Although there isn’t anything egregious about "Rolling Papers 2," it could have been improved with a more focused sense of direction.
Wiz Khalifa has been in the rap game for over a decade, consistently delivering stoner party anthems periodically peppered with a more heartwarming touch. Although there isn’t really much wrong with his formula, the longevity is tested on the twenty-five track Rolling Papers 2; unfortunately, the simple pleasures of weed, women, and gin begin to get stale. That being said, there are still plenty of uplifting moments, provided you can sift through countless references of smoking Khalifa Kush, forgetting women’s names after having sex with them, being a boss, and generally living lavish.
The title track “Rolling Papers 2” centers around the choices we make and the consequences of our actions, but moments of introspection like this are few and far between. Instead, Wiz celebrates his favorite pastimes in almost the same way on every track. It’s tolerable on a case by case basis, but becomes monotonous when absorbed as a complete body of work; I enjoyed the album much more after breaking it down in segments.
Thankfully, the production is phenomenal across the board. It’s no surprise, given the project is handled by an elite team of producers including Mike Will Made It, longtime collaborators Sledren and Cardo, TM88, Young Chop, I.D. Labs and the legendary Easy Mo Bee. Sonically there remains enough variance between songs to make each one feel unique. Sadly, with the exception of “B Ok,” there’s virtually no difference in content. Nobody is necessarily expecting Wiz to be a high tier lyrical rapper - not to say that he isn’t capable of it - but he's always been able to make comfortable and enjoyable music. However, despite claiming otherwise, it does feel like he's gotten somewhat complacent in his success.
Some of the most interesting songs on this album are the ones with featured artists. It’s like having someone else on the song forces Wiz to shift slightly out of his mellow and melodic comfort zone. “Blue Hunnids,” featuring the late Jimmy Wopo is definitely a standout, at least energy-wise. The back and forth between him and Chevy Woods on “Karate” is thoroughly enjoyable, and Gucci's verse on “Real Rich” is full of palpable joy. “Gin and Drugs” (feat. Problem) is an enjoyable rehashing of G-Funk sensibilities, despite feeling almost like an easy cash-in on nostalgia.
Rolling Papers 2 offers ample music for die hard Wiz fans to absorb, but honestly, the sheer volume is overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong. Most of the tracks are good, but it feels like there's too much filler bogging down what might have benefitted from a cohesive approach. While I understand the motivation behind long tracklists in the “streaming era,” there’s something to be said about a concise album. Of course, a sense of unity between songs does inherently exist; after all, it’s the same man rapping about the same things.
Still, Wiz does shine on tracks like “Bootsy Bellows,” where he increases his pace, bringing forth a noted sense of creativity and urgency to his raps. “B Okay” is easily one of the best songs on the album because it's the most honest. On the I.D. Labs and DJ Khalil produced track, Wiz details some of the problems in his widely-publicized relationship with ex-wife Amber Rose, as well as the pain of losing his sister. Wiz describes feeling a disconnect in his fame and attempting to feel okay despite feeling jaded about how genuine his interactions are. The inclusion of this track is deeply appreciated, as it adds some much-needed substance to the album.
For the most part Rolling Papers 2 is a light hearted journey through the variety of styles we've seen Wiz Khalifa display over the years. A little trap Wiz. Some r&b Wiz. Even little hints of "old" Wiz here and there. The main problem with the album is the lack of proper unity, which culminates in a lengthy run time. While Wiz is no stranger to lengthy albums, he would have most certainly benefited from a little bit of pruning. Although he’s amassed an immense fanbase with his laid back rhyme style, the album is most compelling when Wiz stretches himself and experiments a bit with his voice and cadence.
It's hard to pinpoint the goal of Rolling Papers 2, but it seems mostly tailored to provide background music for late night cruising, or simply rolling up the loud and zoning out. Given the run time it might have benefitted from being portioned differently, a double album perhaps, or otherwise given some overarching narrative structure. Still, the bright spots are enough to keep us optimistic. Hopefully this isn’t the last sequel we see from Khalifa. Rumor has it there’s also a Kush and OJ 2 floating around somewhere. Roll up.