We briefly explore the importance of Wiz Khalifa's "B.A.R." mixtape and title track, and its influence on his career.
There are some songs that will always remind you of a specific time in your life, perhaps even a place, a person, or a routine you once had. Music is eternally stamped with the era of your life in which you discovered it, it’s impossible to untangle the two. Wiz Khalifa’s “B.A.R.” is one such song for me, as it once acted as my daily soundtrack for my walk to and from university classes. Circa 2009, it was my first introduction to the then-budding artist, Wiz Khalifa. I remember thinking, that’s a strange name, not knowing the deeper meaning to it. I remember pressing play, after my brother had sent me a link for B.A.R., unaware of the project I was about to dive into, or even what “B.A.R.” stood for, yet. I pressed play, and was immediately immersed-- the song of course, is the title track for the mixtape of the same name. It’s the title track in particular that remains one of Wiz’s most important songs in his come-up, determining a sound and direction he would explore to even further depths on his groundbreaking mixtape to follow, Kush & OJ.
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B.A.R. wasn’t Wiz’s first mixtape, by any stretch. Wiz’s catalog is heavily documented across the internet, from his debut mixtape to his debut album, each of these arriving prior to the release of B.A.R.B.A.R., however, was the project that allowed Wiz to reach a larger audience, outside of Pittsburgh, and gain traction across the blogosphere. This was a time when DJs were prevalent and having certain DJ names attached to your mixtape would allow it to spread further-- DJ Rockstar and DJ Ill Will were two of the biggest names at the time, and no doubt their co-sign of B.A.R. helped usher in new fans.
B.A.R. wasn’t some sort of sudden revelation that Wiz loved smoking weed, either, he was already immersed in a marijuana lifestyle and all that entails. His joint effort with Curren$y, How Fly, cemented this fact prior to B.A.R., as well as his solo Flight School mixtape-- both a subtle (or obvious) nod to his favorite hobby. Still, B.A.R. is the most important marker in Wiz’s catalog, as the pre-Kush & OJ release that essentially served as a warning that this weed-loving, laid-back artist was about to take over the game, all by his damn self, too. Flight School, Show & Prove-- every project prior to B.A.R., really-- Wiz was still figuring out his sound and how to be uniquely himself. Thus each proved a mixed bag, often borrowing or replicating other sounds, and not necessarily offering anything distinct in the grand scheme of things, that is, until B.A.R. This mixtape was clearly different, something we had never heard before. That’s why it’s such an important notch in Wiz’s discography, perhaps even more so than Kush & OJ, at least from the perspective of establishing a style. It's one that seems to be under-appreciated too.
The opening track is the best song on the 18-track mixtape. It wouldn’t sound out of place on Kush & OJ either, indicating it’s hazy style. In fact, Kush & OJ’s opening record followed a similar path and concept, with “Waken & Baken” offering a light, airy musical intro as Wiz’s vocals glide along, guiding your smoking experience. “B.A.R.” solidified Wiz’s penchant for this type of atmospheric, closed hi-hat-riddled production. Wiz’s vocals are literally “floating on” too, dissipating into the musical ether while the sounds of a lush electric guitar echo in the background (a sample courtesy of Pink Floyd).
“B.A.R.” is, then, the trademark Wiz sound-- if Wiz’s sound could be captured only in the span of one song, it would likely be this. It has all the attributes we’ve come to love from him: a nonchalant flow, an ambience that’s built around light percussion and hi-hats, and lyrics of a stoner who is simply loving life and all the good things coming his way. It’s an easy message and sound to get behind, and one that Wiz has remained loyal to until this day.