Wiz Khalifa is best known for a decade’s worth of platinum-selling hip-hop hits such as “Black and Yellow,” “We Dem Boyz,” “Work Hard, Play Hard,” the Snoop Dogg collaboration “Young, Wild & Free,” and the Golden Globe-nominated “Furious 7” soundtrack theme song, “See You Again.”
Oh, and also for smoking weed. A lot of weed. Like, $10,000 a month worth of weed.
Given that Utah is not necessarily known as a hotbed for either rap music or marijuana legalization, Khalifa’s decision to include West Valley City’s USANA Amphitheatre on his Decent Exposure Tour might be curious to some. Except that he’s been appearing here for more than a decade now — and he keeps coming back.
What does he see in Utah’s culture that makes him comfortable returning time and again (including this Thursday at USANA)? In spite of the state’s quasi-puritanical reputation among outsiders, he said, he’s always managed to have a good time here and has been made to feel at home.
“I noticed that people smoke a lot of pot out there. That people love just music in general. I think the couple of times that I did come out there, I was either with Snoop or just on my tours like in the summer — it was just really good fun,” Khalifa said. “For the early stuff in my career too, I would always end up in Salt Lake City doing radio runs or car shows and stuff like that. So, I feel like it’s a pretty decent market for music touring and all of that, whether you’re up-and-coming or already established.”
With French Montana, Moneybagg Yo, Chevy Woods, and DJ Drama
When • Thursday, Aug. 7; doors at 5 p.m., show at 6 p.m.
Where • USANA Amphitheatre, 5150 S. 6055 West, West Valley City
Tickets • From $29 at Smith’s Tix
The 31-year-old Khalifa was born Cameron Jibril Thomaz in Minot, N.D. His military parents were constantly on the move — which meant he lived in Germany, the United Kingdom and Japan during his childhood. After his parents’ divorce, he and his mother eventually settled in Pittsburgh.
His stage name was derived from a pair of childhood nicknames. His Muslim grandfather took to calling him Khalifa, an Arabic word roughly translating to “successor, ruler, leader.” Friends, meanwhile, referred to him as “Young Wiz,” because, he said, “I was good at everything I did.”
Khalifa started learning production at the age of 12, and by 15 was doing consistent recording and production work at Pittsburgh’s I.D. Labs studio. As a high schooler, he was signed to the independent label Rostrum Records. In 2006, he was named an “artist to watch” by Rolling Stone. A year later, he had a deal with Warner Bros. In 2008, he made his first appearance at USANA as part of the U92 Summer Jam. By 2010, he was on the cover of XXL magazine and included in that publication’s annual “Top 10 Freshmen” list — a prestigious honor for rising hip-hop stars.
Ever since, the 6-foot-4 rapper has maintained a sizable presence in the public consciousness thanks to a seemingly never-ending slew of album and mixtape releases — up through this past April’s “2009” joint effort with Curren$y.
He’s also now staying busy in myriad other ways, including doing voice work for such television shows as “American Dad!” and the upcoming “Duncanville,” starring in the movie “Mac & Devin Go to High School” alongside Snoop Dogg (with a sequel reportedly on the way), an Apple Music docuseries, doing mixed martial arts training alongside former UFC title contender Cat Zingano, and parlaying that mind-boggling weed habit into a partnership with RiverRock Cannabis, which developed a “Khalifa Kush” strain now sold through medical marijuana chain Reef Dispensaries.
Khalifa said he’s always on the lookout for a new project, whether in the studio or otherwise.
“I’m always wanting to somehow top myself musically. So, there’s new music on the way,” he said. “Stuff for TV, animated series, executive-producing TV shows, working with my artists, and making sure that their careers go the way that they’re supposed to go. Just taking care of my son. Those are like my main goals for real.”
In spite of all that other stuff, he added, “My favorite life experience so far — 100 percent — has been my son. Spending time with him, rolling with him.” Six-year-old Sebastian Taylor will soon start first grade, and Khalifa said no success he’s had compares to the joy of seeing his child grow.
“That’s an experience that’s just always fun,” he said. “It’s getting better and better as time goes on.”
For now, though, Khalifa’s time is focused on the Decent Exposure Tour, which began July 9 and will wrap Aug. 15. The stop in Utah will include French Montana, Moneybagg Yo, Chevy Woods and DJ Drama (Playboi Carti will not appear as originally scheduled).
As with everything else in his career, he said, his live performances continue to evolve and improve.
“I just really want to get this as the best experience, just get bigger and better,” Khalifa said. “Technology changes and there’s always new ways to do things and to make the package feel the same but be different. So, that’s main goal, is to always just level up so that people can have a better experience. … That’s really what goes into me trying to make the best show, and especially for this year, I got a lot of new things that I’m going to be doing and trying out. So, it’s something that’s really exciting.”