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Although his major label debut, Rolling Papers, won’t be released by Atlantic Records until March 29th, one of the album’s tracks made Wiz Khalifa an overnight superstar way back in September of 2010. “Black And Yellow,” an ode to the team colors of all of the professional sports teams in Khalifa’s hometown of Pittsburgh, won over fans on both mainstream hip-hop radio and within the open-minded segments of the indie music community (scoring placements on both A-Trak‘s Dirty South Dance 2 and Girl Talk‘s All Day). It’s infectious chorus and playful synthesizers made it one of the top hip-hop cuts of the year and one of the most instantly memorable rap songs in recent memory.
“Roll Up,” the recently unveiled second single from Khalifa’s upcoming record shares some of the sensibilities which made “Black and Yellow” so charming, even if it doesn’t come close to delivering on its predecessor’s promise. The melody here is carried on synth pads which feel lifted from a 1980s Phil Collins lite pop anthem and the drum machine line is a minimalist exercise, premised on a simple set of faux bass drum kicks. During a bridge near the two and a half minute mark the keyboards start popping like kernels in a microwave, a nice change of momentum in light of the rest of the song’s easy flutter.
Despite what one might think given the album’s title, “Roll Up” is actually about pulling up to the curb; more specifically, it is about ensuring someone who is cheating on her man with the narrator that he (the narrator) will be there whenever she needs him. It’s a hokey conceit that admittedly needs some getting past–particularly when Khalifa raps “I could be your best friend”–but it is also one which becomes less irritating with each passing listen. Acrobatic wordplay has never been Khalifa’s bag, and it isn’t here. Instead, it’s all about those big, fluffy hooks that you melt like cotton candy when you sink your teeth in, and “Roll Up” undoubtedly has those.
My guess is that “Roll Up” was rolled out by the suits at Atlantic as a counterpoint to “Black and Yellow,” an effort to show their new artist’s range as a performer. With two solid independently released LPs to his credit, you’d figure the Wiz kid would know better than to listen to label execs. Still, if it helps people who haven’t yet discovered Khalifa to tune into his music, then it’s all for the best.