Homegrown rapper Wiz Khalifa returns home for his coronation with fellow 'Burgher Mac Miller.
Want to know how big Wiz Khalifa has become? In the years since Wiz was an up-and-coming local rapper with an uncertain future, we’ve been able to track chart progress and TV appearances, guest spots with well-known MCs and accolades from the likes of The Source and XXL. But of course we think he’s a big deal here in town; we’re rooting for him. How far does the Taylor Allderdice grad really reach?
Well, here’s a nice example: when I was getting ready to write this post, I had turned on a feed of Olympic Weightlifting. (The Women’s 58K Final, if you’re keeping score.) There was no commentary on the feed, and very little crowd noise — probably because there was very little crowd. But during a break in the action, I thought I heard something familiar. I turned up the speakers, and yes indeed: In a small weightlifting arena in London, at an event watched by few with no showmanship anywhere to be found, the PA system was pumping Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow.”
So yeah. He’s a big deal.
All of Khalifa’s return performances since “Black and Yellow” hit have been raucous occasions. But this Saturday marks the first event that could be deemed a true celebration of Pittsburgh’s ascendence in the hip-hop scene, as Wiz will be joined by fellow ’Burgher and Taylor Allderdice alum Mac Miller, who’s experienced more than enough chart success of his own.
In some ways, Wiz & Mac are unlikely allies. Wiz’s best work has been on some of his laid-back mixtapes (Kush & OJ is good, Taylor Allderdice is excellent), which feature mellow beats and a more meditative, careful style. Mac’s biggest hits, in contrast, are raucous party anthems — “Frick Park Market,” “Party on Fifth Ave.” — or boastful takedowns like “Smile Back” and “Donald Trump”. Both artists can go the other way, of course, and experiment with a variety of styles. Still, transitioning from Mac Miller to Wiz Khalifa can be like starting a fight on the dance floor and then suddenly sinking into a couch in the V.I.P. lounge.
But that diversity in sound, if anything, speaks to the growing strength of the Pittsburgh scene. It’s not as though Wiz broke through and then a soundalike protege had a follow-up hit doing the same thing. You couldn’t identify either artist by a “Pittsburgh sound,” as you could with lesser New York or L.A. acts of yesteryear. Both Wiz and Mac made it big on the strength of their work. They just happened to be from the same town, the same neighborhood and the same high school.
In any case, it adds up to this summer’s best reason to make the trek out to First Niagara Pavilion. Both artists gained pre-fame buzz on the strength of their live appearances; both sold out shows long before “Black and Yellow” and “Donald Trump.” So a great concert is guaranteed. But more than that, this is a party in honor of Pittsburgh’s most ascendant and triumphant moment in the world of pop music. Who wants to miss that?
First Niagara Pavilion, 665 Route 18, Burgettstown. Saturday, 5:30 p.m. $33-80. Info and tickets: livenation.com