Organic Growth

WIZ KHALIFA & THE POLITICS OF THE FLOP

Cameron Jibril Thomas, better know as Wiz Khalifa, initiated a riveting grass roots rap movement from Pittburgh, Pennsylania. He distributed his mixtapes for free in order garner a large and devoted following. Mix tapes are universally used by burgeoning hip hop artists wishing to broaden their fan base. They are composed of traditional or experimental hip hop songs in order to build anticipation for”radio-ready” album. In this digital era, a mix tape can be purchased occasionally for a low price on iTunes, or a retail store, but always online for free. Hip hop artists send their mixtapes to hip hop blogs to reach an audience outside of their local communities with minimum funds. Nahright.com2dopeboyz.com, and hypebeast.com have all become gatekeepers into the underground hip hop industry. An endorsement from these blogs strengthens an artist’s reputation tremendously. This is a list of Wiz’s seven mixtape releases spanning from 2006 to 2009 on the hip hop mix tape website, DatPiff.com:

On April 14th 2010, Wiz Khalifa’s eighth mix tape Kush & Orange Juice was released as a free online download via his Twitter. Within a few hours the project quickly became one of Google’s top ten hottest search trends and the number one trending topic on Twitter. The project received 463,602 downloads and 628,364 streams on DatPiff alone.
The mix tape cover was inspired by David Ruffin’s Gentleman Ruffin. David Ruffin was the lead singer of the famous rhythm & blues group, The Temptations. While most rappers have a flashy daunting mix tape artwork, Wiz decided to go for a retro and more mature feel. Before even pressing play, Wiz Khalifa distinguished himself from his competition.
Gentleman Ruffin Album Art Work
Kush & Orange Juice was applauded by reputable magazines and blogs in every corner of the country. Wiz’s charisma and funk production were the two ubiquitous motifs in every article. Pitchfork Magazine complimented his “great ear for beats” because of the “smooth 1980s-funksynths and drums that amble along slowly and quietly” throughout the record. XXL Magazine highlighted how Wiz Khalifa “even utilizes a sample of the Loose Ends’ 1985 song, “Hangin’ On A String“. The sample gives stand out track, The Kid Frankie, its great funk groove. New York Magazine commented on how his “cartoony, overly enunicated flow” brings back memories of “classic G-funk“. According to the critics, Wiz Khalifa finally found the right formula. His goofy and laid back demeanor mixed with funk and retro sonic backing was the perfect match. So who was responsible for music behind Wiz? In the bottom left corner of the back cover of the mixtape, the producers are listed in fine print.

“PRODUCTIONS BY SLEDGREN, E. DAN, JOHNNY JULIANO, BIG JERM, CARDO, KAJMIR ROYALE”
This list of producers have continuously helped Wiz on his rise to stardom. They creatively constructed the sonic landscape of the tape, and critics,  generously gave them compliments. Wiz Khalifa quickly signed to Atlantic Records to begin an album after the positive feedback from his mixtape, and the label welcomed their new charismatic rapper with open arms. Back in 2007, Wiz signed to Warner Bros. Records but left after just two years because of “series of delays” in the release of his first major label debut. Wiz says, “I learned a lot during my time there and matured as an artist during the process. I’m happy to be moving on with all of my material and having the chance to be in control of my next move”. After Wiz’s new found knowledge, what should we expect from his second attempt with a major label? Would his mixtape’s celebrated performance give the artist more power with the label? Let’s see…
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