Wiz Khalifa‘s Rolling Papers Record Release Party
Roseland Ballroom, New York, NY
March 29, 2011
Aural Highlight: Set closer “Black and Yellow”; the most energetic Khalifa gets all night.
Visual Highlight: Wiz’s 20-person on-stage entourage during “Black and Yellow.”
Obligatory Viral Moment: The catatonic drunk girl trying to get past security by having her friend secretly hold her upright by the back of her shirt, ventriloquist-style. Both were kicked out.
Best Show Ever Index: 90%. When you’re 17 — the average age of tonight’s crowd — every show is the best you’ve ever seen.
“Y’all ready to get high with Wiz?” DJ Bonics ask the sold-out crowd at New York’s 3,500-capacity Roseland Ballroom before introducing the man of the evening. Wiz Khalifa is a lot of things but subtle is not one of them. For the unaware, Khalifa likes to get high so much, he mentions this between nearly every song, alternating between declaration (“We like to get high and fucked up”) and interrogation (“How many y’all are high right now?”) For Khalifa, weed has become his brand identity if you will, and the pace of tonight’s laid-back show was more green than black and yellow.
A majority of Khalifa’s 70-minute set drew heavily on Rolling Papers and last year’s acclaimed Kush & Orange Juice mixtape, eschewing special guests (though Jay-Z and Snoop Dogg were both backstage watching, presumably, for their own self-interests: Snoop for his weed-love, Jay for his brand-love). The “Taylor Gang,” the rapper’s devoted fanbase, came out in droves, choosing lighters over cell phones as the light of choice to hold up to Wiz. But really, it’s just harder to light a joint with a phone, so the antiquated choice makes sense.
Taylor Gang-newbies certainly showed up to hear “Black & Yellow,” but aside from numerous weed talk, Wiz demonstrated that’s he’s a multi-faceted guy; that we don’t have to pigeon-hole him into just two colors. Midway through his set, he paused for a brief tribute to Nate Dogg, while indulging his inner Usher, crooning the hooks to “Top Floor” and “Wake Up,” seducing the crowd with “Up” and generally mimicking the languid, leisurely pace of the best weed highs. And like most weed sessions, the tempo slowed down as the show progressed. Maybe this was some intentional metaphor and Wiz Khalifa’s life is just a mere imitation of his art. More likely, he was just flexing his singing style, an underappreciated muscle that puts him more in line with the drug-filled sing-rap haze of Devin the Dude than any of his contemporaries.
Maybe it’s not what the crowd expected – certainly not the casual fans anticipating a set’s worth of energetic “Black and Yellow”s – but Wiz Khalifa’s success lies in his ability to quickly morph into a hip-hop, R&B or pop star without treading in genre-hopping disingenuousness. When the rapper gets teary-eyed discussing his years-long attempt at recognition – he released his first mixtape in 2005 – it’s one of the more honest moments of the night. Or, if we must, one of the high points of Wiz’s performance style involves those times he’s coming off sappy: a rare side to show for a rapper, but judging by the Taylor Gang’s devotion, an increasingly successful one.