It’s a testament to the strange tabloid world we inhabit that Amber Rose is currently more famous for being a rapper’s girlfriend (she’s Kanye West’s ex) than her current rapper-boyfriend, Wiz Khalifa, is for rapping. That’s changing, however, thanks to the breakout success of “Black And Yellow,” the smash hit from Khalifa’s Atlantic debut, Rolling Papers. “Black And Yellow” is the kind of unstoppable, furiously kinetic hometown anthem that rappers and singers instantly want to make their own; the beat consequently becomes communal property for mix-tape artists and official guests like T-Pain and Snoop Dogg, who appear on a remix not included on the album.
Khalifa roared out of the gate with a killer single, but the monomaniacal, largely undistinguished Rolling Papers suggests audiences are responding to the song, not the artist. Like Snoop, Khalifa raps extensively, even obsessively about marijuana; unlike Snoop, Khalifa never seems to be having much fun. Khalifa’s delivery is so casual, he’s practically just talking, and if he didn’t double-track himself laughing at certain lines, it’d be hard to tell that his lyrics are even supposed to be funny. Rolling Papers ends strongly with “Cameras,” a Drake-like celebration/exploration of succeeding beyond your wildest dreams; that track introduces an intriguing hint of self-reflection to go with the self-aggrandizement. Like Drake’s similar, but more inspired Thank Me Later, Khalifa’s new album is about the ascent to superstardom. But by the end, it feels more like a hollow triumph than the culmination of a long, hard journey.