If it wasn’t for “Black and Yellow,” Wiz Khalifa’s story would match the mixtape past of Currensy, Freddie Gibbs, and even Lil Wayne, but that unrepresentative mega-hit -- and unofficial Pittsburgh Steelers anthem from the previous Super Bowl season -- made Rolling Papers a “highly anticipated” release for a wider audience than usual. Those looking for more singalong sport anthems and party tracks will be severely disappointed with the rapper’s first major-label release, but anyone who has followed the alt-pop side of hip-hop -- from B.o.B. on down -- will find this familiar ground. Past the big hit, Rolling Papers casts Khalifa as a more earthbound and approachable version of Kid Cudi, or Currensy for the masses, both of which are meant as compliments. They are also meant as cautions for those who don’t appreciate slick productions -- crafted by Stargate, I.D. Labs, Jim Jonsin, and others -- topped with stoner-ambiguity lyrics. Half of the confused highlight “Roll Up” seems to be about smoking weed, while the other half is about flirting, or being true to your friends, or maybe just “rolling up.” “Hopes and Dreams” is an ironic title for a song about Khalifa’s money going to strippers, while the B.o.B.-like “Cameras” is Kanye’s “Gold Digger” without venom, where fame might be a blessing or it might be a curse. These smoking songs would border on dream states if it wasn’t for Khalifa’s keen sense of melody and fat sack of hooks, and when you take into consideration his growing-up a fan of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, his fellow Midwesterners hold an obvious influence throughout the album, from the free-association rhymes to the full-on embrace of weed. Just like any given Bone album, Khalifa’s chilled and confused Rolling Papers is an acquired taste, and while it’s misrepresented by its single and the mixtapes that surround it, it is purposeful mood music, perfect for bong loading or just hanging out.
AllMusic Review by David Jeffries