Wiz Khalifa’s ‘O.N.I.F.C.’: Album Review

Would you believe the first song on Wiz Khalifa‘s O.N.I.F.C. (out ) is about weed? And also, being filthy rich? It’s true, guys. Impending fatherhood has not seemed to, ahem, spark Wiz’s lyrical growth. However, it has provided us with “Up In It,” a sex jam laying out — in vivid detail — the process by which Wiz may have become a father-to-be.

Though he’s still spouting easygoing rhymes about both kinds of green, musically Wiz is virtually unrecognizable from the Pittsburgh kid on the soulful Show And ProveO.N.I.F.C. is full of gauzy, lethargic beats, with slowed-down G-funk riffs and bloops that seem to be coming from melted video game cartridges. When “Remember You” with The Weeknd  first dropped it was assumed to be anomalous, but that track’s warped sheen is representative of the entire album. So while the lyrics underwhelm, in terms of creating a mood, O.N.I.F.C. is unequivocally a success.

Wiz and his I.D. Labs cohorts started moving in this hazy direction on his last album Rolling Papers, but even that record had outliers like the monolithic thump of “Black And Yellow” or the acoustic breeze of “Fly Solo.” This album is uniform, embracing hip-hop’s move into the domain of Illangelo, Zodiac and Jamie xx, doubling down on Drake‘s sparseness while adding spaciness for the sesh set.

As a result, O.N.I.F.C. is hypnotic, foreboding…and also familiar. The sort of trance-y, woozy beats heard on “The Bluff” or “Time” would’ve been game-changers two years ago, but now you can hear similar (and often superior) fare everywhere from “Swimming Pools (Drank)” to Das Racist (pour one out) to Kitty Pryde.

But there are some standout moments that move the trend forward. “Paperbond” opens the album with a goopy foundation interrupted by echoing squawks. “Fall Asleep” is simultaneously jittery and languid, combining emptiness with focused flickers of sound, like a hip-hop version of The xx.

These moments, and even the more derivative ones, combine to make a very pretty-sounding record, in a sterile, Kubrickian sense. But there’s nothing at stake, it’s mainly an empty vessel that fails to elicit any real emotion. You can only throw together so many stress-free rhymes over mid-tempo beats and slow-rolling synth washes before everything coagulates into a tepid ooze. (This manufactured fog is so thick that, save for The Weeknd and 2 Chainz, the guest spots here swirl about without ever breaking through.)

Emotional depth was never Wiz’s thing, and that’s fine — he’s the happy stoner. But even when he goes the superficial route (which is, well, always), compared to the likes of Watch The Throne or God Forgives, I Don’t, Wiz’s boasts here feel toothless and stale (e.g. “I got so much money I should start a bank”). There’s an argument to be made, though, that while hip-hop is moving to extremes — lyrically and musically — Wiz is forging a middle ground, leaving the navel-gazing or world-conquering or social-commenting to others.

There’s nothing wrong with the middle ground…there’s just nothing sexy about it (even when you enlist your baby mama Amber Rose to spit a few rhymes, as he does on “Rise Above”). It will never feel essential. But Wiz seems to be just fine planting his stake in the land of no stakes: he opened Rolling Papers with “They say all I rap about is bitches and champagne,” and proceeded to start O.N.I.F.C. with “Get the cork out the bottle.”

The Best Song Wasn’t The Single: “Fall Asleep” dares you to do just that, lulling you before releasing well-timed crackles of static.

Pops Like: “Swimming Pools (Drank) (Dank)” without the sardonic bravura, mixed with some slinky future-R&B production.

Best Listened To: While/after utilizing a certain substance favored by Wiz. Dude knows his audience!

Full Disclosure: I’m from Pittsburgh, and the last time we had someone as big as Wiz, it was a collective of hippies singing “Send me on my way (on mah way),” so to say we’re pulling for him is an understatement.

Idolator Rating: 3.5/5

Carl Williott

What do you think of O.N.I.F.C.? Let us know in the comments, or on Facebook and Twitter.

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  • Saffeon Salter

    I’m from pittsburgh too and as much as i’d like wiz to succeed even more than he has he has to come up with different topics asap. Not all of his fans can relate to smoking weed all day and having millions isn’t exactly common nowadays. The album was ok but repetitive and i’d like to see whether wiz can truly rap or if hes just gonna continue to put out these simple verses

  • Adam Jimenez

    Hey wiz, congrats man on your new album, keep doing what your doing with this music bro, shouts out to Taylor Gang period.. I love your music man, and I’ve been seeing a lot of reviews about your albums that there only about weed and money.. Well I say F$&@ them you you have made it to the top so enjoy looking down on those at the bottom(haters).. Your biggest fan Adam Jimenez .. Oh I also want to congrat you on your 2050 tour and your new little blessing( little wiz or little amber)lol.. T.G.O.D

  • Kerri

    Wiz has been rappin about the green since he was 17 & selling weed in HIGH school. he can rap about what ever he wants all y’aall still listen. smoke weed everyday. herbs be healing

  • ian

    He later said in the opening line to Rolling Papers “you would too if every night you see the same thing”

    Wiz raps about what he knows Weed and Money

  • Hollis

    Everyone keeps saying, “Wiz raps about what he knows – Weed and money.” Then he needs to increase his knowledge…..there’s a lot more to rap/hip-hop/life than just weed and money.

  • Cheezpanda

    @Hollis – No there isn’t. Lol

  • Dustin Ruttenberg

    Sometimes hip hop isn’t about complex rap lyrics, or even lyrics that make sense (Hyphy?). His fan base likes to get high and live life through his shoes. For that Wiz is doing a good job. If we can’t relate, it’s because we’re not high enough.

  • Tommy

    Yeah he did say all he raps anout bitches and champagne, but he then says ” you would too if every night you see the same thing.” so he knows he does lol he is as real as it gets. This album is mixture i]of different types of beats and its the reason why true wiz are so loyal because he’s different.

  • Eric

    Wiz has released some good songs no doubt. But I don’t just want to hear about weed and money. Fact of the matter is, Wiz is dropping shallow lyrics with mediocre beats.

    3.5/10 for me. Album cover brings it down from a 4, and I am going to pass on buying this album. Hopefully T.I. brings it with Trouble Man on dec.18th.

  • NoN

    Wiz said it himself if he could do “Rolling Papers” different he would, and after listening to this I felt like he was trying to make the album he should have the first time. He tried to make the album for Taylor Gang fans who were fans before he blew up. Unfortunately for him now its too late and the same subject matter is old for most and gettin old for some. I think dude is talented but he lacks depth.

  • tavin

    wiz makes the weed music for his fans(stoners) if you don’t like it don’t listen! why would he change the way that he raps if it made him millions? it would ruin him for example snoop lion. good job wiz

  • josh

    Seee wiz album isn’t about lyrics he even said before a song ” no new lines just sticking to the same script”. Its about that sound, that spacey, trippy, trance like sounds. Its soothing to the ears

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