Wiz Khalifa @ HMV Forum, London (May 18) | Gig Review

Every year we have at least one rapper to emerge whose wit, talent, charm and drive steals the limelight and shoots an underground favorite to mainstream superstardom almost immediately. In 2009, we saw Drake woo the panties off the ladies, 2010 was J. Cole’s turn to ‘Hit It In The Morning’ – and now for 2011, this career ascension story belongs to the Pittsburgh-based rapper Wiz Khalifa.

In the wake of his chart-topping hit ‘Black and Yellow’ [which was adopted by fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers during the team’s run to the Super Bowl] comes his major label debut Rolling Papers, a solid collection of ear-bending rhymes and addictive beats and melodies.

But does the album live up to the considerable hype surrounding Khalifa’s arrival? I believe all signs point to yes. The Pittsburgh emcee’s debut on Atlantic is lyrically revolved around ‘getting high’, frolicking with the ‘chicks’, ‘blowing money fast’ and pretty much enjoying a good life, yet in every track Wiz attacks the beat with an underdog’s passion and a winner’s stance – which he exhibited onstage in London at his second UK show on May 18 at the HMV Forum, Kentish Town.

Almost reminiscent of a high school teen in a gym class Wiz clowned about the stage commanding everyone’s attention – and that is exactly what he captured. It all seemed quite spontaneous and fun as Khalifa connected so well with the audience and, with a ‘musky’ smell in the air, the reception he received on nearly every track was of true star status. Word for word the crowd were going in just as he was and truly enjoying the moment, maintaining a strong, energetic vocal and dance moves to die for… [Ok, well maybe to die attempting.]

Highlight song performance of the night was the obvious anthem ‘Black and Yellow’. The crowd roared as it erupted into frenzy, there were arms thrown in the air, ‘Taylor gang signed up’ everywhere! At one point, the crowd was so loud Wiz had to catch his breath and stop to witness the sheer elation of his fans. The same occurred again during his performance of ‘I’ll Roll Up’ in which he serenaded his side-stage supporting girlfriend, the beautiful lady of the moment Amber Rose, and also through the highly thought-fueled ‘When I’m Gone’ and ‘On My Level.’

Although modeling a boy-like frame, Wiz had the stage presence of a giant, prancing and dancing around having what seemed to be the time of his life. There’s something about the baseline and the smooth 1980s-funk synths and drums that sooth you away to a thoughtful but positive place, making his current album Rolling Papers a must have for the collection; for the right mood it will definitely come in handy. This is definitely a performer I look forward to seeing again.

Wiz Khalifa’s latest album, Rolling Papers, is out now; available from iTunes / Amazonread our review.

Photography by Neil Raja of @NeilRajaStudios

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