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Blazing Forward: The Evolution of Wiz Khalifa and Rae Sremmurd

Wiz KhalifaEXPAND
Wiz Khalifa
Jimmy Fontaine

Wiz Khalifa has come a long way from “Black and Yellow.” We all remember hearing the song on the radio on the way to school, back when the talented young rapper put the “Pittsburgh Sound” out into the world. But Wiz isn’t the same young buck — he’s gone through many changes since 2010.

For one, he’s a father now. In his own video series DayToday, he’s seen spending time with his son Sebastian, even performing on stage with him. On his track “Rolling Papers 2,” off the album of the same name, he raps about fatherhood and how it motivates him. Success and fame pressure him to the point that he’s considering packing up and going back to where he came from, but his hunger for that same success keeps him going. “It’s a gift and the curse when everybody knows your name,” he says. “How do you make a million dollars and still stay the same?”

True to that, Wiz has made some some physical transformations as well. Thanks to his workout routine and passion for mixed martial arts, he’s no longer lanky and slim. Notorious for his love of weed, he also now owns his own strain of marijuana, Khalifa Kush, and even released a song, “KK,” to commemorate it: “I got my own weed, sucka, so I ain’t gotta hit yours.”

Truly, no matter how much he’s changed, it ain’t a Wiz song if he’s not talking about smoking, and fans don’t have to worry about missing those wicked weed references on Rolling Papers 2. It may not have a “Black and Yellow,” but it’s a great way to see how far Khalifa has come. Of course, Wiz isn’t the only rap entity to have gone through changes.

Ever since Rae Sremmurd came into the game with the ludicrous bangers of SremmLife — “No Flex Zone,” “Unlock the Swag,” “No Type” — parties have not been the same. Brothers Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi may not be the tallest or oldest guys on the block, but they’ve seen massive success, especially with their Gucci Mane-featuring SremmLife 2 single “Black Beatles,” and the accompanying online Mannequin Challenge. What’s a number-one hit without a meme that even one of the original Beatles ends up taking part in?

Rae Sremmurd performs at the Pot of Gold Music Festival.EXPAND
Rae Sremmurd performs at the Pot of Gold Music Festival.
Jim Louvau

With their success came gossip from fans or critics over which member is better or worse. But Swae and Jxmmi came into the game together doing their own thing, not really caring about the state of hip-hop, and having fun with their music. To wit, they told the haters to back off on their 2018 album, SR3MM, which dropped as three albums in one. Disc one was the third installment of the SremmLife saga, Disc two featured Swae Lee’s refined singing on the sweet Swaecation, and Jxmmi rounded out the package with the hot bars of JXMTRO. Rather than completely split their creative energies like OutKast on Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, however, Swae and Jxmmi featured on each other’s solo projects, both as themselves and together as Rae Sremmurd. (Confused? Don’t worry, they made a video to explain.)

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As much as the two stars of Rae Sremmurd have grown — like Wiz, Jxmmi is also a father — they’re still having fun and living the SremmLife. Instead of letting the talk get to them, they stuck together, let each other do their own thing, and brought out the best of each other while collaborating. They challenged and motivated each other while developing their own sounds as a means to put an end to the hate and gossip.

One aspect of music that I find beautiful is the evolutions that artists go through, both with their sound and as people. Wiz Khalifa and Rae Sremmurd’s Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi have undergone their own changes, and we can see it in their music and lifestyles. They’re like two sides of the same coin, so it’s only right for them to join up for the Dazed & Blazed tour.

Wiz Khalifa & Rae Sremmurd: Dazed & Blazed Tour. With Lil Skies and O.T. Genasis. 6 p.m. Thursday, August 30, at Ak-Chin Pavilion, 2121 North 83rd Avenue; 602-254-7200; ak-chinpavilion.com. Tickets are $35 to $99.50 via Live Nation.

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