Taylor Gang / Atlantic Records

The supersized album format is officially played out. But before it goes, Wiz Khalifa has delivered one of its most worthwhile efforts in Rolling Papers 2, which never tries to be anything more or less than what it is: A collection of good to great songs which mostly stick to Wiz’s winning formula.

After only a few songs in my first listen, it became evident to me that Wiz wasn’t here to make some grand artistic statement. He has, refreshingly, absolutely nothing to prove, unlike Drake, or a high concept, like Future. Culture II might be the most ready comparison, but unlike Migos’ valiant effort, Rolling Papers 2 never comes across as workmanlike.

The fact of the matter is Cameron Thomaz just loves to rap. This isn’t just an option or an outlet or an occupation — it’s Wiz’s favorite thing to do, aside from the obvious, marijuana-related activities that make up the majority of his music’s content. There’s a relatable, enjoyable sincerity in his unpretentious, straightforward approach. He doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel, he just has to make sure it rolls (sorry not sorry for that pun). It’s part of what’s made his evolution from rapper’s rapper to lovable stoner so believable and smooth — he doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone, he just does him.

Part of what makes Rolling Papers 2 less of a slog than some other offerings is Wiz’s overarching strategy that balances the album’s production within styles he’s best known for without segregating it into sections of trap/R&B/etc. The fact that the album never quite settles into a groove works to Wiz’s favor; the sequencing never lulls due to a run of tracks that sound too similar and repetitive.

A prime example comes early in the tracklist, as the groovy title track eases into its breezy follow-up, “Mr. Williams.” Before the album settles into this pocket, though, two trappy bangers break up the midtempo smoker anthems, each containing a guest verse (Snoop Dogg on “Penthouse” and Gucci Mane on “Real Rich”) that both breaks up the potential for monotony from their host and spark his competitive drive, prompting him to turn in rejuvenated-sounding verses of his own.

By switching up the energy from track-to-track, Wiz avoids the cohesion of prior efforts like Khalifa, but he also prevents the overall project from slumping later in its runtime, despite his somewhat repetitive subject matter — you know Wiz is going to rap about weed, partying, and women without much variation. Again, though, it’s the unhurried, even-keeled approach that keeps it from sounding repetitive. He’s not trying to impress anyone with feats of wordplay, preventing the stilted delivery that sometimes hamstrings other rappers. While there are no standout, rewind-button-breaking bars, there are also no groanworthy “Chaining Tatum” lines cluttering up the vibe.

And lest Wiz be accused of retreading tired creative territory, he does gesture toward experimentation on the Problem-featuring “Gin And Drugs,” which borrows from Snoop Dogg’s seminal G-Funk hit “Gin And Juice” to find Wiz doing his best impression of Unc, while he tries his hand at Midwestern speed rap alongside Ohioans Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on the inspirational “Reach For The Stars.”

While the length does present an issue for listening straight through, the freeform overall composition of the album allows for it to be consumed in chunks or singles, as opposed to the narrative composure of a Scorpion, while Wiz’s varied flows and guests give each song a distinctive personality, avoiding the primary pitfall of Culture II. But you get the impression that competing was never really Wiz’s thing in the first place. At his heart, he’s still just a kid who loves hip-hop and loves to rap. If anything, Rolling Papers 2 is his ode to sparking up for a good, long listening session that lasts as long as the supply of weed does — he just has a lot more to go around.

Rolling Papers 2 is available now.Get it here.


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