I can be a gullible person. For whatever reason, whenever a musician claims that their next album is going to be different, a real serious effort, I always believe them. Maybe it’s the blind hope of a music lover or a strange need to believe in people in whom I see potential. Whatever it is, it’s really annoying, because they’re almost always lying. Wiz Khalifa’s O.N.I.F.C. is, unfortunately, not an exception. Not only is it an incredibly boring album, it’s the most boring progression of Wiz’s surprisingly interesting career.
From mixtape rapper to pop-anthem factory has been the general career arc. With the release of 2011’s Rolling Papers, Wiz became a full on pop-star, but seemed to have one or two reservations about what he had become, so much so that he later called the album a “mistake”. Not only is O.N.I.F.C. a lot like Rolling Papers, it’s not even as enjoyable. His first album was unapologetically pop, with deft production choices and a sense of melody masking a lot of its corniness. In a rappity rap vs. pop-rap dichotomy, O.N.I.F.C. is a step back from pop, but not really a step towards the hard hitting shit that made him famous with Kush and OJ. If anything, the album is an attempt to please everyone, from his teenage fans to the critics to the label heads.
It ends up being as middle-of-the-road as a rap album can possibly be. The production is always crisp, but never distinctive. His rapping is less silly than usual, but only because he’s become even more restricted in his subject matter. It all just seems like a recurring dream that is slowly become Wiz’s nightmare. Not that his lyrics ever suggest that he realizes it. If it’s possible, his proclamations of greatness have become even more idiotic and clunky. My personal favorite: “I’m the shit, literally” from “Let it Go”. Much of the album borders on this kind of Weird-Al-Yankovic-style self-parody, but unfortunately not all of it is as entertaining as the one time that he accidentally says that he’s made of feces. Sigh. And that cover seemed so promising.