When Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa burst onto the scene, his older-than-his-years charisma and style made folks take notice. He leaned into his hometown in an attempt to develop a branch of the East Coast sound that was of and for his city.
Born Cameron Thomaz in North Dakota circa 1987, the youngster bounced around between military bases throughout his early childhood. Once the family settled in Pittsburgh, he was already documenting his life in writing. By the time he was 12, Khalifa was in the studio making records.
At Pittsburgh's I.D. Labs, Khalifa rose above the fray, earning special assistance from the staff and gaining the favor of an indie label, Rostrum Records, founded by L.A. Reid's former assistant. Partnering, the upstarts started gaining local traction with a batch of singles. Then, a 2006 mixtape – Prince of the City: Welcome to Pistolvania – put him on the national stage.
Khalifa's 2006 full-length freshman effort, Show and Prove, solidified the deal, getting attention from some of the top music magazines in the country, including Rolling Stone and Vibe. Both the mixtape and album sold well enough to warrant calls from major labels. Together, Khalifa and Rostrum signed on with Warner Bros. to issue the "Young'n on His Grind" and “Say Yeah” singles before their deal fell apart.
It was back to life as an indie for the Rostrum release Deal or No Deal in 2009. Within a year, both XXL and The Source were citing Khalifa as one to watch. MTV named him the Hottest Breakthrough MC, besting Nicki Minaj, J. Cole, Travis Porter, and Diggy Simmons.
That trend continued with a 2010 mixtape, Kush & Orange Juice. When he topped the Hot Search Trends on Google, Atlantic Records took notice and signed him up. Opting against a tour with Drake, Khalifa hit the road with Yelawolf for his Waken Baken Tour which sold out every show.
A few months later, Khalifa issued a tribute to the Pittsburgh Steelers, “Black and Yellow.” With the team's ascent toward the Superbowl, the cut became an unofficial anthem. Once the Green Bay Packers were in line to square off for the Championship, Lil Wayne fired back with “Green and Yellow.” On the heels of the title match in February of 2011, Khalifa's track hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In March, he followed up with his first Atlantic release, Rolling Papers.