Summer is Wiz Khalifa time. His tune "Shell Shocked" is on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles sound track. His new album, Blacc Hollywood, drops in August. And the rapper will take his third Under the Influence of Music summer tour through Scranton on Thursday and to Camden on Friday.
"I always wanted to make Under the Influence something to talk about," says Khalifa, "not just the day after the show, but the rest of your life."
He's a Pittsburgh native. His 2010 hit "Black and Yellow" was a pledge of allegiance to the Steelers. "Eagles, Steelers," he says. "You know there's no competition. You already know about that." But there is a Philly connection: his wife, South Philadelphia-raised Amber Rose. "My Philly girl," he calls her. He and the model married in 2013 after their son, Sebastian, was born, and they settled in Canonsburg, near Pittsburgh.
"I've always been part of Pitt," says Khalifa. "It's what I knew as a kid. What's cool now is stuff I gravitate toward - what I hear, learn, gather from my travels - but Pittsburgh, man. You know how you're drawn to something but don't know why? It just sticks with you? That's Pittsburgh. Made me who I am, the artist and the person."
Khalifa seeks to keep Under the Influence fresh in terms of acts you're talking about now (e.g. himself, Young Jeezy, DJ Drama) and acts he thinks you're going to start talking about (Ty Dolla $ign). "It's about finding the blend of cats with radio songs in the mainstream," he says, "while staying close to the street."
Khalifa says he's been influenced by Atlanta's Jeezy since the early 2000s. "Before the Internet, I had to go to sneaker stores to hear his mixtape CDs," Khalifa says enthusiastically. "When he came to Pitt, he pretty much shut it down. You couldn't get down the street, let alone the club."
For a rapper whose fame was made before radio play, Jeezy was legendary: "He showed how to make it on your own - on the streets - for the people who've been behind him first and longest." Khalifa feels much the same about DJ Drama, the Philly-born spinner/producer with whom he recently recorded his 28 Grams mixtape. "Not only is Drama a legend in the game; he's been cool playing my tracks before anyone. I'm grateful for that."
Khalifa had repeatedly claimed he spends $10,000 monthly on weed. A daily smoker, he was arrested in May at an airport in Texas, holding marijuana. He teamed with RAW Rolling Papers to develop a collection of smoking accessories. Classic Khalifa: The Wiz Pack made its debut in June. "I've been smoking with their stuff for so long," he says, "hooking up seemed natural." So did his involvement in anything and everything Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles-related. "I have Donatello tattooed on my leg," said the much-tatted rapper.
Mainly though, the Summer of Wiz is about Under the Influence and Blacc Hollywood, two projects in which he makes a broader brand of hip-hop without losing track of the underground roots of his first mixtape, 2005's Prince of the City: Welcome to Pistolvania, or his first full-length album, 2006's Show and Prove.
Khalifa laughs when he says Blacc Hollywood took "many geniuses to work on it," mentioning collaborators Curren$y, Nicki Minaj, Nas, and Snoop Dogg. "You don't bring these people in to try to get something out of it. It has to be worth it. Blacc Hollywood is that, something that represents going from the underground to fame because of energy and passion. That's Hollywood to me. I wanted you to embrace that, see that picture in your mind."
This Team Khalifa tour, then, is as underground as it is overground, a blend the rapper embraces on Blacc Hollywood. He sought to make the new record "legendary, not something that comes from Pittsburgh, Philly, or New York, but a big, bold album that everyone in the world can enjoy - and respect - for what it is: universal."
Under the Influence of Music tour
With Wiz Khalifa, Jeezy, Tyga, Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan, Sage The Gemini, IAMSU, Mack Wilds, and DJ Drama
6 p.m. Friday at Susquehanna Bank Center, 1 Harbour Blvd., Camden.
Tickets: $20-$72.75. Information: 800-745-3000 or www.Ticketmaster.com