Words by Manhatten Royal and Jabari Powell
Photos By Jabari Powell

College students and locals brought the streets to life for the Richmond stop of Wiz Khalifa’s Waken Baken tour on Friday evening. Khalifa’s September 17 outing found him at Centerstage on East Grace Street, the newly renovated version of the Carpenter Theater.

Khalifa came onto the scene more than five years ago with his first mixtape, Prince of the City, and he’s gradually built a strong following, winning over peers and DJs alike with his easygoing charm and laid-back rhymes. Recently crowned “Best Breakthrough MC of 2010” by MTV, Khalifa was signed to Atlantic records in July.

The 23-year-old Pittsburg native is also an avid cannabis supporter, and right from the beginning, a blind man could tell that his fans followed suit at the show. A thick and potent scent fell over the crowd, leaving the venue’s security team with their hands full trying to pinpoint smokers in a room full of fog while performances got underway.

There were a few local opening acts, including a collaboration between rappers by the names of Ziggy, Neff, and A-Nice, with a number of dance groups performing as well. As the opening acts performed, you could feel the audience’s anticipation rising.

After the initial performances, the two highly-anticipated, nationally-known opening acts began. First, Richmond native Nickelus F performed. He began by lured in the crowd with a powerful a cappella freestyle, demanding the audience’s attention with his lyrics. Suddenly, the stage was illuminated with a bright orange glow and the crowd quickly became engrossed with his rhymes. Prompted by energetic, upbeat songs, the audience rose from their seats and danced. Nickelus F transitioned to a more personal style soon enough, with a piano-driven song about his journey to success. The DJ performed a short scratching solo and Nickelus F closed his set with another smooth a cappella freestyle, rapping part of his song “The World of 1000 Dreams.”

Following Nickelus F was Big K.R.I.T, who started his performance with snippets of southern rap classics like Outkast’s “southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.” The Mississippi MC slid effortlessly into performances of his own songs, which blend right in with the southern style of rap, slow and heavily infused with bass. Big K.R.I.T. transitioned again into a more upbeat dance song where he took a more old-school approach to the rapping, followed by his song “Country Shit.” Finally, he concluded his segment by performing his MTV2-featured hit “Somedayz.” “If I abuse myself daily then who can I love?” Big K.R.I.T. rapped to the crowd, ending just like Nickelus F, with a few bars of a cappella rhyming.

After the opening acts, there was a 10-minute intermission. The crowd’s buzzed as more fans filled the room.

At the strike of 10 P.M., the venue went dark and the stage glowed bright blue. A slow 80’s “Thriller”-sounding introduction crept throughout the theater, followed by Khalifa’s voice and his infamous laugh.

A few seconds later, the song “Superhigh” faded in and the crowd went wild as Wiz Khalifa himself came onto the stage, decked out in army fatigue cargo shorts, a taylor gang hoodie, and Air Jordan’s.

During the show, he promoted his most successful mixtape “Kush and Orange Juice,” which was released in April, and his twitter account, where he gained a lot of his popularity.

Khalifa went on to play most of his signature mixtape, including the fan-favorite tracks “She Never Been” and “Still Blazin.” During his entire performance he stayed engaged with his fans, who call themselves “Taylors,” shaking their hands, pounding their fists, and at one point even lifting his shirt, exposing his tattoos, inciting a scream from his admiring audience.

Khalifa also played songs from his collaborative mixtape with rapper Curren$y, titled “How Fly,” including “Glass House,” featuring his opening act, Big K.R.I.T., and “Car Service.”’
During his song “In the Cut,” Wiz did a short a cappella freestyle, his fully attentive fans hanging on every word. When it came time to performed his newest hit “Black and Yellow,” members of his entourage, the Taylor Gang crew, started to throw money into the crowd. He further showed his appreciation of his fans, noting that they were the one’s who put him in the lofty position he is currently in. “Y’all are a great mother f*ckin’ crowd!” Khalifa yelled appreciatively to the audience.

With any show, there is nothing better than a great ending. At the end of the concert, Khalifa thanked the crowd and walks off the stage, and the lights switch from a vibrant orange to a cool blue. Fans begin to stand up and exit, when suddenly the tattooed MC hopped back on stage to perform one last song. The crowd rushed back to the front of the stage, happy that the rapper gave them just a little more.