Correction: A previous version of this editorial referred to Mr. Khalifa as a “blunt-loving hip-hop artist,” which is incorrect. Mr. Khalifa prefers to smoke joints, as his album name Rolling Papers suggests.
Wiz Khalifa, the joint-loving hip-hop artist leading the current generation of post-Kanye West rappers, is currently set to perform at Stony Brook University’s end-of-the-year concert on April 27. The Undergraduate Student Government, under its event-planning wing, the Student Activities Board, has confirmed a bid contract with Wiz for $85,000 and is in the negotiating stages of finalizing a confirmed contract, according to Special Programming Agency Director Jackie Cowles and USG President Mark Maloof. Opening for Wiz will be R&B artist Miguel Jontel, who is set to perform for $15,000, as well as a currently undisclosed opener of Wiz’s choosing for roughly $1,500. The entire show is projected to cost SAB around $215,000, with $100,000 going to production.
The pick of Wiz for the yearly spring show is a very welcome shift from the divisive artists that have filled the slot in previous years to a musician with one of the broadest appeals of any pop star today. In the past four years, USG has brought big-name artists, but never without accusations of having wasted money with intentions driven by misguided tastes and expectations, resulting in disappointing concerts that only remind those students well-versed in the history of the Stony Brook Concert Series that we are failing to live up to a once-glorious musical legacy.
For instance, in 2009 we saw Hellogoodbye, a not-so-relevant indie pop band, and the rapper, Fabolous. It was a failed effort at pulling together two polar opposite artists in the hopes of appealing to the tastes of a vast student body that, in the eyes of the old SAB, was comprised of either rap fans or rock fans—perhaps a racially charged notion. The following year’s Brookfest featured a similar combination of rapper Wale and indie pop duo Matt & Kim. Though they are both college-oriented, and reflect—again—SAB’s catering to vastly different audiences, and the result was an even more discomforting clash of styles and an event that drew a small fraction of what the audience could have been.
Last year’s concert could be—and should be—considered a success, if assessed on attendance alone. Grammy-nominated Bruno Mars and R&B soul musician Janelle Monáe drew lines hours before tickets went on sale, and the show sold out easily. Those chart-topping artists were consistent in genre, and appealed to what is probably the largest demographic of Stony Brook students, if that demographic is simply a generalized group of people that have turned on the radio in the past year and have some semblance of an idea of what modern pop music sounds like. Both artists receive consistent airplay and are, to the average listener, famous enough to warrant a “Wow, we got him?” or “Hey, I’ve heard that ‘Grenade’ song.” But they were not college acts. College acts do not stand in front of the Grammy crowd dressed like an absolute clown—one who is shamelessly bastardizing ‘50s rock n’ roll—and dance back and forth while showcasing a doctored smile and a Jimmy Neutron haircut.
It may have sold out the Sports Arena in record-breaking time, and everyone who attended undoubtedly had one of the more memorable experiences Stony Brook has offered him or her, but judging Stony Brook’s fun capabilities in a broader context would illustrate how limited our campus experience has been. And because Bruno Mars is by no stretch of the imagination a “college act,” last year’s concert left many students—including those who were led to believe that acts like Best Coast and Immortal Technique were setting an appropriate college-geared trend—tremendously disappointed.
But Wiz Khalifa is absolutely and undeniably a college-oriented artist. His appeal begins—not surprisingly—in the rap community and continues into Top 40 territory (see the chart-topping “Black and Yellow”) before settling into the college rap scene. He is also easily one of the most accessible hip-hop artists out there, in that he consistently outshines fame-bathing imitators like Big Sean, stylishly and effortlessly out-rhymes lyrical heavyweights like Lupe Fiasco and stands tall against the hip-hop goliaths of Degrassi and Young Money fame who dominate the airwaves. His lyrical themes, which revolve around an obsessive love of weed and an introspective reflection on fame, simultaneously influence and draw strength from the lifestyle of lackadaisical college students, on top of effectively evolving a hip-hop aesthetic dominated by late teenagers and early 20-somethings.
It would be hard for anyone, even those not well-versed in modern hip-hop, to not appreciate the insight and desire for change exhibited by this year’s USG in making this decision. While the contract is not officially set in stone until Wiz gives his final sign-off in the coming weeks, it is unlikely he will pull out of a confirmed bid contract pending unforeseen circumstances outside USG’s control. That said, April 27 is a day that may finally wear the Stony Brook Concert Series title with pride, and see record-breaking lines weaving through the Academic Mall.