North Coast Music Festival 2011, Friday: Wiz Khalifa
Riding the success of several well-regarded mixtapes and hit singles, Wiz Khalifa breezed through his set Friday night with bravado to spare. Tattoos covering his lean frame, the 24-year-old Pittsburgh rapper commandeered the stage and didn’t look back. Khalifa not only rapped fluently, but also displayed the most flamboyant stage antics of any act Friday night. Decked out in a throwback Chicago Bulls cap and sagging jeans, he straddled and humped the mic stand, flicked his tongue, and occasionally threatened to drop his pants.
Lyrically, Khalifa quickly established the theme of the evening, extolling the virtues of weed, girls who like to smoke weed, money (which can be used to buy weed) and so forth. The rapper, who has been recording since he was 12, displayed the exuberance and charisma that has helped him catapult into mainstream success. That drive, or “trying to keep my pockets Schwarzenegger,” as he describes it, has landed him a major label record deal and a spot closing out the Red Bull stage Friday night at North Coast.
Khalifa took time to share some of the spotlight with his All Taylor Crew. When not rhyming, Khalifa jumped around the stage and spun on his toes. His energy and flow were infectious, even when the narrow focus of his chosen subject matter threatened to become tiresome. A welcome reprieve came when he took a break from rapping about marijuana and making money to briefly talk about jet skis.
The set built toward Khalifa’s chart toppers. “You know this one,” he bragged before launching into “Roll Up” off Rolling Papers, released by Atlantic records earlier this year. The song features a sickly sweet chorus and softie lyrics like “If you’ll be my best friend, then I’ll be your homey.” Next came “On My Level,” a club banger with a seductive synth line and various assurances that Khalifa is operating on a higher plane than you or I am. Saved for the very end, however, was Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.” The song, an ode to the Pittsburgh Steelers, has been seared into the collective consciousness and has spawned countless parodies and imitations. It played like of a victory lap, an anthem on the verge of outstaying its welcome, but by that point, Khalifa had earned the right to coast to the finish line.