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Monday, Oct. 22, 2012

Wiz Khalifa: Life Beyond Rolling Papers

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Wiz Khalifa seems all too aware that music has long had its share of one-hit wonders, and that hip-hop fans in particular are always looking for the next big thing. That’s part of the reason why his highly anticipated second album, O.N.I.F.C., was pushed back to Dec. 4 from its planned September release.

“That’s where you get the delays and stuff, because we really wanted to make sure the rollout is special and that it hits the right way and it doesn’t just come and go, and that it’s something that people really, really hold onto for a long time,” Khalifa explains.

Khalifa’s first album, 2011’s Rolling Papers, was a major success, selling about 800,000 copies and proving the rapper—who, as one might guess from that 2011 album title, makes no secret of his fondness for weed and a good time—could translate his mixtape success to commercial radio.

With its poppy sound and soulful beats and grooves, Rolling Papers was a good start, Khalifa says, but O.N.I.F.C. will take his music to a new level. “On Rolling Papers, I tried a lot of different things that other people weren’t doing,” he says. “It was worth trying and having some fun with. But this album is more or less just the biggest step forward, and I feel like it’s the best thing in terms for me creatively, as far as singles, as far as visuals, as far as artwork. The whole project is just going to be really consistent with my vision of what a sophomore album should be.”

Khalifa didn’t get into specifics about exactly how the music itself is evolving stylistically on the second album, but he hints at a greater ambition within the music and a willingness to step away from the kind of songs that radio embraced from Rolling Papers.

“I think the music is just really, really organic,” Khalifa says. “I’ve had ways of working with my home producer, my in-house guys and making songs that people—they respect and they love worldwide, but it’s not really like a typical single or a typical hit record. I think it’s just great music. I think that’s what we got really focused on with this record, was just making the best songs and not trying to figure out what people are going to react to or what we think they’re going to like or what’s the next best idea. We just made a batch of great songs that sound—sonically, they’re all put together great, but they’re not too huge and they’re not too crazy to the point where people don’t understand it.”

Khalifa is a little more specific about the lyrics, saying that while the good-time feel of Rolling Papers continues, he’s also making room for more substantial thoughts. “It’s definitely still fun and lighthearted, but I would say the more raw, uncapped side came out on this album,” Khalifa says. “Like it’s that same energy I had when I first got attention. That’s what I was putting into this, other than just trying to show the best songs I could write, the best melodies I could write and the songs that made the most sense and just represent me.”

Khalifa will be trying to build some buzz for the new album with a fall tour that continues through Dec. 6, two days after the release of O.N.I.F.C. He promises a full sensory experience.

“It’s going to be awesome,” he says. “There are going to be screens. There are going to be lights. It’s going to be real interactive for the fans and for people who have been to a show before or haven’t been to a show and don’t know what to expect—it’s just going to be something that they can become a fan of. I like to separate the music and the live performance. I like making there be a difference. Like if you buy the CD, that’s one thing. But if you come to the show, you’re going to get whole, totally other surprises to go with it. That’s what I’m bringing.”

Wiz Khalifa plays the Rave on Friday, Oct. 26, at 8 p.m. with openers Juicy J, Chevy Woods, LoLa Monroe, Berner and Tuki Carter.

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