Wiz Khalifa dropped his debut album, Show and Prove, in 2006. It was a messy album, but an intriguing one. Since those early days, Wiz has made good on the promise of his debut with 5 further albums and a good handful of Top 40 hit singles. His style has evolved drastically over the years, losing some of the grit and replacing it with a more pop-orientated, radio-friendly sound. It may not have done wonders for his rep in serious rap circles, but it hasn’t done his commercial success any harm at all, with all of his albums since 2011 certifying as either Gold or Platinum. Here’s how we ran all of the Wiz Khalifa albums from worst to best
By 2012, Wiz was a mainstream success – something that may have benefited his bank account and pleased his record label, but that did little for his artistic credibility. Judging from all the bells and whistles that’s been thrown at it, Wiz’s fourth studio album, O.N.I.F.C., was always intended to be a commercial hit. And it was, debuting at No. 2 on the US Billboard 200 and eventually certifying Platinum. It also managed to produce several hit singles, including Let It Go and It’s Nothin’, which peaked at No. 7 on the Bubbling Under Hot 100 Singles chart. But for all its commercial appeal, the album fell short of the mark, raising questions over Wiz’s artistic relevancy and drawing criticism for its dumbed-down, almost delusional lyrics and lack of innovation. There’s a couple of redeeming moments (the ethereal Paperbond is particularly spectacular) but they get dragged down by songs like No Limit, a 10-minute exercise in arrogant self-indulgence that would test the patience of a saint. Careless and almost completely lacking in creativity, it’s Wiz’s least essential album by far.
5. Show And Prove
Wiz released his first album at the age of just 19. As Revolt notes, at that point, he had barely any understanding about who he was as an artist, so cosplayed as the hardest drug-dealing gangster in town. The result was a little scary, but kind of glorious in its own way. The songs are unpredictable, the lyrics are confused, and his gangsta persona feels inauthentic at best and cringe-worthy at worst. But there’s no denying the vibrant, benevolent energy of his performance. His albums would get much more cohesive and accessible over time, but this is still a debut that demands attention.
4. Deal or No Deal
Three years after his adventurous but ultimately flawed debut album, Wiz returned with his second studio album, Deal or No Deal. It was a big leap forward, with Wiz sounding more confident in his identity and more assured in his delivery. His voice is better, his lyrics are more personal, and on tracks like This Place, his gift for storytelling is clear. Not all of the songs are memorable, and the album doesn’t come together quite as well as his later releases would, but it’s still a remarkably solid album. Released in November 2009, it hit No. 10 on the Top Rap Albums chart and No. 25 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
3. Blacc Hollywood
For his fifth studio album, Wiz called on some old favors and enlisted the support of Ty Dolla Sign, Juicy J, Project Pat, Currensy, Ghost Loft, Chevy Woods, and Nicki Minaj, among others. Whether it was the big names that gave him a rush of blood to the head or something else, Wiz had full confidence in the album, telling USA Today that it would be his best ever, adding “I was able to work more hands-on with this one, sort of the way I am with my mixtapes, where we strive for the best and we really don’t settle or accept anything other than the best.” As it turned out, it wasn’t his best, but it’s still an excellent effort. Coming two years after O.N.I.F.C tarnished his credibility as a serious rapper, tracks like the blistering We Dem Boyz and the smooth Hope went a long way to restoring its luster. There’s still a very light dusting of pop, but the focus is on the hard, racy rap that bought Wiz to our attention in the first place. Released in August 2014, the album became the first Wiz Khalifa album to debut at No. 1 on the US Billboard 200. It’s since been certified Gold by the RIAA.
2. Rolling Papers
Wiz’s third studio album, Rolling Papers, was his first release under a major label. And it shows. On tracks like the massive hit Black and Yellow, the grit of his previous albums has gone, replaced with a sprinkling of pop and a big helping of glamor. Everything is bigger, more extravagant, and lusher than before, from the production and arrangements to the lyrics and vocals. Even the guest stars have got bigger, with Too $hort, Curren$y and Chevy Woods all making an appearance. The critical reception was mixed, with some journalists loving the hooks but balking at the lyrics and subject matter. Others were more receptive, with All Music praising its “keen sense of melody and fat sack of hooks” and Rolling Stone saying that Khalifa “manages to give life to those kinds of cash-gorged perma-baked clichés by warmly luxuriating in the space between pop’s fresh-faced exuberance and hip-hop’s easy arrogance.” While the critical reception was mixed, the commercial reception was anything but: released on March 29 2011, Rolling Papers soared to No. 2 on the Billboard 200, certifying Platinum after selling over two million units in the US.
1. Rolling Papers 2
Sequels are notoriously tricky, especially when the first in the series is as spectacularly successful as Rolling Papers. Fortunately, Rolling Papers 2 not only managed to reach the standard set by its predecessor, it exceeded it. Featuring guest appearances from Gucci Mane, Swae Lee, Ty Dolla Sign, PartyNextDoor, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony and Snoop Dogg, among others, the album is mammoth, boasting 25 tracks in total. You’d expect a few clunkers in an album of that length, and there are. But they’re few and far between, intersected with enough killer material for you to barely notice them at all. Chief highlights include Hopeless Romance (which features a jaw-dropping performance from Swae Lee) and the dark banger, Real Rich. Released in July 2018, the album debuted at number 2 on the Billboard 200 and has been certified Platinum.