Wiz Khalifa brought his rhymes—and his ink—to the Santa Barbara Bowl stage last Thursday night.
Paul Wellman

It’s a rare night at the Bowl when a lone twenty-something hip-hop artist from Pittsburgh can summon a completely sold-out crowd. Then again, Wiz Khalifa is a rare specimen. Onstage, the pint-sized rapper is feather-light on his feet and bubbling over with the kind of infectious energy that can get thousands moving.

Starting off Thursday’s three-act affair, Chevy Woods brought a strong, if slightly over-sexed air to the early evening, while (not so big) Big Sean maintained a solid mix of fast-paced wordplay, smooth jams, and sweetly personal asides. Adding an element of camaraderie to the night, both openers would return later to perform alongside Khalifa.

As the sun set, young Wiz took to the stage to cheers, hoots, and raised arms. Backed by an impressive strobe-light display and a deejay, Khalifa delivered a set that hit on nearly every facet of his short but multilayered career. Fans got a taste of the remixes (“The Thrill”), the ballads (“Fly Solo”), the mix tapes (“In Tha Cut”), and the hits (“Say Yeah,” “Black and Yellow”). Touring in support of the recently released Rolling Papers, Khalifa smartly weighted his set with the new, more fully produced tracks, affording him plenty of beats, bass, and breakdowns to groove on. And groove he did, dancing, running, and at times even smoking his way around the Bowl’s expansive stage to the crowd’s delight. Needless to say, by the night-ending, confetti-gun-enhanced “Black and Yellow,” there was little doubt as to why Khalifa is fast becoming hip-hop’s reigning live act.


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