Artist Of The Month: Wiz Khalifa (December 2017)

What a spectacular 2017 it has been for music fans in India! With some of the biggest international artists having made their way to the Indian sub-continent over the past twelve months, it is now time for us to welcome one of the finest hip-hop talents to have graced the stage in recent years, and our Artist of the Month for December, Wiz Khalifa. An exceptionally talented act who will be heading to India later this month for his debut performance at TIMEOUT 72, let’s get to know all about this hip-hop heavyweight!

Born as Cameron Jibril Thomaz in Minot, North Dakota, Wiz Khalifa comes from a family where both his parents served in the military. His parents’ profession took him to quite a few countries including the UK, Germany, and Japan at a young age, after which Wiz settled in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Camp Lo, The Notorious B.I.G. and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, young Wiz got involved with Pittsburgh’s Hip-Hop paradigm at a young age. After listening to him on many local artists’ mixtapes, Rostrum Records president Benjy Grinberg signed Wiz Khalifa in 2004, at the age of 16.

Wiz Khalifa released his first mixtape, Prince of the City: Welcome to Pistolvania, in 2005, with his debut album Show and Prove seeing a release in the following year. On top of receiving some major critical acclaims for the album, Rolling Stone named the man the “Artist To Watch” that year.

Impressed by the young Wiz’s rise, Warner Bros. Records signed him in 2007, and Wiz released his next two mixtapes Grow Season and Prince of the City 2, on Rostrum Records, the very same year. His debut single on Warner Bros. Records “Say Yeah” which samples “Better Off Alone” by Alice Deejay, charted at #25 on the Billboard Rhythmic Top 40 music chart and #20 on Billboard’s Hot Rap Tracks.

It had been a while since fans got some new music from Wiz Khalifa. To hold the demand, he released the mixtapes Star Power in September 2008, and Flight School in April 2009 on Rostrum Records. Reportedly, after numerous delays on his debut Warner Bros. album release, Wiz parted ways with the label in July 2009.

After his departure from Warner Bros. Records, Khalifa released the single “Teach U to Fly“, and the mixtape How Fly on Rostrum Records yet again. His alternating style between singing and rapping was warmly received by the fans and critics alike, and even without the backing of a major label, Wiz was good enough to take it further himself.

In November 2009, Wiz released the mixtape Burn After Rolling which features him rapping over many familiar beats including the songs “Walking on a Dream” by Empire of the Sun, “If I Were A Boy” and “Diva” by Beyoncé, and “Best I Ever Had” by Drake. Wiz released his second album, Deal or No Deal, on November 24, 2009, and toured with Yelawolf for the promotion that spanned over 20 shows.

The following year, Wiz Khalifa performed at South By Southwest festival and also appeared on the cover of Townsquare media’s popular Hip-Hop magazine, XXL. He also appeared on the magazine’s annual list of Top 10 Freshman, which included Donnis, J. Cole, Pill, Freddie Gibbs, and Fashawn. Other similar awards and honours came from reputed publishers.

Riding on the success of the new album, Wiz Khalifa released a free mixtape, Kush and Orange Juice. With the support of the army of fans, the mixtape became the No. 1 trending topic on Twitter with the hashtag #kushandorangejuice, and “Kush and Orange Juice download” topped Google’s hot search trends.

Even though he dropped a new album just a year ago, Wiz was on the move and started working on a new album. In July 2010, he confirmed that he was signing a deal with Atlantic Records. The collaborations took off well for Wiz Khalifa in 2010 as he worked with artists like Rick Ross and Curren$y, while also appearing as a guest on some famous mixtapes. He was also voted MTV’s Hottest Breakthrough MC of 2010.

Wiz released his debut single on Atlantic Records, “Black And Yellow” in September of 2010 which gained 6x Platinum status with more than 6 million copies in sales and streaming. On top of that, the single charted in multiple countries and topped Billboard Hot 100. The single came from his then-upcoming debut album on Atlantic, Rolling Papers that charted at no.2 on Billboard 200 and went certified 2x Platinum along with certified Gold. Three more singles from the album,”Roll Up“, “On My Level“, “No Sleep” also did great in the United States charts.

Wiz performed at festivals like Soundset and Rock The Bells alongside legendary acts like Snoop Dogg, Method Man, A Tribe Called Quest, Wu-Tang Clan and more. Surprisingly, Wiz declined an offer from Drake to join him on tour and instead launched his own 50-city Waken Baken Tour in the USA with Yelawolf.

In 2011, Wiz expanded on collaborations, releasing “5 O’Clock” with T-Pain and Lily Allen, and “Young, Wild & Free” with Snoop Dogg featuring Bruno Mars. This turned out to be commercially successful with both of these songs reaching Billboard Top 10. Later that year, Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg collaborated on their soundtrack album for their comedy movie, “Mac & Devin Go To High School“.

2012 saw the release of Wiz’s new album Only Ni**a In First Class (globally known as O.N.I.F.C.). The album’s promotional singles “Work Hard, Play Hard” and “Remember You” received commercial acclaim and with the former even garnered Platinum status. The album also achieved the Platinum status.

In early 2013, Wiz Khalifa released a 7-track EP Going Live with Curren$y. Later he announced that he’s working on a new album that he’d be releasing the upcoming year. In February of 2014, Wiz released the first single from his album Blacc Hollywood titled “We Dem Boyz” which peaked at number 43 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album release followed in the month of August via Atlantic/Rostrum collectively, just like his last two albums. It featured collaborations with Ty Dolla $ign, Juicy J, Nicki Minaj and achieved Gold status in the US.

2015 saw Wiz Khalifa releas his biggest song, in collaboration with Charlie Puth, “See You Again” in the memory of Paul Walker who passed away during the shooting of the movie Furious 7. Due to the song’s highly emotional tone, this song is still the 2nd most played music video on YouTube and also gained the top spot for a brief period of time earlier this year with its whopping 3.2 billion views. Since then, Wiz Khalifa has released several new mixtapes and has performed at some of the biggest shows worldwide.

In February of 2016, Wiz released a compilation album of his music from 2009 to current times, titled Khalifa. Shortly after that, in May, he released “Pull Up“, a standalone single from his upcoming album, Rolling Papers 2, the release date of which is yet to be announced. Leading up to the release of which, Wiz Khalifa recently released a mixtape titled “Laugh Now, Fly Later” going 10 tracks deep.

Wiz Khalifa also runs a record label, Taylor Gang Records which features artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Juicy J, Ty Dolla $ign and more. His stage name is inspired by his grandfather’s given nickname for him “Young Wiz” where ‘wiz’ stands for wisdom.

Isn’t it astonishing how much this incredible young man has conquered at the mere age of 30? Hold that enthusiasm and get ready to catch him live in India for his debut performance at TIMEOUT 72 Festival in Goa during 27-29 December.

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