Album Reviews: Wiz Khalifa, Banks and Jeezy

Marijuana-influenced Rap

Wiz Khalifa, Blacc Hollywood (Atlantic)

Just like the Snoop Doggy Dogg who released Doggystyle, the Wiz Khalifa who put the world on notice with his Kush & OJ mixtape is long gone. The sooner we accept this new, more radio-friendly version of Khalifa, the easier it will be able to digest the watered-down sounds of his latest album, Blacc Hollywood. For better or worse, Wiz is all about making music for the masses, not for himself. The Pittsburgh rapper spends most of the album playing with sing-songy hooks (“Stayin Out All Night”), getting high (“So High”) and crafting catchy anthems (“We Dem Boyz”). He’s well aware of how to sell music, and he sticks to formula for the bulk of the album. Khalifa shows off his ability as a rapper on the introspective “House in the Hills,” which reminds us that he can be exceptional when he wants to be. It’s unfortunate that he would rather appeal to the lowest common demoninator by being as simple as possible because what’s hot today doesn’t necessarily translate to what’s memorable later. ★✩✩✩✩

Sensual R&B

Banks, Goddess (Universal)

banks_goddessJillian Banks has secretly become your favorite artist’s favorite artist. But with her debut, Goddess, she won’t likely remain a secret any longer. Banks’ strength isn’t her ability to belt out power ballads that showcase her vocals. Rather, it’s about creating an aesthetic that’s aurally pleasing. She purrs around the atmospheric production and oozes sensuality on the irresistible “Brain” and “This Is What It Feels Like.” She’s no Celine Dion vocally, but what she offers with her songwriting and artistry is more than enough to please. ★★★✩✩

Dope Boy Rap

Jeezy, Seen It All (The Autobiography) (Def Jam)

jeezy_seen_it_all_94No longer “young” and unable to still claim that he’s on the block, Jeezy is here to entertain on his fifth studio album, Seen It All. And entertain he does. What was once an unfocused rapper in 2001, Jeezy is incredibly consistent in 2014. He tackles each of the 15 songs with ruthless aggression. Songs such as “1/4 Block” and “Beautiful” reveal a rapper whose success doesn’t prevent him from relaying perspectives of the poor. Sure, it’s the same narrative 13 years later, but when paired with Jay-Z on the reflective look at the drug game on “Seen It All,” you realize that Jeezy is no longer jockeying for position among the elite, he’s already there. ★★★✩✩

Disc Scan

Upcoming albums on Andreas’ radar …

SEPTEMBER 16: Lupe Fiasco and his lyrical dexterity will look to remind the industry about his ridiculous talent with his Tetsuo & Youth album. Meanwhile, Chris Brown’s X will attempt to sustain the buzz the recently incarcerated singer gained with the smash hit “Loyal.” SEPTEMBER 30: Las Vegas-raised Ne-Yo throws his fedora into the mix of R&B’s elite with Non Fiction, while Fashawn’s The Ecology looks to make a smart man out of Nas’, who signed the Fresno, California rapper to his Mass Appeal imprint earlier this year.