Wiz Khalifa gears up for hometown finish to tour
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"I never stop grinding," Wiz Khalifa said Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before his gig in Indianapolis.
The Pittsburgh rapper seems to have been on the road almost constantly since spring 2010. On Saturday, he wraps up the 40-plus city "Rolling Papers" U.S. tour with a hometown show at the Trib Amphitheater.
"It's always fun to play in front of the home crowd," he said.
The shows that stuck out for him on this tour were a June date in San Francisco that sold out the 8,500-capacity Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, and a July 24 show that drew 15,000 fans to the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md., where Mac Miller, Big K.R.I.T and Curren$y were surprise guests.
Before that, he did a European run, where he said, in terms of the crowd reaction, "it was pretty much exactly the same, which was crazy, because a lot of those countries don't speak English."
Much loved for years in the rap community for his mixtapes and indie albums, Khalifa saw his popularity soar last fall with "Black and Yellow," which went to the top of the singles charts in February. "Roll Up," the second single from his Atlantic Records debut, "Rolling Papers," showed that wasn't a fluke, going to No. 13 on the charts and earning a gold certification.
The next step in the campaign is the video for the third single, "No Sleep," directed by Colin Tilley, whose credits include videos for Chris Brown, Justin Bieber and Lil Wayne.
"His vision and the way he does stuff is pretty tight, so it's just us coming together and making the whole thing happen," Khalifa said. "The look and performance is real big and rock star-ish."
Already this year, Khalifa has won the mtvU Woodie of the Year for Best Artist and the BET award for Best New Artist. He's nominated now in the Best New Artist at the MTV Video Music Awards for the "Black and Yellow" video he made before all this fame blew up. Despite it being a homegrown product, directed by Pittsburgh-based Bill Paladino, he's not surprised by its impact.
"I just really wanted it to be that classic video. It's my first one, so I just wanted it to be that one that follows me for the rest of my career. Down the line when people play back the best songs of 2010 or the best songs of my career, they're gonna play that just like they played Snoop's 'Gin and Juice' and stuff like that, so I just wanted it to be my video like that."
Among those standing in the way of his VMA is fellow nominee Tyler, The Creator of cutting-edge rap crew Odd Future, who stated recently that "if I lose to any of those wack--- videos, I'm gonna be mad because they all [stink] -- except for Adele's."
Asked about that comment, Khalifa was his usual chill self.
"I think it's kind of cool that he says his mind and tells what he feels. Tyler's a really smart dude, and as far as videos go, I feel like they got that a lot. I feel like he's able to talk as much [stuff] as he wants. His video is super tight."
Before he gets to the VMAs on Aug. 28, Khalifa will be back overseas for shows in Oslo, Hamburg, Copenhagen and Edinburgh, among others. Then he's going back to LA to finish up some work on the "High School" movie with Snoop Dogg and "put together the new plan." He said it's not too early to start thinking about the follow-up to "Rolling Papers" but hasn't "keyed anyone in on it."
When he's in Pittsburgh this weekend, don't be surprised if you only see him at the Station Square gig.
"I really just like to chill out with my dog at home," he said, noting that it's a female pit bull. "I go to the studio all the time, so definitely the studio, but I can't really go outside places anymore so I might just be chilling."