It’s only natural that an artist’s music evolves over the course of his career, but Cameron Jibril Thomaz -better known as Wiz Khalifa- has gone through a drastic transformation. Since his 2006 release of his debut album Show and Prove, Khalifa introduced himself as a gritty Pittsburgh rapper ready to claim the throne. Today, Wiz sits comfortably at the top with his first number one album, Blacc Hollywood. Listening to a 19-year-old kid from the streets of “Pistolvania,” Khalifa’s voice is almost unrecognizable as today’s light hearted rapper and lover of Ms. Mary Jane. To understand his evolution, we must start from the beginning in a track-by-track comparison of Wiz then and now.
Show And Prove (2006)
Crucial Line: “As I look back at it hard as it seems/I remember when this music thing was all but a dream/But I’m here for my city/And can’t name no one that’s near f-cking with me/I’m ’bout to make history.”
Show and Prove’s intro illustrates Wiz’s vulnerability at the time. He was confident but still naive concerning the industry, making grandiose claims that he would have to back up. After all, the time period from a first album to a second album is when most rappers fall off. With only a buzz brewing in his home city of Pittsburgh, Wiz introduced himself to the world and you could clearly hear the hunger fueling each verse on the album.
Deal Or No Deal (2009)
Crucial Line: “Don’t know what they hate for/I’m just gettin my paper/Well, maybe they’ll love me more when I’m gone/I don’t wanna leave, but I need to, it’s such a shame/They gon’ miss this plane.”
“This Plane” was a glimpse of the party-centric Wiz we would hear in the future. The 22-year-old had his foot in the door and was moving full speed ahead with his career. But with new found fame comes enemies and the scary leap into the unknown. The upbeat production and cool confidence in his lyrics would foreshadow his ability to stay afloat in the game.
Flight School (2009)
Crucial Line: “You’ve reached a new phase/They got you lookin’ at tomorrow like a new state and not a new day/To some it may seem wrong/But f-ck it, cause I’m good weed puffin’ and my whole team stuntin’ Boy wassup.”
Far from aggressive raps of gang violence but too premature to say he made it with complete candor, Wiz’s “Wassup” was him fantasizing about a simpler time. He always had a love for some good weed but soon, fans would recognize Wiz as rap’s resident pothead of his generation.
Kush & OJ (2010)
“Waken Baken” has a slow chopped and screwed inspired beat that will elevate your high. At this point, Wiz and weed have created a strong bond in his music that has only grown stronger over the years. With barely any lyrics, “Waken Baken” is more of an interlude so fans could roll one up while they finish listening to the rest of the tape.
Rolling Papers (2011)
Crucial Line: “Stay high like how I’m supposed to do/That crowd underneath them clouds can’t get close to you/And my car look unapproachable/Super clean but it’s super mean.”
“Black and Yellow” certified Wiz Khalifa as one of Pittsburgh’s greatest success stories. From the slums to carrying his whole entire city on his back, Wiz had a number one song on the Billboard 100. At this point, he embodied the Hollywood lifestyle which would lead to his next album O.N.I.F.C. aka “Only N—– In First Class.”
Crucial Line: “Hop your pretty ass up in this f-cking car/B-tch I’m out this world, girl you know I’m a star/Used to buying rounds but now we buy the bar/Last year they had to ask now they know who we are.”
While “Work Hard, Play Hard” was another monster hit for Wiz, O.N.I.F.C. was not received as well as previous albums. The songs sounded hollow in comparison to his earlier hungry days. He sounds jaded from partying, smoking and feeling the negative affects of being a celebrity. His next album would be a true test to prove his stability and focus on the quality of his music.
Blacc Hollywood (2014)
Blacc Hollywood has made history as Wiz’s first number one album ever. The club banger “We Dem Boyz” claimed it’s spot as song of the summer but it’s songs like “Promises” that shook up his regular turn up plus good weed formula for songs. It’s clear to see the journey of a young artist who has built his career from the ground up, work so hard to try and preserve his authenticity but also embrace change in the ever-changing music industry.
On August 28, Wiz held a sneaker launch at Footaction in New York City for his second collaboration with Converse called the “Chuck Taylor All Star Ill Collection” by Wiz Khalifa. Hundreds of fans lined up in the street waiting for their idol to arrive. When asked what and who is “Blacc Hollywood”, Wiz lifted his arm and pointed out at the crowd, “Blacc Hollywood is all of these kids right here.” Wiz continued on to say, “I just want to keep inspiring people who come from nothing to do big things.”
With a brand new number one album along with a new shoe line and more projects on the way, it would be interesting to hear what a young Wiz Khalifa from the Show and Prove era would say about all of his success. But Wiz had an idea. “He’s a happy guy and he’s the same dude sitting here right now. Well he’s got dreads now,” Wiz laughed. The road to Blacc Hollywood was paved with killer confidence, ambition, good music and weed but the future is now and we expect a lot more from the skinny kid from the burg who could really spit. With a diehard fan base and one rolled up, Wiz will continue to conquer.
[Photo Credit: Rostrum Records & Atlantic Records]