The interesting thing about most rappers is that they never use their birth names as their stage names, and that’s probably because their real names aren’t very imposing or street-like. There’s Calvin Broadus, Jr. (Snoop Dogg), Andre Young (Dr. Dre), Marshall Mathers III (Eminem), Christopher Wallace (Notorious B.I.G.), Sean Combs (Puff Daddy/P. Diddy), just to name a few, and none of those congenial first names would strike dread in anyone’s heart or imply street-cred. This is again the case with one of the hottest rappers on the scene right now named Wiz Khalifa, real name: Cameron Thomaz. Nuff said! Khalifa is currently standing atop the Billboard Hot 100 chart with “See You Again,” returning for the seventh week, after being knocked out for one week by Taylor Swift’s “Bad Blood.” The single is from the “Furious 7” soundtrack and features the vocals of Sam Smith sound-alike Charlie Puth. It’s not hard to tell what’s on Khalifa’s mind most of the time, based on some of his songs with titles like “Burn After Rolling,” “Kush And Orange Juice” and his debut album entitled “Rolling Papers.” Marijuana fetish aside, Kahlifa has been gradually making a name for himself since releasing his first mixtape, “Prince Of The City: Welcome To Pistolvania,” in 2005. The mixtape paved the way for his first full length album entitled “Show and Prove” in 2006. Khalifa was declared an “artist to watch” that year in Rolling Stone magazine. After signing with Warner Bros. Records in 2007, Khalifa had modest success with other mixtapes released while with the company. Khalifa parted ways with Warner Bros. in July 2009 after numerous delays in releasing his planned debut album for the label. Real success didn’t strike until Khalifa signed with Rostrum/Atlantic and released his debut single “Black And Yellow,” produced by Stargate. The song peaked at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Shortly after, his first studio album, “Rolling Papers,” was released and debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart, with first-week sales of 197,000 copies in the United States. The LP has since been certified Gold by the RIAA. Having been arrested twice in the last five years for marijuana possession and trafficking, Khalifa is finally on track to have a successful recording career. Claiming to have spent as much as $10,000 a month on his daily weed-smoking pastime, Khalifa no longer pays for his “chronic” because he’s sponsored by “The Cookie Factory,” a medical marijuana dispenser which sells his “Khalifa Kush” (KK) strain. With that settled, Khalifa can concentrate on his upcoming “The Boys of Zummer Tour,” with Fall Out Boy and Hoodie Allen. Something tells me there’ll be more than enough marijuana to go around.
“Queen Of The Clouds”
Island – Polydor
How being dubbed “the saddest girl in Sweden” by the media and “Sweden’s darkest pop export” by Rolling Stone magazine is a good thing escapes me, but apparently it is serving hot new Swedish singer/songwriter Tove Lo very well. Lo’s angst-driven music can probably be attributed to the fact that she was raised by a mother who is a psychologist by profession. Lo was born Ebba Tove Elsa Nilsson in Stockholm, Sweden and achieved good grades in school while becoming fond of literature, writing poetry and short stories. She describes herself as “very protected” growing up, which might also answer some questions about her music. In an interview with the “BBC” she explained, “Growing up so safe, I think I was looking for something else.” That “something else” was music. Forming a girl band with her friends, Lo eventually enrolled in Rytmus Musikergymnasiet, a musical school in Stockholm. During her time at Rytmus, Lo developed a friendship with Caroline Hjelt, who would later form the Swedish duo “Icona Pop.” After two years, Lo graduated from the school and felt assured that her career would be in music despite her parent’s disapproval. Experimenting with different styles of music, Lo finally decided to pursue a career in songwriting and earned a publishing deal with Warner/Chappell Music. This new career path led her to travel to Los Angeles, and work with Swedish producer Max Martin. In 2012, she collaborated with British production team Xenomania and Swedish producer Alexander Kronlund, co-writing Girls Aloud’s “Something New” and Icona Pop’s “We Got The World.” Due to the strength of her online following, Lo was offered a recording deal in 2014, signing with Island and Polydor Records. Lo’s debut album, “Queen of the Clouds,” was released in September 2014, to generally positive reviews. It debuted at #14 on the Billboard 200 chart, selling 19,000 copies in its first week. The album peaked at #17 in the United Kingdom and at #6 in Sweden where it was certified gold by Swedish Recording Industry Association (GLF) for sales of 20,000 units. The album has since spawned two successful singles. The lead single, an American release of “Habits (Stay High),” became a sleeper hit. The single was Lo’s commercial breakthrough in the U.S., peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The second single “Talking Body” peaked at #12 on the Billboard Hot 100, #16 in Sweden, and #17 in the United Kingdom. Lo’s rapid success scored her an opening act slot for the third leg of pop singer Katy Perry’s “Prismatic World Tour” in November 2014. When all is said and done, I guess little “Ebba Tove Elsa” is proving to dear-ol’ mom that there’s other ways to profit from anxiety and depression besides being in the mental health profession.