Summer of Wiz 

click to enlarge Wiz Khalifa - MIKO KIM
  • Wiz Khalifa
  • Miko Kim

Since he released his last album, O.N.I.F.C., Wiz Khalifa has had a major change in his home life. He's a new dad. Khalifa and his wife, model Amber Rose, had a son, Sebastian in February 2013.

As an artist that says he tries to make music that reflects his life, it's not surprising that Khalifa feels fatherhood has affected his creativity and his music.

"All of my music comes from just living and life, and as long as I'm feeling happy and creative and [having] fun in my life, I'm able to make that kind of music," Khalifa said in a mid-July phone interview. "So having a son, I've been able to experience things with him, whether it be like singing all day or laughing and being silly and just joking and stuff like that, whereas before, my life might have been a little bit more serious during those times. Just being a happier individual, just having him to take me away, it takes my mind away from everything, and then I can go back to it, that's really what's different and helped me have a different approach."

Judging by his output, Khalifa has certainly seemed inspired over the last year and a half. In May he released his latest in a long line of mixtapes, 28 Grams, which was far more substantial than the usual such project, checking in with a whopping 28 tracks.

Meanwhile, Blacc Hollywood, the studio album Khalifa originally talked of releasing before the end of 2013, but ended up being shelved – a move that opened a window to release 28 Grams – is now set for release on Aug. 19. Khalifa feels Blacc Hollywood represents his best work yet.

"I was able to work more hands-on with this one, sort of the way I am with my mixtapes, where we strive for the best and we really don't settle or accept anything other than the best," Khalifa said. "I was able to fully paint a vision and put all of the pieces together instead of just putting out something for the sake of putting it out, which I never really like to do anyway."

Khalifa didn't get specific in describing how Blacc Hollywood compares to his other albums musically or lyrically (he described the overall theme as being "just about the youth and about strength in numbers"). But he's confident fans will recognize that how inspired he was in creating his new music.

"I think the unique thing about all of my other projects was the mind states that I was in at that time and what I was trying to get those out to the world, and just how important that message really was to me at that time," Khalifa said. "The thing about Blacc Hollywood is everything I'm talking about has been very important to me right now. I'm really passionate about it, and you can just feel the passion through the music. You can see it through the artwork, you can see it in the visuals and the videos and things like that.

"I just tried to capture these individual moments that I planned out in my head," he said. "Like they were key moments and key expressions that I wanted to capture and make the biggest songs out of that. That's what I was able to do on Blacc Hollywood."

If Blacc Hollywood is as good as Khalifa seems to think it is, it figures to be one of the biggest hip-hop albums of 2014. This is an artist, after all, who took the fast track to stardom.

Born Cameron Jibril Thomaz in 1987, the Pittsburgh-based rapper released his first album Show and Prove, in 2006 on the indie label Rostrum Records.

This paved the way for him to sign with Warner Bros. Records, a deal which produced a single "Say Yeah," that hit number 20 on Billboard Magazine's Hot Rap Tracks chart. But a full-length album was never released and after leaving Warner Bros. in July 2009, Khalifa returned to Rostrum Records.

There, he collaborated with New Orleans rapper Curren$y on a 2009 mixtape, How Fly, followed by his own mixtape, Burn After Rolling, in November and then his second CD, Deal or No Deal, later that same month. He was quickly signed by Atlantic Records. This set the stage for a career liftoff that came with the fall 2010 release of the single, "Black and Yellow," which topped the Billboard all-genre Hot 100 singles chart and greased the wheels for the release in March 2011 of Rolling Papers.

That album became a major success, selling about 800,000 copies and making the rapper, (who as one might guess from that 2011 album's title, makes no secret of his fondness for weed and a good time), one of the major new names in hip-hop. His second album, O.N.I.F.C., arrived in December 2012. The second album didn't match the success of Rolling Papers, but it did produce a Top 20 single in "Work Hard, Play Hard."

Judging from the party-starting pair of tracks Khalifa has released ahead of the Blacc Hollywood album, it looks to be another festive affair. Those songs, "We Dem Boyz" (which went top 5 on Billboard's Hot Rap Songs chart) and "KK" (a track which features guest vocals from Project Pat and Juicy J) both celebrate the joys of his favorite drug, with the latter song giving its props to attractive women, to friends and to the benefits of living large.

Other song titles from Blacc Hollywood, such as "Stayin' Out All Night," "Ass Drop," and "So High," hardly sound like the stuff of dark introspection or serious social commentary. Aside from the two singles, Khalifa has a few other favorites among the 13 tracks on the new album.

"Well, 'Stayin' Out All Night' is one of them," he said. "'House In The Hills' with Curren$y is another one. 'Ass Drop' is another one. I really like that song. 'True Colors' with Nicki Minaj. It's a really standout one."

Khalifa figures to include at least a couple of Blacc Hollywood tracks in his shows on this summer's Under the Influence of Music tour. But that won't necessarily be the focus of his set.

"I'm pretty much just going to be performing hits and stuff people know, as well as [fitting] in some fun stuff that just makes sense for the time," he said. "I really just want to try and be relevant. I had the album O.N.I.F.C. that came out last year, and I haven't had the chance to perform those songs live), as well as some new material. So it's just going to be a lot of fun."

This is the third straight year Khalifa has taken the "Under the Influence: tour on the road, and once again, it boasts a strong lineup that also features Young Jeezy, Tyga, Ty Dolla $ign, Mack Wilds, Iamsu!, Sage The Gemini, DJ Drama and Rich Homie Quan.

Khalifa, who is very involved in selecting the acts for the tour, thinks this year's edition will deliver what the fans want.

"A lot of the artists have really big music and songs on the radio and fan bases that as soon as [audiences] hear those songs, they're going to be happy," Khalifa said. "That's the idea, just to make people happy and make people excited."



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