Label: Taylor Gang/Rostrum/Atlantic
From: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Active Since: 2005
Latest Release: Live In Concert
Recent Single: "Remember You" f/ The Weeknd
Never underestimate how far charisma can take you. After an initial deal with Warner Bros. fell through, Pittsburgh’s Wiz Khalifa got on his grind and released the independent album Deal or No Deal before breaking through in 2010 with the Kush & Orange Juice mixtape. The massive success of the “Black and Yellow” single led to a deal with Atlantic Records, and he dropped his major label debut Rolling Papers the following March. It sold well, but alienated some longtime fans, who felt that their pothead hero had gone pop.
Wiz responded the best (the only, really) way a rapper should: making better music. Last year, his Taylor Allderdice mixtape achieved a satisfying balance between the loose stoner charm that aided his rise and his slicker, more crafted commercial success. He capped off 2012 by releasing his O.N.I.F.C. album (that with the fantastically Hendrixian cover) and having the Pittsburgh City Council declare December 12th "Wiz Khalifa Day." (That's some boss shit; don't even front.)
Still, O.N.I.F.C. lacked the cohesion of Taylor Allerdice, and the critics' arrows came out again. Wiz is obviously talented, but you get the feeling that he has yet to make the album he really wants to make.—Julian Kimble