Wiz Khalifa
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Wiz Khalifa


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"Breaking Artist"

Wiz Khalifa
Globe-trotting Pittsburgh rapper takes independent route to the top
Posted Nov 29, 2006 8:40 AM.

At nineteen years old, with one indie album under his belt, Wiz Khalifa may already be the biggest hip-hop star to come out of Pittsburgh, although he doesn't have a lot of competition. "Yeah, the scene's a little scarce," concedes the MC. Khalifa aims to up the city's profile with his debut, Show and Prove. After tiny Rostrum Records released it in September, the album spread by word of mouth, becoming a mainstay on college radio and earning slavish attention from tastemakers like okayplayer.com and XXL magazine. Now major labels are calling, but Khalifa isn't ready to sign. "We're focused on doing our independent thing," he says. "We're trying to build a foundation so we can stay on our own."

SOUND Khalifa's limber, versatile flow shifts forms from track to track, recalling his favorite MCs. There's the drawl of Memphis' Three 6 Mafia and the stalking, clipped verses of Wu-Tang Clan, but most often he recalls the hyperspeed syncopated rhymes of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The beats are as diverse and colorful as Khalifa's rhymes, from the upbeat G-Funk of "Pittsburgh Sound" to the stark horns of "I'm Gonna Ride" to the cheeky "Keep the Conversation," which is built on double-time samples of Billy Joel's "Leave a Tender Moment Alone."

NONSENSE Khalifa says the trick to fitting a ton of syllables into a single measure is to focus on the rhythmic flow rather than the actual words. "I listen to the beat first, then mumble a pattern that might sound good, then make little syllables and noises that will fit in the spots between the music," says Khalifa. "Then I put words to it."

MAN OF THE WORLD Though Khalifa calls Pittsburgh home, he's more of a global citizen. "I was born in North Dakota," he admits, explaining that, since both of his parents were in the military, he alternated between living in Pittsburgh and in England, Germany and Japan. "In Japan, there were a lot of hip-hop fans," says Khalifa. "They listen to conscious stuff like Wu and Talib Kweli, which amazed me because they couldn't understand the lyrics. Mostly, I remember that it was really busy and crowded. The whole time, I wished I was back in Pittsburgh."
- Rolling Stone

"The Class of 2007"

Think Hip Hop’s Dead? Perhaps you’re spending too much time snuggling with Kelis. Mass Appeal handpicks five rap artists making Illmatic music for the future.

Wiz Khalifa

Welcome to the Steel City. The first thing you might notice about Pittsburgh, PA is, well…there’s not really any steel here. Coaxial cables, prestigious universities and coleslaw sandwiches perhaps, but the former industrial powerhouse’s population was soldered in half after steel’s mass exodus of the 70’s and 80’s. “If you’re in Pittsburgh, you’re usually from Pittsburgh,” says rapper Wiz Khalifa, who, at only 19, is on his way to becoming the 412’s most prominent voice since Andy Warhol. “Not a lot of out-of-towners come here. Everybody know everybody.”

As the first local to land a coved spot in regular rotation on the city’s commercial hip-hop station, WAMO, everybody knows Wiz. But getting “Damn Thing,” the first single from his album Show & Prove out to the people, was no easy feat in a city like this. Built on the intersection of three rivers, Pittsburgh is segregated into five sections, where fiercely cultural communities litter the surrounding hills. “Being from Pittsburgh, you have to make music to please every ‘hood,” Wiz says of the city’s diverse taste. “Wilkinsburg and Homewood are the real Southern-driven areas. When Master P was real big, you would think you was down in Louisiana. We had to learn to mix it up so everyone get down with it.”

Wiz’s jewel-laced flow is certainly connected to the East Coast lyricist tradition, but his experiences as a child opened up a whole new world. While the man born Cameron Thomaz always considered Pittsburgh his home base, he grew up moving around the globe with his military family, spending time everywhere from Japan to Georgia. While staying in Oklahoma at the age of 13, his father introduced him to some local musicians who took Wiz (then known as “Wizdom”) into their studio. Soon he was producing his own beats and pressing up his first, Words of Wizdom, in 2001. When he moved back to Pittsburgh permanently a year later, his first instinct was to jump back into the studio.

He found a home at I.D. Labs, a local studio co-owned by E.Dan of famed local hip-hop group Strict Flow. While Wiz, and his uncle Knowledge (then recording as a duo called Blackout) recorded their 2004 album Neighborhood Watch, E.Dan became impressed with the young MC’s work ethic. He gave him free studio time and encouraged him to focus on solo material, introducing Wiz to Strict Flow’s Chad, who became his manager and landed him a deal with budding local indie label Rostrum Records.

After blasting off with his Big Mike hosted mixtape Prince of the City, Rostrum released Show & Prove to rave reviews. “ I try to put a message in my music without preaching to people too much, “ Wiz says confidently. His second single, “Pittsburgh Sound” is an ironic one, since Wiz’s swagger sounds equally assured over screwed-up Southern bounce, East Coast boom bap and lush ‘70’s samples. The city’s budding scene night not have forged it’s own path yet, but if anybody can find Pittsburgh’s sound, it’s Wiz.
Brendan Frederick

- Mass Appeal

"Wiz Khalifa"

JENESIS Magazine: How do you feel about the direction your career is going?

Wiz Khalifa: I feel very positive about it. I’m happy we are making steps forward and not falling back. It’s a progression.
JENESIS Magazine: With Show and Prove, did you have any expectations on how your album would do?
Wiz Khalifa: It did as much as I thought it would as far as numbers, money, and just putting it out there. I also got a wider fan base. It had real album material that I could get out there.”
JENESIS Magazine: Most artists want to immediately get signed and have an album on a major label. What’s kept you humble doing your whole operation independently?
Wiz Khalifa: Just knowing the process of the music business, knowing how important patience is. If you jump out too quick and grab the first thing offered it can come back to bite you.
JENESIS Magazine: How much has going the independent route increased your appreciation for the industry as a whole?
Wiz Khalifa: It helped me to see how much an artist can do for himself. Everyone thinks you need a major label. It’s all about the music and your grind.
JENESIS Magazine: This year already you have opened for The Clipse, Nas, and Lupe Fiasco. How did those performances for those shows compare to the others?
Wiz Khalifa: They all went real good. There were a lot of Wiz fans out there too. I’m just building to the top. Meeting these people, it keeps me humble. I just came back from Atlantic City with T-Pain.
JENESIS Magazine: Even with all of the major editorial interviews, opening acts for larger artist, and other ventures, do you feel your doing enough to build a lasting career in the drastically changing music business?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah I do. Stuff we’ve done might seem major to other people but it’s minor to me because there is so much more out there to do.
JENESIS Magazine: What led you to finally sign with the major label Warner Brothers Records?
Wiz Khalifa: Mainly the contract offered, the way we met, how into me as a project they were. We just all seemed on the same page.
JENESIS Magazine: We’re sure you noticed, but how do you feel about the free promo you’re getting from local rappers getting at you in their rhymes and small shows?
Wiz Khalifa: I wish they would find another way to say my name. I mean I don’t blame em though, but I don’t let it get to me. I hear em talking but I just keep it movin.
JENESIS Magazine: Do you feel they have these harsh feelings because of your success and your ability to rep Pittsburgh on a larger scale? Or are they just throwing punches to get themselves heard?
Wiz Khalifa: I think it’s both of those things. They don’t really wanna be rappers, they just want the respect. You know, they wanna do the shows and get the girls. And they want a response from me, so that through me their name is heard everywhere. That’s why I don’t respond. Some people just can’t help it, they were born to be haters, and I let them do what they do.”
JENESIS Magazine: A lot of artists speak on “getting Pittsburgh on” but don’t put actions to their words. Do you think if artists had stronger support for each other there would be a better outlook for the city as a whole?
Wiz Khalifa: Definitely. I got homeboys and family members who won’t even buy my Cd. Say if an artist comes to town and asks about me to a local rapper, and they talk shit, then the artist be like, ‘You don’t even got love from your own town?’ That’s why everyone I affiliate with supports each other, we all buy each others Cds, go to each other’s shows. We wanna start a movement and just support each other. It’s a hater town.
JENESIS Magazine: Have you come across any other artists in the city that you think people should be looking out for?
Wiz Khalifa: Yea, Kev the Hustler, everyone at ID Productions, and the record label Heavy Hustle, they’re my homeboys.
JENESIS Magazine: How do you plan on elevating your career to the next level while working on new music for a new album?
Wiz Khalifa: I wanna get myself out there on a national level. I’m doing mix tapes, shows, just tryin to be everywhere. By the end of the year I want my face to be known.”
JENESIS Magazine: Snoop Dogg has always been a huge fan of Pittsburgh. Do you plan on ever collaborating with him?
Wiz Khalifa: Yea, Snoop’s my man. He’s my favorite rapper. Everyone be callin me lil Snoop cuz I’m skinny. (laughs)
JENESIS Magazine: You seem to have a close relationship with your mother. Are you ever reluctant to have her hear certain lyrics in your songs?
Wiz Khalifa: I am close with both my parents. They are both real cool. They know who I am. I don’t have to hide anything. I mean I might censor a little for my younger cousins, and I got a little sister. I try not to say anything too crazy.
JENESIS Magazine: How has living in other countries such as Germany, Japan and England affected your outlook on hip hop globally?
Wiz Khalifa: It didn’t really affect my - Jenesis Magazine

"Prince of the City"

OCTOBER 5, 2006
Prince of the City
For 19-year-old Wiz Khalifa, conquering the world is easy ... but winning over Pittsburgh is hard


Swathed in a baggy T-shirt, he's utterly alone onstage at Mr. Small's Theatre. His lanky frame sways to the track as he works the packed house, and the mic:

Who's the kid spittin' flames, changing the game? His name is Wiz Khalifa, man ... I got that Pittsburgh sound, I'm gonna hold this whole Pittsburgh down.

Many see that lone figure as either a mascot or messiah. Many are looking to him to put Pittsburgh's hip-hop scene on the map. "If Wiz blows up, we all gonna blow up," is how local emcee and promoter Basick Sickness sums it up.

"On top of Wiz's raw talent, the time is right for an artist from Pittsburgh to come out," agrees Benjy Grinberg, president of Rostrum Records. An industry insider and Pittsburgh native, Grinberg put out Khalifa's mix-tape earlier this year and just released his debut album, Show and Prove. "Wiz is that guy," he contends.

Sure looks like it. Khalifa's new single, "Damn Thing," has shot up national college and mix-show radio charts; at home, it's been in the Top 40 on 106.7 WAMO for over two months. He's featured on the new album by hot globe-trotting producer Nicolay; his mix-tape has sold thousands and earned critical accolades. Allhiphop.com speculates, "Wiz Khalifa may inch out Big Ben Roethlisberger for the youngest star in the Steel City." And they were referring to last season's Big Ben.

You couldn't blame the 19-year-old Khalifa if the pressure was a little alarming. "When I was younger, making music, I was hoping somebody else was gonna do it," says Khalifa.

Tonight, he's the one up on stage, feeling the adrenaline rush. He's the top-billed opening act for his heroes, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. Behind his gritty, observational lyrics and mature delivery is a young, connected rapper on the rise. But as he surveys the mostly white, suburban crowd at Mr. Small's, he knows that in the world beyond those doors, nothing -- not fame, not love, not respect -- comes for free. There have been setbacks along the way; thanks to one of them, he's taken the stage tonight a full month behind schedule.

If Pittsburgh's self-proclaimed "Prince of the City" lives up to the title, he'll inherit a territory often torn by neighborhood rivalries. Out beyond those doors lies a splintered kingdom ... one Khalifa himself calls "Pistolvania."

Khalifa relaxes in an armchair behind the studio console, pushing his ball cap back on his head. Not 24 hours after Show and Prove hit the streets, he's at Lawrenceville's ID Labs, working on a whole new set of recordings. In the studio, Khalifa looks perfectly at home -- probably because he is. "I'm down here every day." He shrugs. "And when I say 'every day' ... every day."

Posters and news items bearing his likeness adorn the studio's entryway, which today is clogged with signs of change. Eric Dan apologizes for the mess of gear and musicianly rubble: He's installing a new wooden floor in one of the tracking rooms. A veteran producer and one-time member of the band Strict Flow, E-Dan says the Prince's regal access to the studio is "something I haven't done before or since. He just caught our ear that much. We don't ... nurture every artist who comes in the door."

Khalifa's relationship with ID began in 2002, when the then-15-year-old came knocking on its door. He'd just returned from a year of living in Oklahoma with his dad, an entrepreneur who had recently invested in a recording studio. There, Khalifa experimented late into the night, learning to make beats and put together his own tracks. Initially, Khalifa was "just a paying customer" at ID Labs. But before long, E-Dan realized Wiz might be a valuable customer. Chad Glick, DJ Huggy and Juliano and others at ID began getting him in touch with Grinberg -- and getting him a record deal.

"Wiz was the one guy we felt like was the most talented, and also the easiest to work with as a person," E-Dan explains. "There are a lot of people that I would say are talented, but I wouldn't necessarily want to hole up in a room and make a record with them."

It's been a fruitful arrangement. For Show and Prove, Khalifa tapped the studio's larger circles for the production talents of Nesia Beatz, Black Czer and Champ Super, emcees Boaz, Kev Da Hustler and S. Money, and the soaring vocals of Kelly Porter. From those ingredients -- and classic influences like Jay-Z, Snoop, Biggie, Three 6 Mafia and Cam'ron -- Khalifa has devised what he calls "the Pittsburgh sound."

"To me, we're pioneering what the Pittsburgh sound is right now," he says. "So I figure I might as well go ahead and put a stamp on it while it's hot."

As he describes it, that sound reflects the city's geography, history -- and simply what people here like to listen to. Pittsburgh, Khalifa notes, is both a literal and cultural crossroads, caught somewhere between - Pgh City Paper

"A Rapper on the Rise"

A rapper on the rise
This time, Pittsburgh is the right place at the right time
Sunday, July 24, 2005

By Ed Masley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

He's only 17 and there are no gold records on his wall, but Cameron "Wiz Khalifa" Thomaz talks the talk of a rapper who's already platinum.

Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette
Wiz Khalifa is a 17-year-old rapper from Allderdice High School.
Click photo for larger image.

"Oh, I've got mad songs," Khalifa reports with a self-assured grin, his lanky frame stretched out across a couch at I.D. Labs in Lawrenceville.

"I definitely want to be one of the big icons of music and hope to start a movement that will be well-respected from Pittsburgh."

Any kid can say that, and most do at some point, but Khalifa's got the skills, the looks, the confidence, the drive and the charisma for the job.

He's also got mad hook-up: Benjy Grinberg, an Allderdice graduate who spent three years as L.A. Reid's executive assistant -- that's assistant to the CEO -- at Arista Records before leaving in 2003 to do his own thing as the head of Rostrum Records.

Grinberg, 27, hit the New York City fast track after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, where, he says, "I did a bunch of internships, different labels, radio stations, stuff like that. Then, I moved to New York and by being in the right place at the right time found a job as L.A. Reid's executive assistant. Clive Davis had just been let go, and L.A. Reid had been made president of Arista. I stayed with him for three years and during that time, I was basically the gatekeeper. All music kind of went through me to him, and I got more confident in myself and my ear, so to speak."

The first act signed to Rostrum, Nitty, scored a hit in late 2004 with "Nasty Girl," at which point Universal Records signed on to press and distribute the Bronx-based rapper's Rostrum album, "Player's Paradise."

But he's keeping his options open with Khalifa, Rostrum's second signing. Grinberg says he hopes to have Khalifa's record on the streets by early spring, but hasn't settled on a major label to press and distribute it.

"The beauty of my situation," Grinberg says, "is that I can take my records wherever I want. I don't have an exclusive deal with Universal, where I have to give them my records. I obviously have a good relationship with them and I will play them Wiz's stuff. But I feel like he may be more appropriate for other labels. Wiz is a long-term career artist, and if one of his singles happens to not go to No. 1, I don't want a label to lose interest in the project. We're all in this for the long term."

Not that hit singles are out of the question in the short term.

"There are hits," says Grinberg, flashing the smile of a guy who could conquer the world by 30. "That's the thing. It's not necessarily about one song. It's about the full package. But that's not some hidden excuse for 'Oh, we don't have any big records.' We definitely have big records. What I'm saying is it's not necessarily about a single. It's about getting into Wiz as an artist."

And what exactly is it that a kid like Khalifa can bring to the table, artistically speaking, at his age?

Steve Mellon, Post-Gazette
Benjy Grinberg, left, is a 27-year-old Allderdice graduate who was in Pittsburgh recently working with Wiz Khalifa, right, a 17-year-old rapper who's also from Allderdice.
Click photo for larger image.

Grinberg smiles and says, "He's 17 years old with the maturity and lyricism of someone who's been rapping for decades. This isn't just like 'Oh, he's gonna have one hit song and people are gonna love him for a second.' It's the kind of thing where people are gonna love him, not just his music, and want to keep hearing what he has to say, much like a Jay-Z or a Nas, who can be, like, 10 albums, and everyone still wants to hear what they have to say. And he writes every day. This is his outlet. I think he'd probably go crazy if he wasn't writing."

Grinberg says he'd been thinking of looking for someone to sign in what was once his own backyard when a friend from Allderdice, Chad Glick of Strict Flow, turned him onto a kid from Regent Square who'd been recording with his former Strict Flow partner, E, or Eric Dan.

"Here's the thing," says Grinberg. "When I started my label, obviously, I was in New York because getting your start in the music industry, you kind of have to be in either New York or L.A. But it was always my dream to sort of come back to Pittsburgh, my hometown, and find an artist to bring to the rest of the world. I knew there were gonna be some hot artists here. And it just so happens that that was in my mind when Chad hit me with 'You need to hear this kid from Pittsburgh!' And I got really excited. I mean, he goes to the high school I used to go to."

Pittsburgh influence

The road to Rostrum Records started for the North Dakota-born Khalifa at the tender age of 9 or 10. That's when he wrote h - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

"The Hip-Hop Pulse"

The hip-hop pulse
By Josie Roberts
Tuesday, June 28, 2005

In a red-walled recording studio in Lawrenceville last weekend, a group of music producers closed their eyes, drummed their fists on their knees and bounced along to a deep beat. It's the practiced head bob of those in the industry and a sign of approval for the mix blasting through the speakers.
Wiz Khalifa, 17, secured headphones over his cock-eyed Yankees hat, ready to put last-minute touches on the vocal track.

"If you ain't from the City of Steel, your city ain't real," rapped the lanky teenager, whose oversized white T-shirt reached down to his thighs and concealed his Snoop Dogg-like build.

"Wiz is going to be the face of Pittsburgh hip-hop," said Benjy Grinberg, president of Rostrum Records, which signed the Taylor Allderdice High School senior to a recording contract in May.

Khalifa's been recording at I.D. Labs for the past year, and now, with Grinberg, he's whittling down 40 samples to a 15-song album. They hope to wrap this week, when Grinberg will take Khalifa's music back to New York and shop it around to bigger labels.
On Saturday, the group crammed in a back studio around a sound board with one mission: To prove Pittsburgh hip-hop has a pulse.

"The trouble with Pittsburgh is there's nobody to get your music out there," said Chad Glick, a producer at I.D. Labs and Khalifa's manager. "I don't think there was anyone in a position like Benjy before."

Grinberg, a Pittsburgh native and Allderdice graduate, founded Rostrum Records after working for a handful of labels. During his a stint as the assistant to the Arista Records president in New York, he built a large network that gave him the confidence to go out on his own and produce handpicked artists with a special edge.

Khalifa is one of his "diamonds in the rough."

"When I started my company, it was kind of a dream of mine to come back to Pittsburgh and mine the city for artists because I feel like it's been overlooked," Grinberg said.

He heard Khalifa's music and came in town to work with the young rapper. When they were introduced, Grinberg said he was blown away and thinks he has all the elements to make a star.

"It doesn't just take good penmanship. It's the experiences you go through, your tone of voice, your delivery," Grinberg said.

Khalifa moved around the world with his parents, both American soldiers, before landing in Pittsburgh in 1996. The vagabond life of a military brat gave him time to reflect and write, he said, and meant his closest relationships are with family members.

"Everything I've done my whole life has been about music," Khalifa said. "My parents made it so I could work on my talent and make it. I was blessed with a good upbringing and good people around me."

It was his uncle that introduced him to hip-hop and nicknamed him "Wisdom." Khalifa, whose real name is Cameron Thomaz, shortened the name to "Wiz" and borrowed an Arabic word, which means "to succeed," for his last name.

He always has a notebook with him -- in his car, in his pocket -- where he scribbles down lyrics and ideas.

"A lot of people don't know how to express themselves. I'm blessed with the talent to do that," he said.

His mom, Katie "Peachie" Wimbush-Page, often sits in on his sessions, too. She said her son always has been lyrical.

"He's got what it takes to be the next big name in hip-hop," she said, like any other proud mom, except everyone in the room believes her, too. "The first time I saw him perform on stage, I couldn't believe how good he was, how natural he was, and how witty he is at his age.

"But he's always been like that," she added. "I'm happy he's doing something positive and not on the streets like a lot of young men in urban cities."

I.D. Labs has been Khalifa's outlet.

"To me, this is the center of hip-hop in Pittsburgh," studio owner Eric Dan said.

Dan sees 20 to 30 artists come through the Butler Street studio each week and said his "ears perked up" when he heard Khalifa's work.

Pittsburgh's hip-hop scene may be gradually gaining momentum, but there's nothing slow and steady about the beats dropped in this Lawrenceville studio. They're complex, even explosive.

And it's the Steel Town's own sound, Grinberg said.

"It's a particular energy, a vibe," he said. "There are certain intonations in Wiz's voice that are very Pittsburgh. It's not like he's saying 'yinz,' but he calls out Pittsburgh and 412."

Besides his area code pride, he also calls out a lot of expletives ("I had to let it go," his mom said), and jokes about how he'll change the words or scratch the record for the radio version. He's not joking about reaching that level of stardom.

"I want to be an icon," Khalifa said. "I want to inspire people the way people have inspired me with their music."

"And my plans are to keep it Pittsburgh," he said. "I'm not just gonna split."

- Tribune Review

"The City Is Mine"

When forgotten Aftermath signee Sam Sneed is the biggest rapper to represent your city, odds are A&Rs aren't MapQuesting your locale very often. If Pittsburgh advocate Wiz Khalifa's plan succeeds, though, heads will soon recognize. "Really, the mayor should be paying me," says the lanky 19-year old . "MC, born Cameron Thomaz. "It's definitely a slow city music-business wise, but my moves are setting a new example. Young cats see me in magazines and, Damn, I can get off these streets."
Mixing acute social perception with a nimble and at times, rapid-fire delivery, Wiz has started to turn ears towards the 'Burgh. Moving city to city with his Rostrum Records team, the independent hustler has shaken hands with industry bigwigs and earned critical praise for his debut street LP, Show and Prove. "The music speaks for itself," reasons Wiz, who released his album three months after graduating from high school. "I'm proof that hip-hop with substance can still make nosie."
Born in North Dakota to military parents, Wiz traveled the globe before settling into his mother's hometown of Pittsburgh in 2002. Two years prior, the then 13-year old and his father recorded Wordz of Wizdom, a homemade collection of suprisingly mature music. Circulated throughout Oklahoma's mom-and-pop shops, the disc formally began Wiz's career. "I was little, but I wasn't talking about the popcorn garbage that the Bow-Wows of rap were, and still are," he says. "To me, music should have a purpose."
By late 2002, Wiz had signed with Pittsburgh's upstart Rostrum Records andbegan work on Show and Prove. Attacking college radio and MySpace led to his accessible single "Damn Thing" garnering word-of-mouth buzz last year. With his rep steadily rising ever since, Wiz has decided to avoid the majors altogether.
"<ajor label execs have flat out told me how they're looking for hit singles and immediate sales over the best talent and longevity," says Wiz, whose sound has been paralleled to that of both Nas and Bone Thugs. "Now, I know not to compromise myself and service that. I'm building myself independently, and hopefully, the game's prespective will change." Let's hope so. - XXL

"Show and Prove"

How often do you hear an artist for less than a minute and know he’s the one? Better yet, when’s the last time you popped in a CD from an artist you’d never heard of, held no expectations for, and ended up grinning like a fool for the next sixty-nine minutes and twenty-five seconds? No matter how rarely lyricism, delivery, voice, and charisma unite to perfection in an individual, Wiz Khalifa has been blessed, and blesses us with arguably the best hip-hop release of the year.

For those hoping to hear more specifics than praise, this young Pittsburgh native invokes a flood of favorable comparisons. However, he is most like a young Nas, as Khalifa masterfully treads the line between the intellectual underground and street as an exceptional lyricist with a hard image. Like an Elzhi or pre-apathetic Mos Def, he attacks each track with complex multisyllabic rhyming patterns, while never straying an inch from reality. This kind of writing takes effort, and Khalifa’s poetry is startlingly polished, especially for a debut.

Yet it’s hard to be surprised by Khalifa’s maturity, even at age nineteen, when realizing the responsibility he has undertaken. As Pittsburgh’s self-proclaimed “Prince Of The City,” the emcee has accepted the whole 412 on his back, hoping to finally bring some due shine to his overlooked home. But even phenom’s need some help, and Khalifa was fortunate to hook up with his stellar production team who sound like a group of aspiring 9th Wonder’s with more edge.

Though surprisingly coherent, the production is an interesting mix of South-influenced beats and sped-up soul samples. In this way, Khalifa is able to please everyone, with anthemic bangers like “Pittsburgh Sound” and “Damn Thing,” as well as the catchy chipmunk soul of songs like “Keep The Conversation.” One constant throughout the album is its ripe inclusion of horns and strings, adding a classic feel to his fresh sound. Khalifa never wastes his beats, and his earnest confidence shines through on every track.

Although most are yet to hear from Khalifa, his success can hardly be measured by records sales, at least so far. As his earlier mixtape proclaims, Wiz intends to unite a city divided by more than just music. With Show and Prove, Khalifa demonstrates he has the hunger and determination to do just that, and maybe make a name for himself while he’s at it.

Miles Duncan
- Okayplayer.com


(2005) Prince of the City
(2006) Show and Prove
(2007) Grow Season
(2008) Prince of the City 2



Pittsburgh has long been searching for its first major Hip Hop star. Some have flirted with success, while others have floundered in the masses. At the age of 19, Wiz Khalifa has developed into the prodigy that Pittsburgh has been looking for, and he plans to represent his city to the fullest.

Born Cameron Thomaz in North Dakota in 1987 to a mother and father serving in the military, Wiz moved to Pittsburgh at the age of 2. Over the next thirteen years, he would move between Pittsburgh and South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Germany, Japan, and England as his parents were reassigned to different posts. In October of 1990, Wiz was separated from his mother, who left him in the hands of her sister while she served in Operation Desert Storm.

During his travels, Wiz was forced to mature quicker than his peers. He was constantly faced with new surroundings, new schools, and new sets of friends, and he found it difficult to become attached to anyone outside his family roots. This nomadic life gave Wiz an opportunity to broaden his mind and offered him many experiences from which to draw inspiration. He began to perceive the world differently than most kids, and he would write his thoughts down every day. These thoughts would become the foundation for his future recordings.

By the age of 14, with a few songs under his belt, Wiz was already drawing comparisons with his commanding voice and witty wordplay. While he has been influenced by artists such as Jay-Z, Snoop, Cam’ron, and the Notorious B.I.G., Wiz was determined to create his own identity that would, one day, be loved and revered by fans.

Ready to take the next step, Wiz began his search for a new recording studio. He found ID LABS, where owner Eric Dan immediately recognized Wiz’s talents. Along with Chad Glick of ID Labs Management, they began to network Wiz to another Pittsburgh native, Benjy Grinberg of Rostrum Records. Benjy realized the raw talent that Wiz possessed, and immediately brought him into the Rostrum family.

Soon after, Wiz Khalifa began his ascent into the local and national music scenes. He has been hailed by AllHiphop.com as “the truth” and was honored by the site as one of “2006’s Top New Artists.” Rolling Stone magazine covered Wiz in their prestigious “Breaking” section in December 2006 as the “New Artist To Watch.” XXL’s March 2007 issue highlighted Wiz as a featured “Show and Prove” artist. Mass Appeal magazine had Wiz as the lead artist for their 2007’s “Next of Kin”. He has been praised by VIBE magazine as “an East Coast star in the waiting.” Okayplayer.com says, “Greatness only comes once in a while,” and labeled Wiz’s Show and Prove album as “arguably the best hip hop release of 2006.”

Now with a hit debut mix tape, “Prince Of The City,” and critically acclaimed debut album “Show and Prove” that sold tens of thousands independently nationwide, Wiz Khalifa is ready to take over the rap game as Warner Bros. Records new superstar. People usually struggle their whole lives trying to figure out how they can make their mark on this world, but Wiz has known his calling for years and is creating his future with just a pen and a pad.