Wiz Khalifa just wants you to have fun. That’s the first thing you realize when you’re at Wiz’ listening party in a packed room with the rap industry’s elite. Leave your cool at the door. Get a drink in a Khalifa-branded Styrofoam cup, eat some hors d’oeuvres, and chill out to his new album, Khalifa, a mix of different flavors wrapped into one.
This week, Wiz is on a promotional run for Khalifa, due out Friday (Feb. 5). The Pittsburgh rapper hosted a private listening session at Bar Naná in New York’s Meatpacking District, bringing together Michael Strahan, Busta Rhymes, Fame School, PnB Rock, and more. At times, you could catch guests at the photo booth snapping goofy pics or getting their own set of TGOD ink at the designated tattoo station. A bit of a surprise was seeing Amber Rose posing for pictures with her ex-husband. As she wrote on Twitter later that evening: “Supporting Sebastian’s Dad at his #Khalifa Album Listening Party.”
— Amber Rose (@DaRealAmberRose) February 4, 2016
Wiz rolled through around 8 p.m., dressed in a black hoodie with a shark and “Khalifa” emblazoned on it. He said a few words about his latest body of work, and then let DJ Bonics run the album from top to bottom. The perpetual stoner smoked a joint as the first track “BTS” came on, rapping lyric after lyric as it played through. People stood on couches trying to get a glimpse of Wiz, who was surrounded by a mob of VIP guests and photographers. The energy was contagious as more guests started to feel the vibe and hit dance moves throughout the night.
As far as Khalifa‘s place in Wiz’s catalogue, it really depends on who’ve you been a fan of: Mixtape Wiz or “See You Again” Wiz. Khalifa, a deserving sampler to Rolling Papers 2, succeeds in Wiz taking some risks and varying his potent weed anthems, touching on life concepts like his grind to the top and supporting his squad. Cuts like “Cowboy” and “Most of Us” are in the Trap Wiz variety, but the songwriting is sharper than anything we’ve heard before. On “Cowboy”: “He’s a Midwest cowboy, Pittsburgh ni**a / Came from the city where the ni**a makes some killas.” And on “Most of Us,” where the refrain starts every line: “Most of us paid our own way without a handout / Most of us are Taylor Gang, you a stranger.”
Elsewhere, Wiz wins for his ability to craft sticky hooks. “Call Waiting,” a deep bass and brass horn record produced by Juicy J and Don Cannon, finds Wiz singing about waiting for his boo to call him just so they can get lost in conversation. “I was just hoping you call to say that you have nothing at all,” he croons. Another standout is “Lit,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, where the two go back and forth singing about getting lifted. The song sounds like it transitioned to another dreamy state of “Lit,” backed by just Wiz rapping cool lines like, “Light up the joint, stink up the place.”
On “Zoney,” he’s in Jet Life mode, thinking about the next move while constantly in flight: “I’m packing up my bags, I gotta catch a plane / I can’t be at home, I gotta be away.” Wiz’ son Sebastian is featured here, repeating things his father throws at him like “What up!” and “Taylor Gang.” It’s pretty cute.
Thanks to everyone for coming through and smoking a joint at the listening party yesterday.
— KOE (@wizkhalifa) February 4, 2016
Khalifa is rounded out by his Taylor Gang members: Juicy J (whose ad libs are well placed on the album), Chevy Woods, and Tuki Carter. Although Ty’s appearance marks yet another reason that these two need to make a full album together, Khalifa gives shine to Woods and Carter—two underground rappers who hold their own on “No Permission” and “Make a Play.” The latter is 100 percent trap music that will definitely be in rotation during Super Bowl weekend. Juicy J, the veteran of the bunch, delivers some bars on “iSay,” turning up the ratchet levels to end the 13-track LP on a high note.
With the room filtered out a bit, Wiz grabbed the mic, seemingly pleased at the reception of his event. “Yo, we fu**ing did it! I appreciate all of y’all listening. Thank you for everybody coming—and drink. Be calm. Smoke some weed for the kid,” said the rapper, who recently partnered with RiverRock Cannabis on a new cannabis line.
Right on time, “Bake Sale,” which features Travi$ Scott, had everyone in good spirits. Roll up that KK.
2. “Celebrate” (feat. Rico Love)
4. “City View” (feat. Courtney Noelle)
6. “Bake Sale” (feat. Travis Scott)
7. “Call Waiting”
8. “Make a Play”
9. “Most of Us”
10. “Zoney” (feat. Sebastian)
11. “Lit” (feat. Ty Dolla $ign)
12. “No Permission” (feat. Chevy Woods)
13. “iSay” (feat. Juicy J)