10 years ago, Wiz Khalifa released his Kush & OJ mixtape. The stoner classic dropped shortly before his double-platinum album, Rolling Papers, which catapulted the rapper to global success.
While most of us know Wiz as a household name, his Kush & OJ tape serves as a time capsule. In 2010, the Pittsburgh rapper's Taylor Gang movement was burning up hip-hop blogs and his 420-friendly attitude was fresh and exciting. It was also the year he was named as one of XXL's 2010 Freshmen alongside Nipsey Hussle, OJ Da Juiceman, Pill, J. Cole, Freddie Gibbs, Jay Rock, Fashawn, Donnis and Big Sean.
It's hard to imagine a time before Soundcloud, Spotify and Apple Music, but on April 14 when Wiz announced the tape's release on his Twitter, fans rushed to mixtape sites like DatPiff and LiveMixtapes to listen to Kush & OJ, overloading both sites' servers. That day, Twitter's list of trending topics included #KushandOrangeJuice and the number of fans searching for the mixtape put it on the list of Google trends
Whether you've followed Wiz from the beginning of his career or just tuned in for his 2020 record, The Saga Of Wiz Khalifa, one thing all fans will agree is that the rapper loves to smoke. So for the 10th anniversary of Kush & OJ, we look back at the record that started it all.
The tape kicks off with mellifluous, atmospheric beats produced by Taylor Gang's very own, Sledgren. The frothy, minute-and-a-half intro is a euphoric starter and a taste for what's to come.
In 2010, renowned producer Cardo was starting out by creating beats for Mac Miller and Chevy Woods before meeting Wiz. Mezmorized is their first collaboration and one of the tape's instant hits. Since then, Cardo has gone on to produce for Drake (God's Plan), Travis Scott (Goosebumps), Kendrick Lamar and many more.
What makes hip-hop mixtapes special is the freedom it gives artists. Many feel free to play with different styles and often use uncleared samples. And if you're listening to the reissued release of Kush & OJ you're missing out on the original experience which sampled Demi Lovato's Camp Rock soundtrack single Our Time Is Here.
The original version of The Statement featured a sample of John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Beautiful Boys. Rostrum Records president, Benjy Grinberg told HipHopDX that Ono denied the sample request despite fighting for clearance. The psych-funk and '80s-flavoured song was remixed and remade for the 2018 reissue.
Spotlight featuring Killa Kyleon
Unlike the rest of the tape, which is experimental and flirts with pop samples, Spotlight is a classic hip-hop jaunt with a G-funk twist. Here, Wiz and Houston rapper Killa Kyleon show of their lyrical expertise. It also features a quick mention of Amber Rose - from Kyleon - who Wiz started dating in 2011.
The Kid Frankie
Seamlessly rapping on the beat, Wiz shows off his entire repertoire and even sings the hook.
The thesis of the tape really comes together on Up, with the rapper literally singing the praises of weed over spacey, disjointed beats. "Everything's better when you're high," Wiz croaks in between sounds of flickering lighters and '80s synthesizers.
Fan favourite, Never Been received the remix treatment in the 2018 reissue as the label struggled to clear a sample from a Japanese video game, Chrono Trigger. "They denied the sample and then we went back to them, ‘Please, can we talk about this again?'" said Grinberg. "They denied the sample again. I got in touch with friends of mine in Japan, who are in the music business to see if they could talk to them. They still denied it, at the end of the day we were like fuck, ‘I guess this is actually denied. I guess we have to deal with this reality.'”
In The Cut
The Cardo-produced beat is full of braggadocio and Wiz's unmistakeable laugh. And its lyrical content makes it a stoner-favourite. "Rolling all this weed I am holding / Thinking she high before she get the chance to smoke it / Blowing o's she knows my trees potent." The song samples Frou Frou's Garden State end-credits song Let Go.
“We recorded that in a studio out here in Hollywood. I thought it was interesting that he was picking it. He took [the track] and gave it a whole different vibe," Grinberg explained. "That’s definitely a core song on the album. When I hear it, it takes me back to that studio, it takes me back to that time creatively for Wiz and for us coming up and making this transition from being independent to going back to a major. Wanting to maintain our creative control and making sure that Wiz could make the type of music that he wanted to make. That’s what I think of when I hear Visions."
Still Blazin featuring Alborosie
A well-placed Reggae moment, Still Blazin' is the sensation of smoking a blunt distilled in a song.
Pedal To The Metal featuring Johnny Juliano
A vocoder hook and slick pop-meets-EDM production scream 2010's hip-hop, though this is exactly what makes Pedal To The Metal feel strangely out of place on the chilled out tape. But it's a welcome moment of respite for Black And Yellow fans so who's complaining?
Warm, woozy, and flowing like honey, Good Dank is a moody guitar-moment that is all bars, strings, and irreverent frankness minus the drums.
Glass House featuring Curren$y and Big K.R.I.T.
Glass House continues to be one of the most celebrated songs from Kush & OJ. Featuring fellow Pittsburgh rappers Curren$y and Big K.R.I.T. the song has a sense of clarity that cuts through the haziness of the rest of the record.
Supply featuring Nesby Phips
The slick closer, Supply jolts the listener awake with Nesby Phips' nimble opening verse which is immediately softened with Wiz's iconic chorus: "There's some who think they smoke, but we stay higher / And some think they get fly, but we get flyer / They lookin' for the planes, we done cruised right by ya / Smell what I smoke, they ask me if I supply, I say no / It's everywhere we go..."