Wiz Khalifa enjoys the magic of a trip back home
For planet-spanning rapper Wiz Khalifa, all roads still lead to Pittsburgh.
While he may actually be living the impossibly luxurious life of jet-setting hip-hop royalty, the Steel City still exerts a powerful magnetic pull on the 23-year-old Allerdice High School grad. Though he's mostly in L.A. or on the road nowadays, his family, friends, favorite recording studio, producers and record label all reside in Pittsburgh.
Plus, the Trib Total Media Amphitheatre is the last stop on his current tour, this Saturday night.
"Yeah, I actually had the day off in Pittsburgh yesterday, so I went to the studio (ID Labs, Lawrenceville) for about 45 minutes," says Wiz, whose real name is Cameron Jibril Thomaz. "But I can never go and sit down and record and chill (anymore)."
Ah, the perils of fame and fortune. Aside from Sidney Crosby and a few select Steelers, there aren't too many stars who are bigger around here at the moment. So, chilling in public -- or anywhere you can be found -- is mostly out of the question for the easily recognizable rapper.
"That's not annoying," Wiz says. "It comes with the territory."
Fame and fortune can be fleeting, as uncountable penniless ex-pop stars can tell you. Wiz, for his part, seems to get this. Though his lyrics are typically the exact opposite of humble, he seems to have a healthy perspective about the whole thing.
"I'm really just surprised people like me as much as they do," Wiz says. "I turn on the radio and I hear me all the time, or I hear other rappers say my name in positive ways, turning my name into punchlines (in hip-hop terminology, this can be a good thing), and things like that. That's kind of awesome.
"I just want to keep shocking people and keep entertaining people. The thing about having buzz and being hyped up, is that it always dies down. But you can re-spark that with new and innovative (stuff). I just try to stay creative, keep my mind on my goals, and try and do new things."
Though he has that super-laidback image, Wiz is known for putting in the hard work, going back to his days as a teenager, learning the craft from Eric "E" Dan at ID Labs Studios in Lawrenceville.
"That's where I started my career," Wiz says. "Me and E. Dan really sat down and pioneered this whole sound. I always tell people I feel spoiled by being able to work there. Because everything coming out of there is so clean, and is so good quality. It's been like that since day one. I think that's one of the main things -- it just gives you a good sound to work off of and flourish, and be the best you can be.
"E. Dan is just about music. He's not just a producer or engineer -- he plays all the live instruments in the studio, piano, guitar. Just being around all that musicality pushed me to be more than just a rapper."
Although he's worked with some of the biggest names in hip-hop, the Pittsburgh/ID Labs crew is still up there.
"Curren$y, that's my homey from New Orleans," says Wiz, ticking off his favorite collaborators. "I love working with Snoop. E and Jerm (of ID Labs), of course, are my all-time favorites. StarGate -- they're who produced 'Black and Yellow' -- they're really good to work with. (I like) everybody I get into the studio with -- if I didn't, it wouldn't happen."
That Wiz would rather spend time in a recording studio on a rare day off than do just about anything else ought to indicate how much he enjoys doing this. Now, even his tour bus has been turned into a recording studio, so he can make music while on the road.
"I've just got to keep doing what I've been doing -- the same methods of hard work and priding myself in getting to the next level, and not just being comfortable, getting stagnant," Wiz says.
Coming back to your hometown after conquering the charts is a hard experience to top. This tour, in particular, has been incredible, he says.
"Every stop on the tour has been sold out," he says. "The Maryland show, which was like 16,000 people, and the San Francisco show was really good. Just going everywhere and being able to experience all the different crowds has been cool."Additional Information:
With: Big Sean, Chevy Woods, DJ Bonics
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Admission: $35-$40. Sold out.
Where: Trib Total Media Amphitheatre, Station Square