Wiz Khalifa Gets High on… (Music?) at Bonnaroo
The MC's set walks the musical line between innovation and self-parody.
His bent-paper-clip physique thickly tatted up and down, baseball cap askew, skein of gold chains, sleeveless black Taylor Gang t-shirt, eyes past the point where “glassy” even begins to describe the vast vacancy, so skinny his skinny jeans are sagging, Pittsburgh permastoner rapper Wiz Khalifa strolled up to the front of the What Stage Saturday evening, and announced, with all the sincerity he could muster, “It’s not about me, it’s about all of….” But before he could murmur the perfunctory “you,” Wiz doubled over in full trademark cackle, grinning like a smartass lottery winner.
This was either an amusing moment of refreshing candor — “Yo, fuck this humility hustle, we know it’s really about moi” — or a sadly revealing hint of just how truly zooted on his own supply the MC has become. Your opinion probably correlates directly to your tolerance for onstage banter like, “Yo, I wanna see who’s got the best weed up in this bitch!
Still, for the first, say, 35-40 minutes of Wiz’s set he was both crowd-teasing and -pleasing in equal measure, cleverly keeping us off balance by shifting from thudding post-crunk to swaying ’70s soul tracks, which showcased his unerring ear for giddily disposable hooks, mnemonic chants, and pop samples sure to induce mobs of girls to spontaneously “whoo hoo!”
“B.A.R.,” “Cabin Fever,” “The Race,” “Wake Up,” “In the Cut,” all had their gruff, boyish charms. Not since Dr. Dre’s The Chronic has an artist been so stoned and so obsessively attuned to sonic detail, embedding melodic accents in every crawlspace of his songs (not to mention Wiz’s effortless take on the late Nate Dogg’s “Hard R”&B crooning).
But during the show’s last half, Wiz’s impulse to pander to every frat-crossover cliché started to become a numbing farce. “The Thrill” is one thing, with its sample of Empire of the Sun’s “Walking on a Dream,” but “Fly Solo” (with its cans of country corn) and “No Sleep” (which clumsily riffs off Blink-182) could be Asher Roth at his dorkiest, and mostly just sound like any number of emo chuckleheads who get bored and try to rap and end up sounding like some cutesy-poo glee-club spoof. Of course, it helps if you can suddenly reverse course and knock out “Black and Yellow” and have a sea of stoners howl at the setting sun.
“It’s hot as fuck and I’m high as shit,” cracked Wiz, and there was that phony cackle again. Dude, we know, and I’m sure your kush is better too. Just keep it to yourself next time, okay?