The description of rap music has transformed in recent years greatly. This transformation isn't to say that gangsta or `southern' rap idioms are dead, but in recent times, rap has become characterized by a more alternative, crossover nature, if you will. Opponents may state this has compromised the style while proponents will state this intellectualizes a rather `unintellectual' genre. Positions aside, promising rapper Wiz Khalifa's major label debut Rolling Papers falls in line with modern rap, much like his contemporaries B.o.B., Drake, and KiD CuDi. On Rolling Papers, Wiz raps, sings, and `smokes' his way through the material. Rolling Papers is well rounded overall, but not quite the home run of Thank Me Later (Drake) or B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray [Explicit] (B.o.B.). Creative, Rolling Papers shines through its flaws.
"When I'm Gone" opens the album with a mysterious tone, highlighted by acoustic piano and an air of introspection. Wiz begins rapping past the one minute mark, allowing the track to build up and simmer into a synth-driven effort. Wiz sings through a lengthy but unifying hook that helps set the tone for this effort. "When I'm Gone" does not mark a valedictory performance, though second cut "On My Level" featuring Too $hort extends the momentum greatly. Jim Jonsin's low key production work is a perfect match for Wiz's stoner rhymes, not to mention a fiery collaboration with underrated rapper Too $hort. "Black and Yellow" is pop er... I mean hip-hop gold produced by Stargate - an unlikely collaboration for Wiz or the Swedish pop/R&B hit makers (Beyoncé, "Irreplaceable", Ne-Yo "So Sick") . "Roll Up," similarly, proves another collaboration made in hip-hop heaven between Wiz & Stargate - who would've thought?
"Hopes & Dreams" is a welcome change of pace, but falls short of the greatness of previous cuts. "Wake Up" brings Stargate back to the fold for another great cut, even if it sounds ever too similar to "Roll Up." "The Race" is exceptional as well, again alluding to Wiz's `smoking habits' in the hook: "I'm riding around, smoking, good music aloud, kinda do my thing, no disrespect to the... some smile up in your face then they don't on the low, now I just stunt on my own..." "Star of the Show" featuring Chevy Woods may be the slightest bit too long, but the production stands out if nothing else does. "No Sleep," a popular single from Rolling Papers gets production credits from Benny Blanco. "No Sleep" is a bit too lazy and `same-y', but works.
"Get Your S**t" uses strummed guitars, sounding more like an adult contemporary R&B song as opposed to a hip-hop cut. The use of background vocals prove to be a nice touch. "Top Floor" is enjoyable, while "Fly Solo" reminds one of "Erase Me" from KiD CuDi's Man on the Moon 2: The Legend of Mr Rager. "Rooftops" featuring Curren$y is unmemorable while "Cameras" closes the album solidly, though not exceptionally.
Overall, Rolling Papers is a solid and creative showing from Wiz. It does not `reinvent the wheel,' but it does make the MC competitive with his contemporaries. Had this album been trimmed down slightly more - particularly at the end - from 57 minutes to say 45 - 48 minutes, it probably would have been a stronger, more cohesive showing. As is, Wiz's idiosyncrasies shine throughout making Rolling Papers ultimately worthwhile.