It was 2:30 AM. My stomach was full of Bud Light, my wallet was empty and I smelled like stripper sweat. It was time to go home.
Magic City is a hell of a drug.
There we were, waiting outside Atlanta’s little slice of heaven, waiting for an Uber, when a giant van pulls up. Two guys get out and talk to the bouncer. The truck sits there. You could tell something was up. Just as our Uber arrives, the doors open and people flood out like a clown car. Finally, finally, the last person emerges; a man with purple hair. “Oh shit, that’s Wiz!” I uttered loudly, not playing it cool at all. He walks by, shoots a smile, and heads into the club to spend more money than I’ll make in a year on a gyrating booty.
That’s really the only relationship I have with Wiz Khalifa. I’ll throw on “Still Blazing,” “Car Service,” or his surprisingly dope "Hero" freestyle for a session every once and while, but other than that we exist in different universes and his music reflects that. I’m a soul-sample, reality-driven hip-hop head. I don’t often go for the club, turn-up, trap stuff - I might be the only person who hasn’t listened to What A Time To Be Alive yet - but when Nathan and I got to talking about Cabin Fever 3, I found myself strangely curious. It’s not that I dislike Wiz like I used to in my backpacker days, it’s not that I love him either. I was just curious. I think that puts me in the perfect position to speak on this album in Cheat Code Review form. If I can like this project, if I think it was worth my time, than I’m pretty sure you will too, regardless of where your tastes lie.
So let’s get to it...
The Roll Up (Background):
Blacc Hollywood was a disaster and that is kind of the last thing I remember about Wiz. In 2015 he was oddly silent, well kind of. He didn’t release an album or a tape and he didn't produced any big headlines, but he still has the most successful single of his career in “See You Again” (AKA Paul Walker's “I”ll Be Missing You”.) Walker's untimely death and the passionate Fast & Furious fanbase probably had more to do with the song's success than Wiz’ command and skill, but it blew up none the less. Wiz then spent the rest of the year touring with Fall Out Boy, but his releases were few and far between, until now.
None of that - the tours, the Billboard spots, The Fast & Furious frat bros - really matter though because Wiz is exactly who we think he is and no amount of number one songs will change that. He’s essentially reached his ceiling. He’s never going to shift the tectonic plates of the rap world. Still, that doesn't mean that his THC-laden bars don’t have a place in the industry and it shouldn't take away from the massive, cult following he has created. I think you’d be hard pressed to find someone who truly hates Wiz Khalifa. Like marijuana, he’s not hurting anyone, so why bother him? Wiz Khalifa gonna Wiz Khalifa, and I'm okay with that.
That's why I feel like I'm in the perfect position to do this Cheat Code review. If Wiz can make me care chances are you can care too, and hopefully this Cheat Code review will help save you time.
The Dank Nugz (Best Songs)
"Respect" (ft. Juicy J and K Camp)
Cabin Fever 3 starts off with a bang, I just didn’t really realize it until it had “banged.” I kept waiting for me to hate the track, kept waiting for that “oh right, Wiz sucks” moment, but it never came. Everything just worked. The beat is nothing spectacular but it has a nice sway, K. Camp hook works, and Juicy J is the above-average icing on this above-average cake. I can’t pinpoint anything that really jumped out at me, but as a whole I keep finding myself playing this effort. "Respect" is a microcosm for the whole project; I don’t know what it is about Wiz, his songs work sometimes but not others.
"Prequel" (ft. Curren$y)
Ok, first and foremost, this song is driving me crazy. I swear to the Based God this beat sounds like it sampled Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. All of Sonny Digital’s beats have this atmospheric, I’m-trying-to-win-a-million-dollar feel, but this is an actual, direct sample, right? Am I crazy? AM I?! Wiz even has those “oh”s which really give the track that Who Wants To Be A Millionaire feel. Anyways, I hate when people say weed is not a social drug - a good majority of my friendships were built around the fact we all love to smoke - and Wiz and Curren$y are the same. If they didn't smoke I can’t imagine they would have much to talk about, but get these two stoners on a track and they have a natural chemistry. This has a little bit more edge than their typical, stoner-friendly collabs, but I dig it. Again, Wiz’ hook is surprisingly solid, but it’s that bass and his chemistry with Curren$y that engines this one. Still, "Car Service" over everything.
"Call Again" (ft. Problem)
When I saw the production credits it looked like Metro Boomin’s mom went beat shopping but this one jumped out at me because Easy Mo Bee is a living legend. Earlier this year, I wrote about what an amazing, talented, and criminally underrated producer he is, so naturally his presence was surprising. He doesn’t exactly fit the Sonny Digital, modern trap feel, and Miles Davis and Wiz Khalifa mixtapes don’t exactly go hand in hand. I knew this record was going to be different before I even pressed play, I knew if there was ever a track I was going to love it would be this one. Sure enough, I ate it up like Wiz and Funyuns. It has this really unique, dripping, shimmery feel to it. A little more texture and life than the others. It's hard to not enjoy the beat, but what really won me over was, surprise, surprise the hook; I had no idea Wiz could sing like that. Problem gives the track a nice west coast flavor. Far and away the best effort on the whole shebang. This one is gonna stay in rotation for a while.
"Gangster" (ft. King Los)
Again the hook is what really stands out here, but that’s not the song's only noteworthy characteristic. I actually dig Wiz’ flow. I know that sounds like a basic element, but sometimes he’s so clunky on the beat I can’t listen (take “No Worries” for example). Here he goes double-time. In real life it’s probably like 1.2 times flow, but when you are that high, when you are on the kush clock, it’s definitely double time for him. Los is alright, but the reason this one works is because of Wiz and Wiz only.
The Come Down
Water is dry, grass is blue, dogs walk people, Rick Ross is full and I actually liked Cabin Fever 3.
Now when I say liked, I mean I didn’t hate it. If you are a Wiz fan, you’ll definitely enjoy this free project, and it's not hard to see hear why. Not since “Kush & OJ” have I “got it” but with Cabin Fever 3 I "get it" and I think you will too.
The beats are better than I thought and I was legitimately impressed with most of the hooks. Wiz is not the best rapper - his flow and his lyrics are rolling paper thin at times - but he has a unique enough aesthetic where is almost always works. Sure, there are some clunkers that the non-Wiz fan won’t love, but you don’t let a few stems and seeds ruin a whole bag of weed, right? You simply take ‘em out and enjoy the good stuff; that's what you should do with Cabin Fever 3. Give it a few spins (it’s best served through some great speakers), take out the crap and enjoy the most potent joints. I’m never going to love Wiz, but I’ll probably never hate him like I used to. If anything I think Cabin Fever 3 solidifies him as a dude in hip-hop. I'm impressed.
See you at Magic City Wiz, lap dances on you.