Wiz Khalifa Previews ‘O.N.I.F.C’ in New York City

Wiz Khalifa set the city on fire Monday night (Nov 26), as he brought out the whole Taylor Gang (minus Juicy J) for a listening party at the Westway for his upcoming album O.N.I.F.C. Listeners gathered in the West Village nightspot preparing for the rapper’s big entrance with drinks in hand and conversations flowing, while an array of entertainment occurred all around the former Gentleman’s Club. What occurred inside was a complete reflection of the different sides that make up the artist Wiz Khalifa – artistic, eccentric, a little ratchet, and a dash of silly.

As music was played with the likes of rappers Curren$y, 2 Chainz, and Jeezy, to name a few, came through the sound system, the party, which was separated in all three rooms of the Westway began to fill in. Each room added its own different vibe to the party’s mix. As you entered into the first you were greeted with a live painting of the O.N.I.F.C’s album cover with Wiz sitting on a chair wearing a spotted fur coat – gold hair patch and all, the painter recreated it flawlessly. In another room, a chair was set up for attendees to do mock poses on a black chair (similar to the one on the album cover) to imitate the “Work Hard, Play Hard” rapper’s cover pose. The biggest room of them all however, was what had the crowd stirring (even before Wiz Khalifa entered the room). Reminiscent of its former days, the club still has a very stripper-esque vibe – in the middle of the floor there was an elevated walkway lit up with pink lights on the side and gold railings where three women painted in animal prints (cheetah and tiger) danced around while wearing nothing more than black bikini tops and swim bottoms. The room was cloudy as smoke spewed out from the top every few minutes, the lights dim, colored lights were flashing, and of course the crowd was ogling over the sensuous dancers. As all this occurred, Quentin Tarantino’s crime drama Jackie Brown randomly played on the big screen behind the DJ booth while the hippie rapper’s music videos periodically played in between movie scenes.

Remnants of weed scented the place, but it wasn’t until Wiz and his Taylor gang rolled through that the scent naturally became distinctive, especially when they hit the stage and began doing what they do best – rolling and smoking. The rapper, dressed in all black with a black button up, beanie, and studded leather jacket, gave a brief speech to introduce the album, thanking his fans (Taylors) and the people who helped make the album complete. The intro was then revealed with the rest of the album tracks following shortly after. It had a similar formula to the last album, Rolling Papers, there were the radio hits, the love songs, the bravado songs, and of course it wouldn’t be a Wiz Khalifa album without his smoker favorites. The album included similar low-key, Taylor Gang-stamped features including his artists Lola Monroe, R&B singer Courtney Noelle, Juicy J, and Chevy Woods. Unlike the last album, there were a few bigger features as well, “Let it Go,” a song made for the radio, features Akon, “The Bluff,” Cam’ron, and “It’s Nothin” featuring 2 Chainz.

Everything about the new project was more uplifting and fun than the last – from the sound to the content. The beats were sharper and more impactful. It’s clear from the album cover that Wiz Khalifa was obviously going to take more risks, and he did. Yet he did so without straying too far from the chill smoker sound his fans all expect and adore. For this album, he listened to a lot of Marvin Gaye and Pink Floyd in the process, which helped encourage the new sonic elements. For Wiz making this album was all about, “having fun” and “taking yourself to the next level and not being afraid to learn new sh**.”

There were enough elements on this album to differentiate it from the last. The added female presence created an ideal counterbalance to certain songs off the album. With two female signees, it only felt natural to have Taylor Gang rapstress Lola Monroe represent for the female Taylors on a song like “Initiation,” which Wiz called a song, “strictly for people who are Taylor Gang,” reminiscent of the “Taylor Gang” bonus anthem from his last album. The next female-accompanied song, “Got Everything” featured R&B artist Courtney Noelle, who has worked with the 25-year-old rapper since he was 16. Though she’s worked with him many times in the past this will be her first time featured on one of his studio albums. The song added a nice 90s R&B vibe to the mix, as did the other R&B feature with The Weekend, “Remember You.”

There’s a song for every kind of hip-hop fan on this well-rounded album. Arguably, there are more songs on this album that will have you instinctively turning up the volume on your iPods or car radios. Songs like the Drumma Boy-produced track featuring 2 Chainz “It’s Nothin” and “The Plan” featuring Juicy J were made to be blasted and songs like “The Bluff” with Cam’ron and “Rise Above” will keep your full attention. Cam’ron sounds better than ever beside Wiz on the track. Speaking on the interesting collaboration, the Pittsburg rapper gushed about the importance of this collabo, mentioning that Cam’ron, “Had such an influence on my style” and that Snoop Dogg, Juicy J, Cam’ron, and all of the Wu-Tang Clan, “all hold the same place in my heart.” A video for the song was already shot in the New York rapper’s stopping grounds ¬– Harlem ¬¬– and was released yesterday via Wiz Khalifa’s Twitter. Another Wiz favorite was the Pharrell-produced song, “Rise Above.” It was one of the most complex, interesting, and memorable beats on the album. It holds a special place for Wiz, as he says, “my favorite people are on there” – those being Pharrell and his pregnant fiancé Amber Rose.

There were songs about sex (“Up in it”), drugs, and songs that were a little bit Rock&Roll (“No Limit). Ending on a high note (all puns intended), the album finished off with “Medicated” featuring Juicy J and Chevy Woods, counting as one of the many drug-related songs off the album with a chorus that speaks for itself, “Let’s get medicated, man I’m hella faded” – an accurate ending to the night and perfect ending to the album.

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