It’s hard not to love an original: the first of many to follow. This notion lends attribution to the world’s adoration with Wiz Khalifa. Born Cameron Jibril Thomaz, Wiz Khalifa is more than a mere M.C. He is a movement and maverick. Four years ago, he simultaneously gave blue collar Americans, as well as his native town of Pittsburgh, a Hip-Hop champion with his #1 mega-hit “Black & Yellow,” a nod to his city’s colors. When rap marketing was primarily focused on street and nightclub promotions, an unsigned yet clairvoyant Wiz decided to share his sinsemilla-scented indie music with an overlooked demo of suburban and collegiate youth. Rap touring mined newer soil and conceived was the soundtrack for a new generation of free-spirited young hippies––fans as well as up-and-coming MCs. “No matter what changes, you’re always gonna want that original feeling,” says Wiz. “Nothing really comes in the way of that. You can’t really fight it.”
Over the last five years, many rappers have latched onto the Wiz Khalifa wave, but while they’ve mostly kept their head above water, Khalifa has soared on both indie and major plains. Before signing his second deal with Atlantic in 2010, Wiz had already amassed a respectable following, fortune and awareness. He was selling out his own 20-city tours, including the Deal Or No Deal tour and Khalifa was being crowned “Rookie of the Year” by top media brands, including The Source Magazine, XXL Magazine, BET and MTV. His mixtapes penetrated the culture not only musically, but also digitally, with 2010’s free download Kush and Orange Juice hashtag becoming #1 on Twitter and was #1 trend search on Google. In 2010, when the reincarnation of Snoop Dogg declined an offer to join the tour of a heralded rookie named Drake, the decision made as much sense as it did dollars. Instead, the PA product took his new Atlantic deal and the triple platinum Stargate produced “Black & Yellow” smash and commenced his own 50-city run entitled the Waken Baken Tour.
Wiz’s Rostrum/Atlantic Records debut Rolling Papers and follow-up ONIF both burned their way into the cultural conscience from atop the Billboard charts, reaching 197,000 and 148,000 in the first weeks, as well as producing street and commercial hits, including “On My Level” feat. Too Short and “Work Hard, Play Hard.” Each year that followed his debut release, Khalifa would appear on Forbes lists and in Grammy Award categories. Solo artist success allowed the lanky MC to spread his label owner wings. In 2011, he tapped Juicy J from the Academy Award winning legendary rap group Three Six Mafia, to be co-CEO of his Taylor Gang Records. The imprint would introduce audiences to new acts including Chevy Woods and Ty Dollar $ign. Though King Khalifa quickly became a pop darling, the music industry wasn’t alone in recognizing his enterprising mind and market magnetism, which is why the Taylor Gang boss’s recent collaboration with Converse’s Chuck Taylor line is symbiotic perfection (it’s hard not to love an original). “When I find that the other ways I express myself are as interesting as my music it opens up doors and makes things more interesting for me.”
Wiz Khalifa is very much a brand. Within each relevant brand exists a community (or few), and within each community is a lifestyle. This lifestyle is what Wiz aims to articulate on his upcoming fourth studio album Blacc Hollywood. The 26-year-old millionaire has reaped gold and platinum fruit by being relentless and individualistic. As illustrated on the ONIFC cover, Wiz is inspired by rock star greatness. Khalifa says that the era that exhaled such ethos the most was the 1980’s, when leather-tight geniuses like Eddie Murphy and Ozzie Osbourne reigned supreme. Clarifying the misspelling of “Blacc,” Khalifa says: “It’s not a color, it’s a mind frame of early 80’s Rock & Roll when nobody gave a fuck and everybody was a star and everybody had a limo. The music was so good and there were so many stars born from that attitude that I just wanted to channel that and represent it with the album.”
Every Wiz album must possess the production of the Taylor general’s go-to maestros Jim Jonsin and Stargate. While the track “Drop It Down On It” deliciously invites, premium seduction occurs when Jonsin teams up with decorated scribe Rico Love (Usher, Nelly, T.I.) and allows Khalifa to release the songbird within. Of course there’s a ton of exotic smoke in Blacc Hollywood, demonstrated in tracks “So High” and “KK” featuring Juicy J and Project Pat, and a succession of movies made with white women and white liquor, displayed in the track “Raw.” There are even epic DJ Mustard-produced after parties co-hosted by Snoop and Ty Dollar $ign, shown in the track “You And Your Friends”; and Blacc Hollywood’s grandest fiesta is shaping up to be the Dr. Luke turn-up “Staying Out All Night.” But none of this should be a surprise. The Blacc Hollywood extravaganza began months ago as its lead single “We Dem Boyz,” produced by Detail (Lil Wayne, Beyoncé), snatched the summer anthem of 2014 crown before the season began. Temperatures only got hotter when the remix dropped with the sizzling East/South/West lineup of Nas, Rick Ross and Schoolboy Q.
This is what Wiz Khalifa does: Create moments. This is who Wiz Khalifa is: The rock star with the sexiest wife and the luxurious life who works as hard as he plays, doing it all in jumbotron-sized peacock fashion. “I’m a full-time husband and full-time Dad but I love to have fun. This is pure super stardom. Constant progression. I have a good time living it but I’m gonna have way more fun rapping about it.”