The other night, Wiz Khalifa held his official album listening party-thing for his second studio album O.N.I.F.C. dropping December 4th. The event was held at the Westway, formerly The West Side Gentleman’s Club that sits on the West Side Highway in the West Village. In order to gain entry, attendees had to present a card that had #ONINYC (for Tweeting) on one side and a random picture of weed buds on the other. The red-lit entrance to the remixed gentlemen’s club looked like the type of place where you could only enter with a mustache and an erection. I had neither, but opted to go inside anyway.
The club was a total hotbox. To the right sat Wiz Khalifa and his crew. Wiz, decked in a silver studded leather jacket, knit cap and shades, rolled perhaps the largest spliff in the history of pot architecture. My friend @sowmyak took the picture above, where Wiz is holding his spliff like it’s a large flaccid penis. He was flanked by a posse of guys, including Taylor Gang’s Chevy Woods and a man who looked like Chief Keef, only he wasn’t Chief Keef at all. The cloud from their powwow smoke wafted throughout the entire venue, all the way to the back room, where guests were invited to pose in the same backdrop and fancy chair as Wiz’s album cover. I took one, but looked ridiculous, so you won’t be seeing it. Ever.
Right outside of the photo room was an artist painting a portrait of Wiz’s album cover. A curtain hid the location of the “real” party. Women pranced around offering bits of grilled cheese, along with buckets of energy drinks and liquor. In a way, it was an upscale frat party…at least until the curtains lifted. At 8 PM, guests were ushered into another room, where three exotic dancers with tiger, zebra and leopard prints respectively painted on their near-naked bodies gyrated along a small stage. The DJ was playing a whole slew of strip club anthems including the recent “Bandz a Make Her Dance” from Taylor Gang affiliate Juicy J. One of the dancers was pregnant. After myself and four other journalists deduced that she was out of her first trimester, I began to feel really sorry for her. Then the tiger stripper tried to claw at me, and I began to feel really sorry for myself.
Just as my self-loathing was prompting me to exit, Wiz Khalifa appeared ready to reveal the contents of his latest album. Not one for public speaking (but always one for public smoking) Wiz greeted the crowd and lit yet another torch to puff in a circle of friends while the album played.
O.N.I.F.C. stands for “only n---a in first class,” a mantra that the album leans heavily upon. While yes, it is stereotypical pothead rap, there’s an element of celebratory confidence in the success story known as Wiz Khalifa. For an artist who started out close to a decade ago and didn’t reap the fruits of that labor until 2010 with the release of "Black and Yellow,” Wiz has plenty to toast. Most rappers don’t reach that proverbial next level, and all it took was a color-coded nod to his Pittsburgh stomping grounds to really set things in motion. His debut album 2011’s Rolling Papers read like pages of High Times magazine, but it still felt amateur. All of that changes with O.N.I.F.C. From the Intro to the follow-up “Paperbond,” it’s instantly obvious that Wiz is dead set on reminding you how high he is and how “first class” he’s become. Cam’ron shows up on “The Bluff” (the video was shot in Cam’s stomping grounds of Harlem), and Wiz explained that his major influences in Hip-Hop were Cam’ron, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Juicy J, and Wu-Tang Clan. He also said that he listened to a lot of Pink Floyd and Marvin Gaye while creating this project. That’s evident in parts, particularly the promiscuous “Remember You” featuring the elusive Weeknd. Other notable guests include Akon on the triumphant “Let It Go” (Wiz got really excited when this one came on), 2012’s darling 2 Chainz on “It’s Nothin,” “Rise Above” with Pharrell, and Juicy J on “The Plan.” Wiz knew the lyrics to his songs word for word, flashing his gold tooth as he smiled through each track. The stage began to pack with various members of his crew, including Lola Munroe, his Rostrum label team, and stylist Fatima B. By the time the event finished, everyone had a sore throat and contact high.
Sure, there isn’t another “Black and Yellow” on O.N.I.F.C., but there doesn’t really need to be. Wiz Khalifa is at a stage in his career, where a bread and butter single isn’t required to win. He’s earned the right to brag a little and dedicate an album to weed, women, and wiling the fuck out. While a smoke-filled gentlemen’s club might be an unlikely place to hold an album listening, it’s probably the best venue to play this album. Its replay value once you exit the premises, though, remains to be seen.
“Let It Go” (featuring Akon)
“The Bluff” (featuring Cam'ron)
“Work Hard, Play Hard”
“Got Everything” (featuring Courtney Noelle)
“It’s Nothin’” (featuring 2 Chainz)
“Rise Above” (featuring Pharrell)
“Up in It”
“The Plan” (featuring Juicy J)
“Remember You” (featuring The Weeknd)