Hip-hop shows selling out in Des Moines are a rare feat. Selling out in 45 minutes is something only Wiz Khalifa has accomplished.
When tickets for the rapper's "Rolling Papers" tour went on sale, appropriately enough, on April 20, hundreds of fans lined up outside the Val Air Ballroom as orders poured into Ticketmaster for his show tonight. If we see Khalifa come through Des Moines again, it will likely be an arena show.
Khalifa's single "Black and Yellow" has hit No. 1 on Billboard's Hot 100 and rap charts. At 23, he's already recorded with Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Jamie Foxx. His major-label debut, also titled "Rolling Papers," debuted at No. 2 and has sold half a million copies and millions of singles.
So far, Khalifa is taking his success and fame in stride.
"You never really expected the reaction to be so big, but you hope for it," Khalifa said during a phone interview. "Some people saw it as a regional record, but I'm happy everyone is getting it."
The regional aspect is because "Black and Yellow" is in reference to his hometown of Pittsburgh, specifically the colors of the Pirates and the Steelers (and the Penguins). Versions of the songs have been remixed to apply to a number of teams, including versions by Lil Wayne for the Green Bay Packers and Snoop Dogg and The Game for the Los Angeles Lakers.
The fact that Snoop Dogg has taken an interest in Khalifa's music means a lot to the young rapper. The duo are co-starring in the upcoming movie "High School" (Khalifa's first acting gig) and are collaborating on an EP soundtrack for the movie. In an era in which rappers send MP3s back and forth across the country to add parts, Wiz and Snoop are keeping things a bit more personal.
"We're in the studio together. It's really tight working with Snoop. He's so talented and passionate," Khalifa said. "I've been working on rapping for 10 years, but acting is brand new to me. Snoop gives me all kinds of advice on how to lay into what we're doing and feel comfortable."
The "Rolling Papers" album and tour name are in reference to exactly what it sounds like. The growing fame has put those activities under the spotlight, resulting in an arrest last November when police found two ounces of pot on his tour bus. Khalifa brushed off the three felony charges as "a small issue."
"I just see the positive things and keep doing what I'm doing," Khalifa said. "At the end of the day, it's a different kind of attention. I'll deal with that other stuff later. For now I'm focusing on getting going worldwide and making my brand as big as possible."
With: Big Sean
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Val Air Ballroom, 301 Ashworth Road, West Des Moines.
Cost: SOLD OUT
Info: Go to valairballroom.com.