Wiz Khalifa – “Big Screen“
from Rolling Papers (Atlantic, March 29th)
“Black & Yellow” blew up by placing regular rapping on top of a pop beat, but for “Big Screen” Wiz inverts that formula and drops some soft hands and heavily autotuned sing song shit over a hard ass rap beat. And I don’t mean to deride it when I call it soft hands. Soft hands is a comfortable look for Wiz. He delivers three different hooks in rotation, all of them stadium big. He’s obviously borrowing Max B’s wavy flow but his limper falsetto pushes into more functional pop territory. In a weird way the structure also reminds me of Wayne’s “Did It Before,” the way the choruses just bounces around on a brass anchor. It feels similarly incomplete as well. When I first heard this I hoped it was a rough cut, that they would rerecord the track with fuller vocals but it has grown on me in its under-finished state. Wiz’s greatest weakness as a rapper is probably that his natural voice is less than commanding. Rather than hiding this flaw behind the autotune they use the effect to exaggerate it. He sounds so fragile and endearing here, which also plays into the little n*gga does big things motif. Until recently it’s been hard to get a clear sense of identity from his recorded output but this really does feel like how a Wiz Khalfia should sound. I don’t know why they’re pushing the vastly less engaging “Roll Up” to radio. (By the way Wiz should really think about giving Domo Genesis his album title back. Or at least throwing him a feature or something.)
Gucci Mane f/ Birdman – “Mouth Fulla Gold“
The first Gucci song to drop after the alleged institutionalization and the infamous ice cream tattoo where he actually sounds close to inspired as he did in his prime. The raps are sloppy but that old Gucci ambition, that hunger is present. As we heard on the greatest Lil Wayne album, Birdman is best used as a hard counterpoint and it’s a shame Gucci didn’t tag him in ala Ross on “All About My Money” or Montana on “Party In The Trap.” But his standalone solo verse doesn’t get in the way. Prod. by Drumma Boy.