Pittsburgh emcee continues to fill arenas
At 31, with more than a dozen years in the game, Cameron Jibril Thomaz, better known worldwide as Wiz Khalifa, is nearly an elder statesman in the youth-obsessed, who’s-hot-right-now world of mainstream rap.
But since he hit the big time in 2010 with the chart-topping, multiplatinum single “Black and Yellow,” an ode to his hometown of Pittsburgh’s sports ball team (for which we forgive him), he’s been a high-volume fixture on the charts.
Khalifa has produced six studio albums along with 16 mixtapes and been featured on several gold- and platinum-selling hits, including “Young Wild and Free” with OG Snoop Dogg and Bruno Mars, “Work Hard, Play Hard,” “We Dem Boyz” and the global No. 1 pop-rap tune “See You Again” from “Fast and Furious 7."
He also co-starred in a stoner comedy, “Mac & Devin Go To High School,” with Snoop. More recently, Khalifa can be seen in a very cute commercial for Oreo cookies having fun with his preschool-aged son Sebastian.
Currently, Khalifa is on his seventh tour of sheds like Blossom Music Center, where he will be performing on Tuesday. Opening for Khalifa will be a collection of emcees, such as veteran Bronx MC French Montana and mixtape maker DJ Drama. There will also be several young artists whose profiles Khalifa is hoping to help raise on the mainstream scene, such as Atlantan Playboi Carti, Moneybagg Yo and Chevy Woods.
Khalifa is a vocal marijuana smoker with his own signature strain: Khalifa’s Kush. He has also branched out into mobile games with his simulator “Wiz Khalifa’s Weed Farm,” which has 10 million downloads from more than eight countries.
Stylistically, Khalifa, who’s not afraid to sing a few bars of melody, has a flow that’s a bit of a throwback. Throughout his latest release, the mixtape “Fly Times: The Good Fly Young,” he largely eschews the herky-jerky syncopated flow of popular emcees such as Cardi B, and the hard-to-decipher, stream-of-consciousness mumble-rappers influenced by Future.
During a conference call with reporters, Khalifa talked about the Decent Exposure tour, the spread of legalized marijuana, loving his son and keeping it moving.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the lineup for the summer tour?
Wiz Khalifa: The artists on the tour, Moneybagg, Chevy Woods, Playboi Carti and French Montana, all different styles, are really great rappers and musicians. Moneybagg [has been] coming up on the underground scene, and not really underground but more on the club scene in the urban world. He's going to get to experience a new fan base, as well as bringing his fan base with him. Playboi Carti, you've got a lot of young energy and he's real fun. So, kids are going to get a different vibe from what they get from me on the normal. They'll get that from him. French Montana got the hits, so everybody's going to be able to jam and I have a great time. DJ drama is going to keep everybody excited and pumped up in between because that's what he does.
Q: Is that really Sebastian's voice we're hearing at the end of “Gold Bottles”? And what was it like making an Oreos commercial with him?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, that's definitely him on there. That one was crazy. And it was fun making a commercial because he's really a natural, and he's not the type of kid where you got to coach him too much or make him do anything out of his character. All of the reactions were real and everything else was solid. Like I was real proud.
Q: What does the tour name Decent Exposure mean to you?
Wiz Khalifa: I wanted to come up with something that sounded bad, but then we make it good, and a lot of the things that I associate my tour names and my humor with is the fact that we're in a day and age where things that weren't legal, they're legal now. So instead of indecent exposure, which you'll probably get in trouble for ... it's decent now. So, it's cool to act the fool.
Q: What do you have in store for your future? Is there anything left that you want to accomplish? Anything different you want to do going forward?
Wiz Khalifa: I'm always wanting to ... top myself musically. So, there's new music on the way. Stuff for TV, an animated series, executive producing TV shows, working with my artists, and making sure that their careers go the way that they're supposed to go. Just taking care of my son. Those are like my main goals for real.
Q: You're a prolific dude. You have almost three times as many mixtapes as proper albums. When you go to the studio and start a new project, do you know, like, this is going to be the next Wiz Khalifa album, or this is going to be a mixtape?
Wiz Khalifa: I just try to take one project at a time. Sometimes I could work on three projects at one time, but, I know creatively, what goes in what ways. So, it depends on how I write it, or what the context of what I'm saying is, and that's how I put things in their place.
Q: At age 31, where do you feel you fit in the room with hip-hop? You're too young to be an elder statesman, but you're not part of the new guard. Are you comfortable where you're at, or what do you think you represent?
Wiz Khalifa: I just think I'll represent talent, hustle and just mind elevation in general.
Malcolm X Abram can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3758. Like him on Facebook at http://on.fb.me/1lNgxml, and follow him on Twitter @malcolmabramABJ.