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Turn Up for What: Wiz Khalifa Shrugs His Way Through ‘Blacc Hollywood’

SPIN Rating: 5 of 10
Release Date: August 19, 2014
Label: Atlantic/Rostrum

Let’s start with the nadir of Wiz Khalifa’s maddeningly “meh” Blacc Hollywood. It’s called “Ass Drop” and it’s a sub-Drake, quasi-Ty$, twerk-pop track that pops up about halfway through the record. “Do something for a boss,” demands the twerpy stoner star. “Do something for a nigga.” Something? Something! He can’t even be bothered to be the kind of misogynist aesthete that dominates edgy rap right now, the guy that implores a woman to arch her back like a Picasso or whatever these played out songs think they’re saying. No, Wiz is slacking, fumbling the template that should’ve been declared dead when Miley shucked and jived her way into the twerk conversation. So yeah girl, “Do something,” anything it would seem. Wiz can’t be bothered to care.

Khalifa is the worst kind of superstar. His music isn’t challenging, he isn’t all that compelling, and he hasn’t even fully committed himself to being a mainstream party rapper, which he can actually pull off: On the M83-meets-fun. ridiculousness of “Staying Out All Night” and Cameo-meets-Gym Class Heroes dork-crooning of “True Colors,” this record kind of goes. But while he rarely excels, Wiz doesn’t do anything all that poorly, either. He’s almost impressively middle-of-the-road, which is how you’d described the nasally street-nerditry of Too $hort and other regional heroes who are Wiz’s biggest influence, the rappers whose shtick he picked up, smoothed out, and delivered to the white hat-wearers on hip-hop fandom’s periphery.

The best moments of Blacc Hollywood are the aforementioned cloying club tracks, whereas everything else is lukewarm. There’s a line about how Wiz has made it to the top and how that matters as an example to others, another about how he’s worked so hard, and this is all buttressed by Blacc Hollywood beginning with some ponderous spoken word, the now de rigueur hip-hop mission statement. This creed—essentially an empowering “this black male made it out and you can too”—hovers in the background for the rest of the record and steps forward here and there (particularly on “Still Down”), suggesting an undercooked take on Kanye’s knotty personal-is-political-is-personal-again rhetoric.

Mostly though, this album is too-crisp cloud rap (“Promises,” “House On the Hills”) and diet, caffeine-free trap that gets the signifiers right but has no actual snarl (“We Dem Boyz,” “Kk,” “Raw”). Blacc Hollywood could be worse or lazier or just plain longer, but Wiz is a master of half-assed hedging. You’re not going to expect more from him than you get here, and by standing for so little Wiz somehow remains relevant. The record is 13 tracks long, sounds nice sometimes, and features Ty$, Juicy J, Project Pat, Curren$y, Chevy Woods, and Nicki Minaj, so it doesn’t overstay its welcome and has decent taste in guests, which is, to borrow a word from Wiz, something, I guess.