Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto said he expected controversy by honoring Pittsburgh-based rapper Wiz Khalifa, who is known for smoking marijuana and referencing its use in song lyrics.
But Peduto felt that Khalifa's unabashed promotion of Pittsburgh outweighed any negatives. Khalifa's hit song “Black and Yellow,” released on his debut album “Rolling Papers,” pays homage to Pittsburgh's unofficial colors, black and gold.
“I think to a generation of Pittsburghers, he speaks to them,” Peduto said. “He speaks highly of Pittsburgh as he travels the world. I think anyone who gets to the top of their career, and he has, deserves recognition.”
In a ceremony Tuesday morning, council declared Dec. 12 “Wiz Khalifa Day” and bestowed the Grammy-nominated rapper with a proclamation recognizing the distinction. Khalifa, 25, appeared before council with his fiancee, model Amber Rose, and mother, Peachie Wimbush of Canonsburg, wearing a black leather motorcycle jacket and black baseball cap with the word “Dope” written across the front.
“It means a lot to me, being a kid in Pittsburgh and riding buses, and going to school and just loving Pittsburgh so much,” said Khalifa, who performs Wednesday night at Consol Energy Center. “I appreciate everybody in Pittsburgh.”
Khalifa said the cap was from the Dope Couture clothing line, explaining that the word dope was not a drug connotation, but a slang expression for “cool.”
His criminal background, however, includes two drug arrests, in 2010 in North Carolina and in April in Tennessee. The first charge was later dropped. He brags in an online video that “I might spend like 10 grand a month on weed, easily.”
The president of the Fraternal Order of Police Fort Pitt Lodge No. 1 said the proclamation is misguided.
“This guy promotes drugs and that gangster lifestyle, and we're going to honor him?” said Sgt. Mike LaPorte. “It's bewildering.”
Several council members declined comment, as did Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office.
“He's an accomplished artist and he's from Pittsburgh,” said Councilman Corey O'Connor. He and Councilman Bruce Kraus did not join in a photo with Khalifa. O'Connor said he left the room because he was choking on a cough drop.
Khalifa has said though he smokes marijuana, he does not advocate for its use among others in his music or in public statements.
Born Cameron Jabril Thomaz in North Dakota, Khalifa moved to Pittsburgh in 1996 and attended Regent Square Elementary School, Reizenstein Middle School, Rooney Middle School and graduated in 2006 from Allderdice High School in Squirrel Hill.
His 2010 concert tour was named the “Waken Baken Tour,” a reference to waking up in the morning and smoking pot.
Council's recognition drew praise from a pair of 20-year-old Pittsburghers and Khalifa fans.
“I think it's important because he's from Pittsburgh and he raps Pittsburgh,” said Tyra Anderson of Bloomfield. “He put Pittsburgh on the map.”
Anthony Sroka of the South Side called Khalifa “the strongest weed advocate America has.”
“It's great he's getting a day,” Sroka said. “I just think it's funny. If it's Wiz Khalifa Day, does that mean everybody can smoke weed in the streets?”
Bob Bauder is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-765-2312 or email@example.com.