Wiz rolls up another high-flying hit

(Courtesy of Taylor Gang)

When it comes to chart-topping hits, Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa is no stranger. However, his new mixtape, “Laugh Now, Fly Later” (LNFL), takes a step back from the smash-single sound of hit tracks like 2014’s “We Dem Boyz,” or 2015’s “See You Again,” featuring Charlie Puth, which was used in “Furious 7” and dominated the charts for a big chunk of that year. Instead, Wiz provides a concoction of deeper lyrics and melodies you’ll want to hear over and over again. 

To further contrast Wiz’s past projects, LNFL is much shorter, toting a compact 10-song tracklist, with an approximate 40-minute listen time, and only one feature (compare this to a tape like “Kush and Orange Juice,” which contained 16 tracks and clocked in at over an hour in length).

The featured artist, longtime collaborator and co-founder of rap conglomerate Odd Future, Casey Veggies, kicks off the project with the bright, funk-inspired song, “Royal Highness.” The energetic song situates the rapper on a private jet, claiming, “I don’t like drivin’, baby I’m the pilot, never let the plane come down!”

Following a smooth drum break, Khalifa coasts into the song with the line, “Real expensive my clothes, I’m reinventing flows.”

Khalifa’s flow indeed takes a revolutionary turn for the artist, who typically relies on simple, memorable verses and catchy hooks to make his musical impact. Not only does the rapper branch out in terms of his lyricism, but also in his range of styles.

The mixtape, while short in runtime, touches on a broad range of musical styles – from hard-hitting trap in songs like “Letterman” and “Weed Farm,” to smooth-sailing, contemplative hip hop with “Figure it Out,” and “No Dirt.”

Khalifa is also no stranger to his favorite strain of marijuana, “Khalifa Kush” – which he references smoking in abundance throughout the project.

The champion of stoners is as proud as ever, defending the plant and its beneficial qualities on songs such as “Plane 4 U,” where he urges states without legalized weed to “make the world a better place / By putting the grass all in your face.” He backs up his argument in “City of Steel,” when he reminds people, “even the president gets high.”

LNFL is peppered with spoken interludes from Khalifa, a standard on many of his past mixtapes. One of my personal favorites comes at the end of “Long Way to Go,” which features an interview recording of Wiz on tour.

He explains his philosophy on playing new music at his shows. When asked how he prepares, Wiz responds – “It’s just being able to present it in a cool way, where you still enjoy it even though you don’t know it. I don’t know if there are still fans out there like this now, but I’m definitely the type of person where I like to go to shows and hear stuff for the first time. I just try to keep that in mind.”

Wiz is definitely also the type of person aware of his fan-base and public image. Since 2011’s “Rolling Papers,” Wiz has stood by his stoner-rap brand, under the mentorship of Snoop Dog – the rap game’s favorite uncle and well-known stoner. 

On LNFL, Khalifa delivers a strong, sonic hybrid, consisting of the best sounds of his past projects and a seasoned vision for the future.

Wiz also makes it known that his journey is far from over.

The rapper’s fans haven’t seen a full-length album from him since 2014’s “Blacc Hollywood.” However, on the spoken outro to “City of Steel,” Wiz promises the world – “I’ve been working on that one for three years now, and it’s finally done. And it’ll be well worth the wait. I just want y’all to keep getting high until then.”

The listener is left with Khalifa’s laughter fading out, reminding them once again that the paper plane pilot is laughing now, and will still be fly, and flying high, later.

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