Available on: Rostrum Records mixtape

Though, as a bona fide stoner bonehead, Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa often giggles to himself as if he’s just watched Harold and Kumar mistaking a dog poo for a Hershey bar, he’s rarely intentionally funny. The funniest thing he says on Taylor Allderdice is entirely unintentionally funny – is entirely serious, in fact. In one of the short snippets of interview footage that serve as fluffer material inbetween tracks here, Wiz is asked to explain the ‘Taylor Ideology’ (Taylor Gang is his group/clothing line/’ideology’). Khalifa takes a deep breath – not largely composed of oxygen, one assumes – and explains. The ‘Taylor Ideology’, as it turns out, basically means ‘doing what you want to do’.

Well, there’s an idea. Perhaps Wiz is saying that, in a Godless universe, there is no real reason to restrain your desires and instincts? After all, there’s one snippet on Taylor Allderdice where Wiz lets out a big belch in the middle of an answer before carrying on. You can imagine him listening back to this in the studio. The engineer turns to him, his eyebrows raised quizzically, his hand reaching for the mouse to cut this piece of flatulence out. Wiz grabs the engineer’s wrist, and shakes his head, sagely. “Taylor Ideology, homie” he whispers, and the engineer is almost moved to tears by the Wizdom.

I’m bitterly disappointed to report that Wiz at no point shits himself, masturbates or mounts a German Shepard on Taylor Allderdice, but then he’s not all that ambitious. This lack of ambition (and lack of manners), this fundamental ‘give a shit’-ness, is of course what constitutes Wiz’s dull-as-chips ice-cool. Because all Wiz really wants to do, as it turns out, is smoke loads of weed and make loads of money. If anyone was ever unsure of this fact (they weren’t), then 17 tracks of Wiz endlessly, monotonously going on about smoking weed and making money should put all speculation to rest. Wiz, in fact, doesn’t really have anything interesting to say. He shares this in common with approximately 95% of rappers, many of who are equally as infatuated with weed and money.

Unfortunately he doesn’t have an interesting way of saying these boring things, either. Wiz’s good mate (and much better lyricist) Curren$y is a man who has 1000 ways to say “I’m stoned and rich”. Wiz has about 25 ways, at a push. Of course, Wiz has the advantage of actually being rich – his 2010 single ‘Black and Yellow’ shot him into the musical fuckoffosphere, helping to turn him into a bona fide rap pop star, complete with ridiculous blonde-streaked haircut and celebrity girlfriend (model Amber Rose, who contributes an inane hook or two to this mixtape). Taylor Allderdice is such a popular mixtape, in fact, that Dat Piff was momentarily nuked by it upon its release, prompting a thousand suburban Brick Squad devotees to attempt suicide. Now that’s juice.

Wiz denies being a pop star. He distances himself a little from his extremely wimpy Rolling Papers album, which was successfully aimed at teenage girls and made almost everybody else (including long-time fans) puke into their Rizlas. “I’ll pop up and make five million dollars” he quips, when asked if he’s “pop rap” by his interviewer. Ha-ha-ha. Wiz is a pop star, though, whether he likes it or not. There’s something distinctly bubble-gummy about him. His Drake-ishly light voice is as sugary and (as originoo gun clappa Common might say, in between skipping through meadows and reciting love poems to a cherry blossom) “Sweet”. He sounds as un-threatening as he is un-threatened.

When you haven’t got anything interesting to say, and you haven’t got an interesting way to say it either, what have you got left? Image, and lifestyle… and tunes. Wiz has the image, there’s no denying that – tall, good-looking, covered in pretty-boy rebel tattoos. Boys want to smoke weed with him, girls want to smoke pole with him (that’s the idea, anyway). The jet-setting, bong-smoking, model-banging lifestyle he’s selling is indivisible from this uber-cool image, and is as self-evidently appealing as it is miserably shallow. Listening to Wiz, I’m always reminded of the American TV show/smug-bright-white-grin festEntourage, which is both immensely, maddeningly superficial and yet shamefully seductive to the (mainly) male imagination. Sure, you know all the characters in the show are smug, insufferably superficial twats. But isn’t there even a tiny piece of you that would like to be sitting pool side with those twats, trying half-successfully to chat up Jessica Alba, tolerantly ignoring the Moet she’s spilling all over your Gucci loafers? Sure you would, you pathetic fool.

So would millions upon millions of others. This is part of the reason rappers like Wiz are so hugely successful – he lives the dream, and endlessly extols its virtues, so that us Lamborghini-less worms can carry on dreaming it. But, needless to say, this isn’t the sole or even main reason for Wiz’s success. As already alluded to, there are more rappers out there talking about making and spending duckets than there are one-of-a-kind trainers in Wiz’s St. Peter’s proportioned walk-in wardrobe. They just don’t do it as melodiously or as infectiously as him. This is the other, more crucial, pop dimension to Wiz – his musical, rather than lyrical, talent.

It’s hard, when forced to engage critically with Wiz’s music, not to hate him a little bit. He’s a one-man self-PR machine, always going on about how great he is without ever really explaining why (“I’ve got a lot of money and I smoke a lot of weed” doesn’t quite cut it, for anyone, ever). But switch your brain off (or blunt it with the prescribed dose of skunk and orange juice) and there’s plenty to enjoy. Wiz’s material might be lowest-common-denominator but his flow definitely befits his high status: he confidently rattles off boasts, rhythmically tight and combining relentless energetic bounciness with a supremely relaxed swagger that makes him sound as if he’s cruising, or surfing, on beats.

The beats Wiz sounds best over are essentially the sonic equivalent of taking a ride around L.A. in an open-topped Porsche on a summer’s evening: wistfully blissful, the beats and basslines funky, the chords jazzy. Some Wiz fans love hearing him over Lex Luger’s explosive trap beats – I think he sounds weedy over them, and not in a toxicological sense; his dazed yelping comes over weakly in an uber-tough context. Wiz isn’t tough. He hasn’t got an edge. He’s Diet Snoop. But when he raps over a nice, relaxing and uplifting instrumental, he sounds entirely in his element, and the listener shares the good times with him (“and fuck those jealous haterz!”).

In particular it’s Wiz’s singing which showcases his undeniable melodic talents, his innate rhythmic and harmonic facility. Wiz writes good, catchy hooks, and even the sourest, loneliest, skint-iest critic in the world can’t help but sing along with him when he hits paydirt, which is often. He also picks great beats. The production team that helped make his break-through mixtape Kush and Orange Juice so enjoyable contribute Wiz-friendly beats here (Big Jerm, Cardo and Sledgren, alongside up and comers like Spaceghostpurrrp and Harry Fraud). The beats here aren’t as good as those on Kush and OJ, and the hooks aren’t as soaringly memorable either. But that tape was a tough act to follow, despite this mixtape’s transparent attempts to replicate its appeal, especially to temporarily alienated fans.

Taylor Allderdice is by no means essential listening (as Kush and OJ arguably was), but there are enough strong tracks to make it worth a download, and it will doubtlessly soundtrack many summer barbecues, park-based smoking sessions and erotically charged Super Soaker fights. There are even some tracks on here where Wiz actually sounds as good as he relentlessly claims he is. ‘Guilty Conscience’, for example, with its neon, darting synths and grandstand bassline, finds Wiz sounding as hungry as he is well-fed (“I’m higher than a plane and I don’t wanna land! / Everytime I speak it costs a hundred grand!”), at last adding some snap and crackle to go with that ever-present pop.

Jack Law




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