Brunch at Rostrum’s…

For those who read frequently, you may not have noticed but I haven’t done a mixtape review in epochs. So why not get back into the swing of things with Taylor Gang’s own Wiz Khalifa. I’ve shown some favoritism towards Khalifa since starting Kaufman and I was elated to see him grace the cover of XXL for their annual Freshman 10 issue in March.

Riding high off of his recent exposure, Khalifa released Kush x O.J. this past April; which was right on time for the beloved 4/20 holiday.

Kush x O.J., in my opinion, has to be one of Wiz’s most polished mixtapes yet. The samples are less radio friendly and more thoughtful. He maintains his signature Pittsburgh slang while displaying his radio appeal; an obviously delicate balance.

The cover art is inspired by former Temptations frontman David Ruffin’s 1980 album Gentleman Ruffin. The material itself also borrows from the soulful post blaxploitation sound of the late 70’s  & smooth R&B of the early 80’s.

The first track, Waken and Baken, is a soothing instrumental intro. Truly a sound tribute to a delightful morning ritual. Light and airy, it is a strong opening hook. Wiz starts to sing towards the end and almost sums up what the entire mixtape is about.

Kush x O.J. kicks off officially with Mesmorized. Khalifa drops in with his own twist on a classic Jay-Z line from Bleek’s Is That Your Chick?:

“Uh, I don’t loveem, I don’t chase ’em I duckem/ Smoke somethin’, go to a new state soon as I fuck ’em…”

He starts all two verses in that same fashion. This is enjoyable because it helps the listener to succumb to the whole theme of the tape.

Next up is the clubby We’re Done. One of the examples of the Kush x O.J.‘s superior sampling, the song samples Our Time Is Here by Demi Lovato from the Disney soundtrack Camp Rock. Shows off Khalifa’s mainstream friendliness.

The fourth track is the first Skit on the tape and boasts the return of DJ E-Z Wider, a character from Khalifa’s Flight School. In the skit, a rabid fan calls up WEED (the fictional radio station that employs DJ E-Z Wider) to belt his affinity for Wiz and Taylor Gang.

Next is The Statement. The song possesses somewhat of a murky whistling Kill Bill mood but is full of boastful optimism. A soothingly dark listen.

Spotlight, despite its blah title and overly familiar theme, is actually a charming listen. It’s also the first collaboration track featuring Killa Kyleon, who does his very best to steal show by bumrushing with a more urgent run and gun delivery.

“Spotlight” is followed by another Skit that again features DJ E-Z Wider encouraging the listener to “roll up and get high to the sky” while the beat of the next song plays in the background.

The seventh track, The Kid Frankie, samples English R&B band Loose Ends‘ hit 80’s single, Hangin’ on a String. “Khalifa stated that the song was inspired by the character Frankie from the film The Business (2005), who listens to Loose Ends while traveling around Spain.”

Overall, it’s a wonderful tune. Very fun. Almost reminiscent to Tupac Shakur’s All Bout U.

Afterwards is Up. This song is the first in which Wiz sings throughout its entirety. 

One of my favorite song on the tape, it is a syrupy crooning dedicated to female companionship and marijuana. Khalifa melodically questions non-smokers, claiming:

“‘Cause everything is better when you’re high… Everything is better when you’re high… Everything is better when you’re high… Everything is better when you’re high, If you don’t smoke, I don’t know why…”

After that is Never Been. The song samples “‘Schala’s Theme’ from the soundtrack to the Super Nintendo Entertainment System role-playing game Chrono Trigger, composed by Yasunori Mitsuda.” This is an example of the superiority of Kush x O.J. when being compared to his past efforts. In the song, Wiz raps about enriching a woman’s horizon by allowing her to partake in his lifestyle.

The next song, In the Cut, is another favorite of mine. Another example of great sampling, the track takes from Let Go by Frou Frou which can be heard during the ending credits of the film Garden State. My favorite part of the song is the kid-like high pitched voice chanting:

 “In the cut– In the cut rollin’ doobies up/ In the cut– In the cut rollin’ doobies up…”

This seems to be a valid sweet spot on Kush x O.J. The artistic pace begins to pick up around “The Kid Frankie” and only accelerates even further throughout the next few songs; to a point where the listener is now anticipating the unheard of dopeness of the next track.

Visions does not disappoint. The ghostly voice-like flutes surround  Khalifa’s confident lyrical attacks like Civil War musket smoke. Possibly the most listenable song on Kush x O.J., it samples French jazz band Cortex’s “Huit Octobre 1971“. More than likely, the song directly samples the tune “One Beer” by MF DOOM who also sampled “Huit Octobre 1971”.

Now in opposite contrast the next song, Still Blazin’, is perhaps the less likeable track. It clumsily attempts to integrate reggae with Wiz’s sharp but laid back delivery and fails quietly. Of course this only my opinion. Although the song still retains a genuine catchiness and Wiz momentarily switches into a rare reminiscent when-I-used-to-be-a-broke-nigga rap, the listener shouldn’t have much regret if he or she decides to skip the song.

The tape dusts itself off with the humorous and funky Slim Skit. In the skit Slim, whose mother named him Charles, pines about his lady’s reluctance to roll his reefer. He vents his frustration with 70’s-esque fervor over a seemingly Curtis Mayfield inspired musical number, making it one of the more humorous moments on Kush x O.J.

Following that is Pedal to the Medal featuring Johnny Juliano, who is also one of Kush x O.J.’s producers. Now this is a point where Khalifa’s redundancy is expose. Although the song overall is very catchy and radio ready, the listener could be began to notice a heavy trend in his lyrical content. Again, this track is no way worth skipping. It goes very well with the tape’s underlying theme. Just be ready for some very familiar substance.

Next is Good Dank. Another favorite track of mine, Wiz starts off with raw but playful shit talk and then leniently proceeds to go off over a simmering funked up beat.

“I keeps it real nothin’ like you actors do, Joints I flick/
Bong raps I kicks all, Can’t rips this off, Tag on your matress fool…”

Khalifa only enhances the mix with a slow riding chorus. This very song was also used for Kush x O.J.‘s trailer:

i.

“Good Dank” is followed by the third and last Skit. DJ E-Z Wider also makes his final appearance on the tape, introducing the lineup of the next song. Which brings us to Glass House featuring Wiz’s partner in crime Curren$y and newcomer Big Krit. With no intentions of being negative, this is definitely your run of the mill rap song. In a way in deviates from the overall theme of the tape, adding a sharp angle in the bellow of smoke that is Kush x O.J. Despite it not being a standout track, the lyrics are very enjoyable.

The Outro uses the same beat as “Waken and Baken” but this time Khalifa does more lyrically, making “Waken and Baken” sound like more of an intro to the this outro. It pleasantly serves as the bow on the whole Kush x O.J. gift.

Supply, featuring Nesby Phips, could be seen as a bonus track since the tape seemed to end so perfectly with the “Outro”. Another collaborative track, it starts off with a pseudo boom-bap tempo and then melts into the modern G-funk that is ever present throughout the tape. Highly skipable but Wiz’s near acapella vocals are worth checking out.

In all, Kush x O.J. is a great listen. Far more memorable than Burn After Rolling and familiarly as charming as Flight School. Young Khalifa shows first time listeners exactly why he was chosen for this year’s Freshman 10. He also reminds longtime listeners that he is evolving as an artist and we should expect nothing but great things in the future.

Taylor Gang or Die.

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