Long extinct are the days when mixtape culture was the means to its own end, spawning cult heroes of rhyme that never crossed over; free, home-grown projects have served as a catapult to pop stardom for more than a decade. (Credit 50 Cent for that.) So now when we think of B.o.B. or Nicki Minaj or Wiz Khalifa — rap artists who slowly cultivated devoted followers on a grassroots level and still churn out downloadable freebies on a regular basis — our first notions are instead of their pop anthems. That Kush & Orange Juice Wiz has been swallowed by the monster anthems he creates with apparent ease: "Black & Yellow," "Roll Up," "Work Hard, Play Hard." The hooks worm into your brain and set up shop.
By his fifth studio release, the 26-year-old weed/Converse head has this whole pop-rap thing down to a science. Blacc Hollywood, an LP titled like it might bring some overarching theme, is the audio equivalent of the Transformers quadrilogy: a series of in-your-face, mass-appeal blockbusters that lure crowds and teach them nothing. To that end, the head of Taylor Gang is getting damn near close to perfecting his craft: the Detail-produced "We Dem Boyz" has been hyping carloads of college males since February; "Stayin Out All Night," orchestrated by Dr. Luke, picks up where the 24/7 party of 2011's "No Sleep" left off; and "KK," featuring Juicy J and a scene-stealing Project Pat, gives hip-hop its best marijuana anthem since Khalifa's last one. You won't learn anything about yourself or army brat Cameron Jibril Thomaz — a new father and the guy who scooped Kanye's girl — but your party playlist will have a few welcome additions. Were Hollywood actually a film, we might call it The Great Escape. (Atlantic/Rostrum)