Wiz Khalifa’s TGOD (Taylor Gang or Die) label/movement has come a long way. Starting off as a collective in Khalifa’s hometown of Pitssburgh, the rapper has turned Taylor Gang into a multi-faceted brand, complete with a clothing line, an aforementioned record label and even a film company. Ever since the brand took on Memphis rapper Juicy J as the label’s A&R in 2012, the company has taken on new heights, with not only Khalifa experiencing increased popularity, but fellow TGOD members Ty Dolla Sign and Currensy gaining ground as well. As we wait for Khalifa’s next album Rolling Papers 2: The Weed Album and Juicy’s THC: The Hustle Continues, the two have teamed up to bless us with their collaborative album TGOD Mafia: Rude Awakening, which also extensively features Atlanta producer TM88 on the boards.
The first track, “TGOD Mafia Intro,” sets the tone early. Over some thuderous effects, Juicy J addresses the listener what they need to be doing before diving into the record. “Light yo’ muhf*ckin shit up/pop what you need to pop/pour up what the f*ck you need to pour up,” he echoes. The intro serves as a reminder that the album is best heard while under the influence of marijuana, pills, lean, or whatever questionable substance you happen to have around.
Lyrically, the album doesn’t stray far from most Wiz/Juicy projects. Doing drugs, popping pills, sipping syrup, getting to the money and not trusting these girls are all themes of Rude Awakening. However, that doesn’t mean there’s any shortage of dope lines within the tracks. “Got a young n*gga named Kobe take too many shots,” Juicy warns on “I See It I Want It.” “We ain’t got no patients cause we ain’t no doctors/Used to have weed in my locker, now every b*tch you see on my team is a model,” Wiz proclaims on “Medication.” We get a classic Juicy line on “Where Was You”: “I could show you how to cook ’em up and wrap ’em/I could tell you bout that Mac and I ain’t talking Apple.”
Production wise, most of the beats are handled by TM88, who shares his name along with Juicy and Wiz on this record. Also featuring fellow 808 Mafia members Southside and MP808 behind the boards, the murky, somewhat sinister beats mesh well with Juicy and Wiz’s rapping, most notably on “Where Was You,” “I See It I Want It” and “She In Love.” “Luxury Flow” is the project’s biggest banger, and TM88 (along with Crazy Mike and Juicy himself) doesn’t disappoint in delivering a hi-hat-heavy explosion of a beat, and coupled with Juicy and Wiz’s celebratory verses on the rewards of making it in the industry, the song is meant to be blasted in the whip while you’re crusing down the street with the top down.
Though a collaborative album, the record follows the same verse structure on nearly every song, with Juicy on the first verse followed by the hook, Wiz on the second verse, and then Juicy on the last verse. Whether this was intentional or not, the whole project sounds like Juicy featuring Wiz. And even on Wiz’z verses, he doesn’t match the energy of his counterpart at times. On some songs it sounds like he even forgot how to rhyme. Albeit the Pittsburgh native was never a lyrical rapper by any means, his verses sound forced at times. In his previous foray into trap, his 2014 mixtape 28 Grams, it was more melodic and showcased Wiz’s ability to add pop sensibilities to hard-hitting beats. However, on this project it lacks these aspects. Juicy really carries the album, and even if Wiz had been left off the record completely, it wouldn’t make it any worse.
Already mentioned earlier, this album isn’t anything different than what you’re ready used to hearing Juicy and Wiz rap about. Nonetheless, the record does have it’s pros. It’s a great album to pregame to while you get ready for a night out (peep the appropriately titled “All Night”). And while the album also has its cons, it really won’t matter to those who’re already turned up once the first song plays. Taylor Gang Or Die.