When Wiz Khalifa dropped Kush & Orange Juice back in 2010, it immediately felt like something special was forming. Essentially a 60-minute ode to smoking too much weed on a summer’s afternoon, the laid-back atmosphere that permeates through its 20 tracks romanticised smoking culture to a whole generation of teenagers. On Kush & Orange Juice, Wiz found a way to bottle the carefree, insouciance of youth. He was basically Snoop Doggy Dogg for millennials, with this mixtape’s explosive impact ensuring the Pittsburgh rapper was quickly signed up to Atlantic Records.
Whether you believe Wiz then turned into a generic pop rapper – who cared more about sickly appearances on the Fast and Furious soundtrack than crafting memorable albums – or that his feelgood slacker vibes provided a necessary balance to an overly serious era of mainstream rap is ultimately irrelevant. For the kids queuing so far back they’re basically standing in the Camden Lock, this show is a chance to see a one-off performance of that rare kind of record; one that provided the soundtrack to their lives.
Flanked by a giant inflatable orange, Wiz is greeted like a returning king at the Roundhouse. He arrives wearing dungarees and rocking a cheeky smile, taking thick drags of a joint which looks like a magic wand. Thankfully, the music of Kush & Orange Juice has lost none of its charm either. The G-funk synths of Mesmorized come in euphoric waves, while the flute sample on The Statement sounds prescient given how the instrument has turned up so prominently on Drake and Migos songs over recent years.
However, it’s Up where things really get going, with the song’s gentle melody feeling like a warm embrace. When Wiz delicately sings the words: “Everything is better when you’re high” a day one fan, sat to my left, lights up a joint, tears rolling down his cheek as he mouths the lyrics for an Instagram story. Sure, this music doesn’t really stretch beyond tales of smoking doobies with hot chicks while washing it all down with Vitamin C, but there’s something endearing about its simplicity. In a toxic world teetering on the edge, this kind of stoner idealism feels a lot more necessary than it did back in 2010. Kush & Orange Juice is capable of making young people smile and that’s powerful with so much darkness and violence recently creeping back into hip-hop culture.
That isn’t to say all of Kush & Orange Juice still works. We’re Done, which features an annoying chorus from Demi Lovato, sounds a little dated. But with an accompanying drummer and guitarist passionately working these mixtape songs into something a lot bigger sonically, this show rarely loses its energy and hits more than it misses. At one point, Wiz, observing the thick smog of Amnesia Haze covering 70% of the Roundhouse, tells the crowd: “When I released this mixtape it wasn’t cool to smoke weed in public, but look at us now!” — it’s only then that I realise tonight isn’t just a victory lap for Wiz Khalifa, who is now an established mainstream star, but for cannabis culture as well, with the social stigma around smoking weed finally starting to fade.
Photos: Isha Shah