Wiz Khalifa: Pittsburgh’s answer to Snoop is ready to tear the charts apart
For the last half century, Pittsburgh’s popular image has consisted of abandoned, rusting steel mills and permanently slate skies. That is until Wiz Khalifa dropped his dedication to the colours of the city’s professional sports teams, ‘Black And Yellow’, last autumn and the song instantly re-animated the drab environs.
“The story of Pittsburgh hasn’t been told. There’s always talented people on the come up, but no major rapper had ever made it out of there,” Khalifa says about his hometown. “Its sound is a mixture of everything: West Coast rap, down south crunk, New York and Philadelphia hip-hop. It’s eclectic.”
Khalifa’s style blends melodic cadences, catchy hooks and endless boasts about his prowess with exotic women and weed. Equally adept at singing and rapping, he melds underground rap roots with a pop sensibility. Indeed, ‘Black And Yellow’ was produced by Stargate, the Norwegian hitmakers best known for their work with Beyoncé, Katy Perry and Rihanna. Other influences include Motown maestro Willie Hutch and former Temptations singer David Ruffin, whose 1980 ‘Gentleman Ruffin’ album cover served as a model for Khalifa’s breakout mixtape, last year’s ‘Kush & Orange Juice’.
“Soul inspires me as much as rap. So does classic rock and even pop,” says Khalifa from Sacramento, before yet another tour date in support of this month’s ‘Rolling Papers’, his first album on Atlantic Records. Earlier this week, via Twitter he lamented being away from his squeeze, Amber Rose (Kanye West’s ex), but he’s sanguine about his cloudless present.
Chalk it up to his facility with another colour: sticky green. In an interview last year, the lanky and tattooed 23-year-old, born Cameron Thomaz, bragged that he spent $10,000 a month on marijuana. His habits and ultra-relaxed attitude have led him to be called this generation’s Snoop Dogg, a comparison buoyed by the pair’s frequent collaborations. “As soon as we met in person we clicked,” Khalifa says. “Snoop’s taught me the value of working hard. He told me that it never gets any easier. You just have to embrace life as it comes and smoke the finest stuff you can afford.”
Need To Know
• Wiz Khalifa acquired the nickname ‘Wiz’ because as a child he was good at everything and thus considered a little wizard. Khalifa is Arabic for ‘successor’.
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• Originally signed to Warner Bros, his first single, 2007’s ‘Say Yeah’, samples Alice DeeJay’s ‘Better Off Alone’.