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Wiz Khalifa Keeps Playing for the Pop Charts

"Black and Yellow" was his breakout, and that went fairly hard, but even before he was copping Rolling Stone covers, Wiz Khalifa was a fan of nice, pillowy — dare we say cheesy? — beats. So far, with his major-label debut Rolling Papers out at the end of the month, it's that lighter element of his discography he's pushing forward. First, we got the surprisingly tender love song "Roll Up"; now we have "The Race," an accomplished bit of easy listening about the come-up. The production nails a certain hazy, nostalgic vibe and offers plenty of space for Wiz's more-endearing-than-abrasive shit-talking rhymes to tumble out. He handles the chorus himself, too, turning in a singsongy throwaway about — what else? — driving around, getting blunted. It's extremely well-executed fluff, and it's difficult for us, as it probably will be for radio programmers the nation over, to quibble with. Wiz most likely doesn't need another "Black and Yellow"–size hit to make sure Rolling Papers takes off, but when the dude's natural inclination is to keep it this light — well, that can't hurt sales.


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Photo: Alexis Maindrault