Even among hip-hop artists, Wiz Khalifa is notably dedicated to the ganja, naming his last album Rolling Papers and bragging on his latest, O.N.I.F.C., that “I smoke so much dope/I got O.G. in my I.V.” If a smokable résumé is all it takes to qualify as O.G. these days, Khalifa still has to compete with Kid Cudi. For now, he seems secure enough with his status: The acronymic title of his new album stands for Only Nigga in First Class. The album’s terminal flaws, though, have less to do with Khalifa’s ego and more with the dumb, reflexive materialism of the lyrics. “The bigger the bill/The harder you ball,” indeed. But what about the other questions? The ones Kanye West asks, about what to do with all this money? And for that matter: How many poor ermines perished to supply the vest Khalifa wears on the album cover? If there’s something perversely refreshing about O.N.I.F.C.‘s failures, it’s that a confirmed cameo artist still needs more than sturdy beats and a three-record contract to be interesting.
Surprises are few and far between: Khalifa goes club-banging on “Paperbond,” “Bluffin,” and the bass-anchored single “Work Hard Play Hard”; “Up in It” offers the usual braggartry about the damage Khalifa’s endowment has perpetrated on a lover’s innards; and “No Limit” finds him offering more words-per-minute than normal, talking about nothing in particular. On “Rise Above,” the rapper shares time with Pharrell, Tuki Carter, and fiancée Amber Rose in a laidback but tightly atmospheric track about how to inspire the youth, while the Akon collaboration “Let It Go” recalls Bonethugz in its Reinhold Neibuhr-meets-MLK message of sober optimism. The rapper’s blasé (read: toasted out of his skull) flow is inviting enough: Extended verses on “Got Everything,” featuring Courtney Noelle, impress with their rhythmic ease, but Khalifa is no match for 2 Chainz, who grinds out an aggressive earworm of a verse on “Its Nothin” while Wiz falls back on his usual interchangeable Ferrari rhymes.
The ability to smoke “a half-pound in seven days” (one of the many boasts on “Time”) is a big deal in some circles. It’s also the homework you should do before playing O.N.I.F.C. As long as Khalifa’s handing free drinks around on “Paperbond,” it seems unsporting to complain about the rapper’s lack of personal depth. If Wiz is content to be a smoker with a rapping habit, hey, it’s a free country. But don’t be fooled by his faux-artsy outfits or claims of musical invention: Despite the posturing, he’s neither an “eccentric” artist nor a hipster’s rapper; he’s a producer‘s rapper, which is why so many of them use him for parts. It’s what he’s good for, and—unless you’re Rose’s ex—he’d be glad to help.