Wiz Khalifa w/Big Sean, Chevy Woods
Monday, July 25
Better than: Hanging out with your parents.
In September 2008, Wiz Khalifa stood onstage in front of less than ten people on the Bowery, the whole of Crash Mansion abandoned after performances by Mickey Factz and Charles Hamilton. Three years and two record labels later, the tables could not have been turned harder; he performed last night for a crowd of three thousand on Central Park’s Summerstage. The night before, he was in Columbia, Maryland, filling a 16,000-capacity amphitheater. Has there ever been a stoner who worked this hard?
Wiz Khalifa’s jet-driven rise to the top is largely the result of a constant mixtape and blog presence, with tour dates sold out for three years straight. He’s found contemporaries in Curren$y and Big Sean—they’re even forming a supergroup—and has created a spot firmly in Snoop’s footprint. More than the others, though, he appeals to suburban girls and their pot-smoking boyfriends, his music welcome on pop radio and at frat parties alike. It doesn’t hurt that “Black and Yellow” got placement as the song of the Super Bowl, due to luck of the Steelers’ draw as well as a perfectly meme-ready hook that was reworked by everyone from Lil’ Wayne to Chet Haze to thousands of Soundcloud amateurs. He writes love songs about girls and love songs about weed, and if it’s easy to write him off as a one-point-five trick pony, the horse is pulling a hell of a bandwagon. Taylor Gang exists as his fan club, clothes all bumblebee everything, with a devotion that rivals the Beliebers.
And then, aside from the music and lifestyle choices, Wiz’s relationship has become a gossip go-to for the ConcreteLoop set, with he and his girlfriend acting as quote machines and photo printers. His arm-piece Amber Rose, a beauty with a mouth, is now fully part of both the carnival that is his life and his stage set. (During “Roll Up” at each tour stop, Amber usually comes out to be tongued down; in New York, she simply danced for the cameras, not unreluctant.)
Wiz’s best quality, obviously, is that he knows how to put on a show. He’s got knees of Jell-O, and moves as if battling an earthquake. He stands onstage like George Clooney in The Perfect Storm, his skinny body billowing and waving and collapsing until he grabs onto the microphone stand at the last second, pulling himself up to be steadied for a second. And then his body’s back to moving like cosine waves, until he can take a moment’s break.
Every song that Wiz performs makes for a high point (come on, it was inevitable) but “The Thrill” was a highlight, a kumbaya sing-a-long among the trees and clouds. When “Taylor Gang” ratcheted through the speakers, Lex Luger’s one beat came alive as Wiz careened like a locomotive with its breaks cut.
Still, while much of his crowd means it when they say “Taylor Gang or Die”—as they so often do—one can’t expect teenagers to pay attention for long periods of time. (Especially not when they’re huddled in groups all wearing tee-shirts emblazoned with “Weed Squad,” or that reappropriate the adidas logo into a marijuana leaf.) At one point, Chevy Woods, Wiz’s hypeman and opening act, asked everyone to clap their hands to the beat, which was a bit like shouting into the wind. There were ways to pull interest, though: several times throughout the night it was yelled from onstage, “If you’re smoking that good weed, make some motherfucking noise!” Yells went up, though not nearly as loud as expected. The high school sophomores near me were too busy lighting up, standing on fake grass rolled out by the New York City Parks Department.
Critical bias: I was not smoking that good weed, but I made some motherfucking noise.
Overheard: “I made a lot of good friends on my way to the top. And I smoked a lot of good weed.”—Wiz Khalifa, summing up Wiz Khalifa in two sentences.
Random notebook dump: It’s sort-of amazing to watch thousands of kids all smoke at the same time, blowing their highs toward the stage. It looked pretty, like something you’d see in National Geographic; a fog around the rim of a volcano. (If there were any woodland creatures nearby, last night they were cured of their glaucoma.) Security was very strict when it came to enforcing where people could stand, if not Rockefeller laws. This little spot within Central Park acted like a lawless base for cops looking to play tag.
When I’m Gone
Gang Bang (with Big Sean)
B.A.R. (Burn After Rolling)
In Tha Cut
Racks on Racks (Remix)
On My Level
Black and Yellow
Ink My Whole Body