Although “Black and Yellow” is technically a tribute to the Pittsburgh Steelers, hip-hop fans didn’t need any football allegiances to knock their heads to Wiz Khalifa’s colorful 2010 anthem. The Stargate-produced single, which entered the Billboard Hot 100’s top 10 in its 12th week in December, has catapulted the 23-year-old Pittsburgh rapper from mixtape-slinging marijuana enthusiast to the wunderkind behind one of spring’s most anticipated releases.
“I’ve done what I’ve done on the underground level, then crossing over to the mainstream and having a little bit of success there, and I’m still growing,” says the rapper, born Cameron Jibril Thomaz. “It’s the perfect time to drop the album and make a perfect impression on the people, so we can have a good year like everyone wants us to.”
Khalifa continued issuing mixtapes (“Burn After Rolling,” “Kush & OJ”) after being released from Warner Bros. Records in 2009. He found a new home at Atlantic early last year, and soon after declined an opening slot on Drake’s tour in order to stage his own 50-city Waken Baken trek, which resulted in sales of 90,000 tickets for 63 shows, according to booking agent Peter Schwartz.
“He puts a lot of care and attention into his live shows, and at this point he’s a seasoned veteran,” says Benjy Grinberg, Khalifa’s manager and president of Rostrum Records. “Wiz loves being on the road and has built this cult following through that.”
Before Khalifa can return to the road in mid-June for an extensive summer tour, he’s perfecting his debut, which he says will feature memorable guest appearances and “a variety of styles.” “Roll Up,” Khalifa’s follow-up single to “Black and Yellow,” will be released in early February, and the album will feature production from Jim Jonsin and Pharrell Williams, among others.
While Grinberg says that Khalifa crafted his debut to establish himself as an album artist, the rapper promises that “Black and Yellow” wasn’t a red herring. “Everything we drop after ‘Black and Yellow’ is going to do as well or better,” Khalifa says. ” ‘Black and Yellow’ was just supposed to be a setup record. We haven’t even gotten into the good stuff.”
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