Timeless (adj.) “Not affected by the passage of time or changes in fashion”.
Classic (adj.) “Judged over a period of time to be of the highest quality and outstanding of its kind”.
As many people will say, it is believed that many artists put out their best bodies of work before they are thrusted into the major spotlight. This is said to be true because the art comes from one place and one place only; from within. No pressures from the label, no pressure from fans, no pressure from first-week-sales projections, just pure artistry at it’s finest. The ability to have the freedom of releasing whatever art you want, whenever you want is one of the purest joys that an artist can have. For Wiz Khalifa, it goes without saying that many fans of his can all come to a natural agreement that his best body of work was his mixtape, Kush & OJ.
The year is 2010, and I am nearing the end of my Junior year in high school. Having already been a fan of Wiz Khalifa for about a year at this point, I had already knew at what capacity he would be able to deliver in. However, I was not expected to be witnessing such an amazing project. Once Kush & OJ dropped, the very next day each and every hallway was filled with people talking about it. Every lunch table had their iPods out listening to it and reciting lyrics. From top to bottom, all 20 songs were on repeat for many, many months to follow. With 2010 being the beginning of not only a new decade, but a new era of music, it had birthed the beginning of many artists careers that we all still love and enjoy today. Big Sean, Curren$y, Mac Miller (god rest his soul), and Wiz Khalifa of course. The same way the DOGs look up to Biggie and Tupac, early 90s babies look up to these rappers, as they released the music of the building ages of our lives. It can be difficult to deliver a project that can stand the tests of time. That can still revive that feeling that was felt when it was first released. That can take you back to a certain place and time. As difficult as it is to do, Wiz Khalifa did it effortlessly and has delivered one of the best mixtapes of all time.
If you haven’t noticed by now, Wiz Khalifa was and still is a huge weed smoker. Always motivated by the means of starting his day with a smoke session, the start of this album begins with “Waken Baken”, a 1:30 intro of smooth instrumentation of what Wiz would imagine his days would start like as he prepares his smoke. Blending ever so perfectly, this leads into the next track “Mezmorized”. How you start your project says a lot about your artistry. It is the very first thing people hear upon pressing play. Starting with a project off with a song of this magnitude is crazy in hind sight, seeing as many fans (and the Lyrical Lemonade Staff) will agree that this is his best song he has ever released. The way he glides over the beat letting off some fly bars about just being true to himself and living his best life. This is also the song that introduced the world to the legendary producer Cardo, who then went on to be a frequent collaborator with Wiz and produced even more of his classic tunes.
One thing that Wiz Khalifa will always be known for is his amazing beat selection and his ability to rap over any and every beat and make it sound fly. No one would ever think of rapping over a Demi Lovato Camp Rock song, but Wiz made it possible here on the track “Were Done“. Staying cool, calm and collective, this is another track where Wiz just vibes out and continues to be himself on. The range that Wiz had when it came to rapping over literally any beat is something that was hard to accomplish back then, and even still to this day. Many rappers are very particular with what beats they can rap over, but this was never an issue with Wiz. Whether it was a beat over a Disney Channel movie, or over a classic hip hop sample, Wiz did it all.
On “The Statement”, which is another personal favorite of mine, Wiz raps about the life he’s currently living and his plans to make it out someday. “This ain’t the life that we chose, but it’s the life that we living’/Know we belong on the top but we ain’t trippin, cause we’ll get there in a minute”. As the rap scene at the time was infatuated with rapping about flashy jewelry, women, and bragging about all the money they have, it was very seldom that we had heard music with this much amount of humbleness and the ability to remain content in one’s current life situations.
Rap crews being such dominate aspect of the past, Wiz Khalifa had his own crew that he still claims today, Taylor Gang. Dedicating an entire song to his crew, on “The Kid Frankie” Wiz raps “ain’t nothing changed, still rep the gang”. This was a reassurance to the world and his homies that no matter what happens in life and no matter where life takes them all, he will always stay true to his crew and rep Taylor Gang at all costs. Showcasing more of his musical range and ability, Wiz raps over a classic 80’s hit by Loose Ends, “Hangin On A String“.
On the track “Up”, Wiz compares the feeling of being high to the likes of being with a woman that he enjoys. This low BPM, minimal produced track fits perfectly with his lyrics and the overall tone of the album. While Wiz was never a huge fan of his singing abilities, he still lets them out from time to time. Mostly present on the hooks of his songs, his crooning ability is on full force here throughout the entire project. This is something that needs to be appreciated due to the fact that not a lot of rappers coming out were doing too much rapping and singing at the time. Many were trying to perfect their lyrical ability and flow as a rapper and not a singer. Wiz on the other hand said he wanted to do it all. Another standout on the project would be the track “Never Been”, where Wiz once again does the unthinkable and raps over something that had not yet been rapped over, a sample from the Super Nintendo game Chrono Trigger.
Wiz Khalifa went down early on as one of the flyest stoner rappers that we had ever seen at this point. Of course, the OG’s look at Snoop Dogg being the one that initially held that crown, Wiz came and held that crown. He made it cool to rap about smoking weed and just talking fly. It was at this point where many people started to smoke weed to fit in and feel cool. Of course, influencing others to partake in drugs was never cool, but that was never Wiz’s intentions. As he always says, he just wants to smoke his weed and live his life. Wiz was a trendsetter-had the entire world rocking Chuck Taylors and camo shorts, and had a major influence over the rap game as we know it.
It is amazing to me that this project has been able to stand the test of time for ten years now. Not many projects can last that long and still restore that initial feeling of hearing it for the first time. Not only that, but there is still a huge community of younger music fans that may have not even heard this project in its entirety, or at all for that matter. A year or so ago, Kush & OJ was bale available to steam on major streaming platforms for the first time, but it is still missing some of the key moments due to sample clearances. A couple songs are missing, and some songs are even reproduced entirely. The original version is still the best version yet, and can be found on Youtube or on Datpiff. No matter where you choose to listen, Kush & OJ is still always going to be remembered as a timeless classic for the rest of our lives, and Wiz Khalifa deserves his flowers while he can still smell them. He created a soundtrack for the last year of my High School career, and every time I listen, I am brought back to the simpler times in life where I was worry free and just living life trying to figure out what was next for me. Thank you Wiz, for blessing us with one of the best bodies of work that music has ever seen.