Wiz Khalifa’s largely self-constructed reputation as a party hound has persisted through three studio albums and at least as many mixtapes without so much as a chink marring its heavily hot-boxed armor. While Taylor Allerdice doesn’t exactly torpedo this notion, it at least begins calling it into question, which makes the mixtape one of Khalifa’s most interesting releases to date.
If you’ll recall, we last left Khalifa in 2011 when the Pittsburgh-based MC had earned international renown thanks to the single “Black and Yellow”. That bit of hometown lionization came off of Rolling Papers, Khalifa’s third studio album (and first for Atlantic Records). Like the albums that preceded it, Rolling Papers maintained a myopic focus on Khalifa’s favorite subject: partying.
While it’s been established that Rolling Papers’ moniker is a reference to Khalifa’s hidden plans for a mysterious type of circular printer paper, it should also be mentioned that the man likes weed a LOT. His travel schedule is infamous, as is his penchant for rooftop hot tubs, blunts and women who enjoy both of the aforementioned. Khalifa’s rhymes can seem stale when he prattles about the life of a pop jet setter, but by all appearances he’s just giving a play-by-play of what he sees.
Taylor Allderdice comes ahead of O.N.I.F.C., Khalifa’s fourth studio album, which is slated for release later this year. Khalifa has already established himself as too workaholic a soul to put out B-grade material, and Taylor Allderdice (named after Khalifa’s Pittsburgh high school) could easily hold its own as a commercial product. The release culls tracks mostly from local Pittsburgh producers, which might account for its being a more considered specimen than Khalifa’s earlier works.
Whereas Rolling Papers and 2009’s Deal or No Deal favored beats so broad that they could be seen at a mile’s distance, Taylor Allderdice features a more mercurial, menacing production. Mid-tempo beats with slim instrumentation establish a mood that might even be called “introspective”.
Interview segments, wherein Khalifa expounds a rambling manifesto/defense of his career thus far, bookend Taylor Allderdice’s tracks. In these clips, he reveals a hunger for a reputation grander than that of the party rapper, even if he’s not quite clear about what that reputation might entail.
On “Nameless,” Khalifa raps “Lot of young n****s getting made, but I’m the realest / Give a f**k about if a n**** hatin’ / My dollar accumulation my only motivation”. Khalifa has indulged in this kind of posturing before, but on Taylor Allderdice it sounds like he means it. It’s small, but if you look closely, you can just see the chip beginning to form on Khalifa’s shoulder.
Of course, two tracks before this, Khalifa was rapping about getting high and watching Netflix, so it’s hard to regard his grandiosity with a completely straight face. Whether he’s a world-killer or a give-a-shit-less artisan is a question that even he can’t seem to adequately answer.
Khalifa’s incipient ambitions (and his instinct for pop music’s prevailing winds) are vaguely reminiscent of an early Kanye West, an artist for whom Khalifa has expressed admiration. However, whereas Yeezy’s albums offer a glimpse into the insatiable hunger that fuels his acquisition of cars and women, Khalifa hasn’t delved very deep into his own obsession with “good life” signifiers. Taylor Allderdice dabbles its toes in this murky territory, but before the landscape can be fully explored, we’re off to the next party.