The time is 6 p.m. The thick, humid air of the evening clings to our skins like saran wrap, and mosquitoes finding joy in the abundance of human bodies. “I can’t believe Wiz Khalifa is actually here,” raves my friend as I ferociously scratch at the already-forming bites on my skin. I couldn’t believe it either, or rather, I couldn’t believe that our university’s president, Jay Hartzell, was actually able to get Khalifa to perform here on campus. We have had big names come to campus this past semester, including but not limited to Nelly and MisterWives, however, there was something about Wiz Khalifa actually joining us on the Main Lawn for an entire concert (completely free might I add) that sounded too good to be true.
After 35 minutes of sitting outside the wristband table, we began to form the actual line for the concert. Promotional photos were beginning to be taken, my fellow AU volunteer Robbie slipped through the side gate after getting his media pass, and I was thriving off the excitement coursing through my veins—that is until the megaphone came out. We were quickly told to shelter in place inside for a lightning storm I hadn’t even noticed began to take place. Discouraged, my friend and I began playing heads-up and doing a rundown of the few songs we knew. This continued for another hour as rain angrily came down on us until we finally got the green light and lined up again for a concert we were even more eager and desperate to experience—and it did not disappoint.
Khalifa’s openers D Smoke and Fedd the God came and handled business. Beginning with a vibrant bass and lyrical speed, Fedd the God truly showed the tenacity and passion he has for what he does. His lines were fierce, full of strength, and had just the right amount of energy to pull us out of the rain-soaked, post-storm blues. Following him and taking a page out of Notorious B.I.G’s handbook, Inglewood native D Smoke fused together soulful beats with a modern and clear-cut direction and message. In short, D Smoke knew what he wanted to say, and he was going to say it well. His delivery was masterful, taking up space and expelling meaning with every syllable and sound he delivered. His music was art you could get down to in a large crowd or play during a cookout with your family back home. Even people in the crowd like myself, who had yet to listen to his work, felt the rhymes and lines pulsating from D Smoke’s commandment of the never-ending beat that is time.
As much as I could have listened to D Smoke’s set for the entirety of the night, Khalifa was bound to appear at some point—and that time was now. If Khalifa’s concert was a road trip, we were driving down memory lane for the majority of it, and I am not mad about it. Rolling back to the 2010s, he opened with the hit hip-hop and rap single, “We Dem Boyz.” Signaled by the powerful beat drop, the crowd jumped in sync, and in that moment, I got closer to my fellow Longhorns than I had all semester, physically and emotionally. A comradery was shared amongst everyone as we shared moments within songs that defined many parts of our childhood. Songs like “Black and Yellow,” “23,” and “Roll Up,” all made their way to the mic along with songs from Khalifa’s newest album, Multiverse, which just dropped in October. Each and every moment of the performance was delivered by Khalifa in a way that was so spirited, devoted, and genuinely exciting. Up on stage was a man who loves what he does, and he was going to ensure that his love for music was fully reflected in the show he put on.
As the show came to a close, Khalifa performed the carefree masterpiece that is “Young, Wild & Free.” A true testament to the message of “peace and love” all artists were pausing
between songs to deliver, I never felt so young, wild, and ironically free at that very moment. It was a soft landing from the thunder that was Khalifa’s voice, lightning that was his incredible stage, rain that was every human who joined to celebrate him and his music, and the blue skies that were to follow. The soft piano keys recognizable from one of Khalifa’s most successful songs, “See You Again,” flooded the Main Mall as people left and right joined arm and arm and voice and voice to experience what was the most emotional and beautiful moment of the night. Paul Walker, DMX, Mac Miller, Young Dolph, and Takeoff, were some of the faces projected onto the stages of artists whose lives are now gone but whose memories remain. I get emotional simply reflecting on this final moment of the concert, but to experience it in the flesh was much more raw, real, and impactful.
What Wiz Khalifa did that Friday night was not only put on an incredibly entertaining show, but he also reminded us of the reason for music and its power. Joined hand and hand with my friends, swaying to the music, I received Khalifa’s message, and all I wish to do is spread it to all those whose ears can hear, hands can clap, and hearts can feel.