seemingly being one of the most over-excited Twitterers in the world (@chevywoods), and the guest of honour on this inconspicuous album cut, he is also signed to Wiz’s Taylor Gang Ent label. Below, you can see him slip in a nifty rap containing the line “Luke, IIII am your father!” Which is quite cool.
This is the obligatory one about “partying straight through to the weekend”, without once putting one’s head on the pillow, with the aid of a huge pile of drugs and lashings of cristal. Dunno about you, but if I’d been up for three days straight, I wouldn’t make a track that’s laid-back Cali soul-pop produced by Benny Blanco (of ‘California Gurls’ fame), like this one. I’m not calling Wiz and Ben liars, but this sounds like they’ve just got back from a brisk jog rather than the brink of cocaine psychosis.
Get Your Shit
The key line here, delivered to a female suitor, is: “Gimme my keys back, bitch, get your shit and get out”. Later Wiz will say that “he still loves” whoever this lucky young lady may be. Suggestion: to finish off this gripping tale of domestic turmoil, let’s have a guest rap last verse from Eminem, putting on a girl’s voice and going on about how he had another key cut anyway that he keeps at work in his draw, so he could have got in anyway when he gave the key back, so there.
“They never used to even let us in the building,” Wiz proclaims, “and now we on the top floor”. This one is another celebratory pop tune, helmed this time by Pop Wansel, who was the man behind Nicki Minaj’s rather amazing ‘Your Love’.
Curveball, this one, with a kind of country tinge.
Rooftops (feat. Currnen$y)
More stuff about standing on the top of tall buildings (and the residents of Gotham City were wondering as to Batman’s true identity) that features the bizarrely-named Curren$y. Like, we get it, it’s a pun on the dollar and all that, but it doesn’t make sense. Current, see? would work, as would Curren-C, but throw a dollar sign in there, you're in bother. As a rapper? He’s alright. As a tune? It’s alright.
…and it all ends with one about the click-click of paparazzi one must get used to if one becomes a megastar.
Wiz Khalifa’s ascent is assured, but it’s disappointing that this album fulfils two noble traditions of blockbuster hip hop albums, in that it fades severely halfway through, the singles are the only truly genius thing on it, and it’s all about weed, ho's, cars, and how much better having a lucrative record deal is compared to being in the ghetto.