Wiz Khalifa

  • Rapper, singer and songwriter born Cameron Thomaz in 1987 in Minot North Dakota. Not many rappers come from North Dakota – his parents were military and moved often. In 1996 his mother settled in the Pittsburgh area, and he lived there as a teenager.
  • His grandfather gave him the nickname Wiz Khalifa – Wiz is short for “wisdom” and Khalifa is the Arabic word for “successor.” He began writing lyrics at age nine, and by twelve he was recording in his father’s studio. At age 15, he was regularly recording in a Pittsburgh studio, and the owners were so impressed with his work that they allowed him to use the equipment for free. A local independent record company heard his work and signed him as a 16 year old, thinking that he was a diamond in the rough who needed time to develop. His 2005 mixtape, Prince of the City: Welcome to Pistolvania, got him national recognition. and in 2006 his debut album was released – Show and Prove. While the album did not chart, he received favorable reviews by the national music press, with Rolling Stone dubbing him “an artist to watch.”
  • In 2007, Khalifa signed a contract with a major record label, and three singles were released over the next year. Say Yeah was his first to chart, peaking at #20 on the Rap chart. Several more singles and mix tapes were released, but his label was slow to get another album released, and Khalifa left to work with his independent label, releasing Deal or No Deal in 2009. In April 2010, he released a mixtape titled Kush & Orange Juice, and its success led to another record contract with a major label.
  • Khalifa had his breakthrough with his next studio album, 2011’s Rolling Papers. The album reached #2 on the Billboard 200 album chart and was certified 2x platinum. Its lead single was Black and Yellow, which topped the Hot 100 and Hot Rap Songs charts. The single No Sleep made it to #6 on the Hot 100, while Roll Up peaked at #2 on the Hot Rap Songs chart. Khalifa’s combination of stoner rap with pop hooks enabled him to easily cross over to the pop charts.
  • Collaborating with Snoop Dogg, Khalifa contributed 14 songs to the soundtrack for the film Mac & Devin Go to High School in 2011 (Khalifa co-starred as Devin in the film). The song Young, Wild and Free (with Snoop Dogg, featuring Bruno Mars) was a major hit, peaking at #7 on the Hot 100. The next year, he released the O.N.I.F.C. album – it reached #2 on the album chart and was certified platinum. The lead single was Work Hard, Play Hard, which reached #17 on the Hot 100.
  • 2014’s Blacc Hollywood album debuted at #1 on the album chart and was certified platinum. It included the single We Dem Boyz, which reached #4 on the Hot Rap Songs chart and was nominated for a Grammy award.
  • From 2013 to 2020, he contributed to six soundtrack albums, and he had his biggest hit with a single from Furious 7. See You Again (featuring Charlie Puth) topped over 30 charts internationally, plus the Hot 100 and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts in the U.S. The song was a tribute to actor Paul Walker, the face of the Fast and Furious franchise, after Walker’s accidental death.  Another soundtrack single, Sucker For Pain (from the soundtrack to the film Suicide Squad) peaked at #15 on the Hot 100 and #3 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.
  • His success made him popular with other artists as a featured artist. His biggest hit as a featured artist was in 2012, when he contributed to Maroon 5’s huge hit, Payphone. Since 2007, Khalifa was featured on over 50 singles from various artists. He was prolific with new music between 2015 and 2020, releasing one album and ten mixtapes. Much of the music celebrates his love of cannabis – Khalifa has been quoted many times as spending over $100,000 a year on the drug.
  • Khalifa is one of many hip-hop artists from the 10s that learned that rap and pop can sell when used together. Here’s his tribute to growing up in his hometown of Pittsburgh, Black and Yellow – the song doesn’t specifically mention Pittsburgh, but given that the professional sports teams Steelers, Pirates and Penguins all wear black and yellow, it’s easy to get the reference. Enjoy!

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