Illustration by Stephanie Kervin Illustration by Stephanie Kervin Stephanie Kervin

If you saw Super Bowl XLV on Sunday, then you are most likely all too familiar with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ unofficial anthem Black and Yellow. Released in September, the song is the first single from Wiz Khalifa’s next album Rolling Papers, dropping March 29. At first glance, one might write Khalifa’s music off as just weed rap, but the smooth sounds of tracks like “Roll Up” and the most recent release On My Level appeal to those of us looking for mellow rap songs that are easy on the ears.

Khalifa identifies legend The Notorious B.I.G. as one of his strongest influences. Yet while sampled tracks suitable for easy listening resemble a few of Biggie’s songs, such as Hypnotize, his style is certainly not gangster rap. The persona he’s trying to project is reflected in his stage name – Wiz is short for wisdom and Khalifa refers to the Arabic word for “successor”. In an interview with Hard Knock TV, he makes it clear that he doesn’t want to model his career after that of any other artist. Khalifa is attempting to carve out a new but popular niche in the hip-hop game, and it seems to be working; his latest mixtape Kush and Orange Juice released last April was the number one Google hot search trend and Twitter trending topic at the time of release.

One aspect of his character that attracts me to Wiz (other than his full body tattoos and amazing taste in eyewear) are his non-violent lyrics. I mean sure, critics might say he focuses too heavily on marijuana in his songs, tending to avoid deeper issues. But really, who would you rather be? Lil Wayne, driving around in tour buses from city to city with a trunk full of automatic weapons, or Wiz, who was arrested in November for just two ounces of the green goddess? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

His lyrics are clever and his delivery is melodic, soothing even. Almost every track Khalifa has put out in recent months has been solid, particularly those produced by Grammy-winning Norwegian production team Stargate. One notable exception can be made with the recent track Taylor Gang, produced by Lex Luger. Can we please reflect on the epic failure that was H.A.M. in January? Another track with heavy weight rappers that failed to deliver, once again produced again by Lex Luger. Somebody please get this guy a different job.

His music alone is enough to sell you on his legitimacy as an artist, but even more, he’s no sell out. Instead of jumping on the Young Money train, he turned down the opportunity to tour alongside Drake to do a larger 50-city tour with the lesser-known Yelawolf. But if you’re looking for straight goods, check out the track Scaling the Building with Curren$y on YouTube. Pretty much any track Curren$y and Khalifa have thrown in the past year has been great (download their collaborative mixtape “How Fly” if you’re skeptical).

Like the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the tallest man-made structure in the world, , expect Wiz Khalifa to loom large in the music industry in 2011. He’s one of the feature artists on Snoop Dogg’s upcoming album Doggumentary (dropping the same day as Rolling Papers) and was titled 2010’s MTV’s Hottest Breakthrough MC, a title he achieved by a landslide victory of 70, 000 votes. He’s fresh, he’s talented and if you’re into skinny dudes, he’s pretty easy on the eyes.

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  • Subtitle: Wiz Khalifa intrigues us with his one-of-a-kind sound
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