Pittsburgh native Wiz Khalifa holds to his hometown roots
Despite his ultra-laidback reputation, Wiz Khalifa tries to keep his hometown's fabled blue-collar work ethic in mind, even as he gets used to flying first class.
His new album “O.N.I.F.C.,” which dropped on Dec. 4, is a celebration of excess. Conspicuous consumption — whether drinking, smoking, buying, riding or flying — is basically the whole point.
But he still manages to homage to his steel-town roots in “Work Hard, Play Hard”: “The quicker you're here/the faster you go/That's why where I come from, the only thing we know is/Work hard, play hard/Work hard, play hard…”
Lyrically, it's a slight departure from his well-established persona — that super-chill, but big-talking stoner kid from school who's always ready to party — to a larger-than-life rap star's plus-size swagger.
“I try to take people and give them new experiences, go through stuff that I know, words that I use, and how I see things, and how I see people,” Khalifa says.
The album is packed with A-list guests like 2 Chainz, Akon, Pharrell, Cam'ron, and The Weeknd. Longtime Pittsburgh collaborator Chevy Woods also gets a guest spot.
“On ‘Rolling Papers' (his previous CD), I tried a lot of different things that other people weren't doing that I agreed with, you know what I'm saying. It was worth trying and having some fun with,” Khalifa says.
“But this album is more or less just the biggest step forward, and I feel like it's the best thing in terms for me creatively, as far as singles, as far as visuals, as far as artwork. The whole project is just going to be really consistent with my vision of what a sophomore album should be.”
Wednesday night, Khalifa will be headlining at Consol Energy Center.
“I've got a band, a live band,” he says. “We really turn up the experience. What you hear on CD is one thing. At the show, it really comes alive.
“It's going to be awesome,” he says. “There are going to be screens. There are going to be lights. It's going to be real interactive for the fans.”
Even though album sales really aren't the massive money-maker that they once were, they still provide a recording artist's primary momentum.
“Without albums, there's no reason to tour,” Khalifa says. “It's all about balancing that and doing both.”
The wiry young rapper, whose skin now seems to be almost entirely tattooed, still lives in the Pittsburgh area, at least part time. He recently bought a house in a forested, secluded area in Canonsburg, which he shares with his fiancé, Amber Rose. She's currently expecting their first child.
“It makes me more focused,” says Wiz, of his impending fatherhood. “I'm really excited.”
The video for “Work Hard, Play Hard,” the first single off “O.N.I.F.C.,” was shot in and around the rusted hulk of the Carrie Furnace steel mill in Rankin. It features images of hard hats, dive bars and salt-of-the-earth working people instead of a typical high-living rapper's entourage.
“Yeah, I love Pittsburgh,” Khalifa says. “Anytime I need to get away and be a regular person, I come back home and chill out.”
Still, he realizes the days of blending into the crowd and going wherever he wants around town are pretty much over.
“I usually stay at the house,” he says. “It's hard to go outside. People get excited.”
“It's not a bad thing. At the end of the day, that's what I signed up for.”
Freelance writer Alan Sculley contributed this report. Michael Machosky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7901.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Bluegrass jam sessions bring out all types of musicians, fans
- Pittsburgh Symphony performance gives new meaning to ‘comedy classic(al)’
- North Hills native survives another week on ‘The Voice’
- ‘Sci-Fi Spectacular’ from Pittsburgh Symphony Pops goes where few Pops have gone before
- James Taylor coming to Consol on Nov. 29
- DVD reviews: ‘The Giver,’ ‘The Expendables 3’ and ‘What If’
- The Who bringing ‘final’ tour to Consol Energy Center