Album O.N.I.F.C. Can Be Tied To A ‘I-Made-It’ Mind Set, But Commercialism Has Its’ Creative Costs

taylor
Written by taylor
/ 8 mins read

Wiz Khalifa has said of the album title O.N.I.F.C. that it is an abbreviated meaning for ‘Only N-word In First Class’, and this swag infused phrasing is supposed to celebrate Khalifa’s success up to that point in 2012, from a career that began totally differently in around 2005. The abbreviation is made both in jest, but also with pride, because one can imagine that a tatted up young black man who hits the airport most likely smelling like Khalifa Kush (his brand) would sort of make an impression in first class – but he certainly can pay many times over for his first class seat while being himself – which is I feel the point being made. Admittedly, I’ve never been a super duper fan of Khalifa’s music, yet when his songs hit, they really hit for me. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bumped one of his funkiest slappers ever – “The Kid Frankie”, off his best album, 2010’s Kush & Orange Juice. This is the classic era I most enjoy from the MC, but truth be told, I’ve never been so enamored with his style or aura that I really got into all of dudes’ albums, yet this whole time, I did definitely notice how often Khalifa would adapt his flow to whatever was trending at the time. I remember the debates that would be had during occasional smoke-out sessions with friends and associates about how he was ‘selling out’ etc, yet if only these folks knew that the whole industry would more and more begin to sell out in the same manner, and Khalifa was just someone who was committed to switching up in order to maintain success and stack cash. To compare “The Kid Frankie” to Fast And Furious 7’s “See You Again” is a night and day in terms of cool factor, but the later was the type of music that would make him an international star and also plug him for serious financial reward, as the sappy track became, as of July 2017, the most viewed YouTube video in history, and all told, Khalifa would end up with a net worth of 45 million. Such success defines Khalifa for me more than whether or not he is an amazing rapper – because his flow can have its moments, but honestly, can come off annoying to me just as easily depending on the track. I have never liked that inconsistency I feel about him. O.N.I.F.C. has a mix of regional beats and flows, and serves as an album where I definitely can instantly separate the tracks I love to bump from the ones I don’t.

Trap And Pop Rap Vibes Change The Whole Vibe Initially

Only a few songs on the album can compete with the laid back chilled out above track “The Kid Frankie” in my opinion. Rather, the first few songs on O.N.I.F.C. features those monied club Trap beats that were popular during that time, and I suppose the turn off here is Wiz Khalifa’s money-talk is a little trying. Drake, Big Sean, and Wiz all had that aspect of monotone, ultra annunciated, out of the nose delivery during this time period which I guess was popular, but I always felt was boring. It’s a ‘me and my team made it’ cadence – very sports-collegiate-game-time delivery, for lack of another way to describe it, and at the end of the day, it’s just not all that appealing of a flow (when the aforementioned rappers attempt it) and generally doesn’t have much lyrical depth either. Not to mention, sometimes Wiz runs off target with his bars and will close the rhyme somewhere woefully late or anticlimactically. “Paperbond” suffers from a Pop Rap delivery, rather than some really amazing technique that opens the album up. There are moments where he tightens up and impresses, but I get the general vibe that he is committed to not trying too hard, if that makes any sense. But it doesn’t need to be deep either - he probably just wants to rap in a basic way over beats, have fun, have sex with a bunch of women, smoke a bunch of weed, and stack cash – a lot more than trying to be the best rapper in the world. “Bluffin” has a sort of cheap yet sort of dope synth vibe, but again, the rapping is underwhelming, even when he switches cadence tempo. While “Let It Go” has a an overemphasis on bad synth patches and a very Pop epic Akon spin on the track that I simply am unmoved by, do to it’s overall generic sound. Then the album picks up for me, with “The Bluff”, with the woozy smooth beat and more vocal variety from Khalifa’s raps, and the hook is real liquid and seductive, plus its good to hear a little vocal difference from the gruffest Harlem sounds of Cam’ron. Then it’s back to the Pop Rap of synth heavy “Work Hard, Play Hard” which is not only too dated to listen to now, but I didn’t like how self-aggrandized it sounded back then. This is that corporate Fast & Furious style music that I feel contributed to Hip Hop’s creative dark age just as much as the mumble rap movement a couple years later.

Wiz Excels When He Exhibits A More Creative Flow Over Beats That Aren’t So Canned

On some Outkast Love Below type stuff, for the first time Wiz Khalifa hits it out of the park with the love song “Got Everything”, as it sounds sincere, has a killer hook, unbelievable wavy chords, a truly complex beat structure, and Khalifa spitting his hottest bars and flow yet in a staccato style; “won't ever leave you, you're the one I need so that's how I'm gonna treat you / take you places where they using different language to greet you.” Here, with the help of seductive vocals from Courtney Noelle, is a great synergy of club ready Pop and classic hip hop delivery – proving that both styles can co exist if the right decisions are made in the studio. Other great decisions follow, such as on songs like the jazzy and challenging Trip Hop of “Fall Asleep”, where Khalifa lets his delivery go real weird, dragging out the vowels on words like ‘swag’ and ‘bag’ just because it sounds compelling, and mentioned the title of the album and generally how dope it feels to be a cat like Wiz flying in first class. The music here is vivid and seductive and it’s allure is undeniable. The strange vibes continue somewhat with 2 Chainz on the Trap song “It’s Nothin”, which is more memorable for it’s hook for me than the sort of canned rhythm. I gotta give it up to 2 Chainz on his lines here; “I like being high because it's a better view /and, I told your ho my chain so cold it's on Theraflu.” Dayum, that’s pretty cold. From The Weeknd to Pharrell Williams, the collabs on this album are all off the hook. One of my other favorite songs is the Pharrell produced “Rise Above”, where, no cap, I actually dug Pharrell’s rap verse just as much, if not more so, then Wiz’s on the same track. Pharrell never ceases to surprise, especially during those occasional moments where he drops the friendly Pop veneer and gets raw lyrically.

In Making A Playlist From This Album, The Selections Will Be Short And Sweet, Yet Will Include One Long Ass Opus Too

“Time” has the weakest laziest synth beat on the album, and Wiz Khalifa’s intro to the song is laborious, nasally, monotone – yet made much better within the track when it switches up to a sort of triplet flow that salvages at least part of the song. “Initiation” is likewise boring Trap that I suppose was going for a southern vibe but sounds almost unlistenable in today’s climate – and having not grown up on this ‘gem’, I couldn’t tell you when it would ever return to style. A better southern track, where Wiz Khalifa even adds a bit of twang to his delivery, is the wavy, ethereal Trap track “The Plan”, featuring veteran Juicy J and sounding cosmic. “Remember You” shows how unique The Weeknd was when he first started hitting, and he sort of takes over this dope and dusty beat. The inconsistencies continue with “Medicated” thanks to Khalifa’s boring syllable for syllable staccato and alien synth that sounds hardly any different from “Initiation”, and this song really doesn’t hold up 7 years later. Still, I can say that there are enough enjoyable tracks here to make a little choice-cut playlist of my own, and I would definitely add to that one of the most ambitious and longest tracks Khalifa has ever done, “No Limit.” Clocking in at 9:27, this is a song that will take you on one long and valuable journey, with its trippy breakdance drum rhythm (bordering on Drum n Bass), heavenly chords, and totally experimental segues and transitions – underscoring some of Wiz Khalifa’s most competent and melodic rapping.

2. Track List (16)

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  • Wiz Khalifa