Before [artist id="2427571"]Wiz Khalifa[/artist] saw his career take flight, his hometown of Pittsburgh stood as a relative unknown on the hip-hop map. The Taylor Gang general's breakout hit, "Black and Yellow," changed that, and now Wiz is being rewarded with a Best New Artist nomination at the 2011 MTV VMAs.
"It's my first video, so I wanted to make it like that classic. You can't do a first video over again," Wiz said of the concept behind his popular video, which has raked in over 89 million views on YouTube. "When I think about stuff like that, I thought about Snoop's [appearance in Dr. Dre's] '[Nuthin' but a] G Thang' — like a real hometown-vibe video, things that really, really show the artist in their element. I figured if I went that way with it, then I couldn't really lose."
Wiz is proud that he is able to rep for his town and said that being in the conversation with other big-time rappers like Lil Wayne and Drake helps him provide inspiration for Pittsburgh's up-and-coming talents. "It's good morale for Pittsburgh, because we never got that much love," he said. "All of our artists have been known on a certain scene or a certain radar, but to be put up there with the greatest rappers and to have their own is really, really big for the city."
The Best New Artist competition is tough, however: Wiz is up against his tourmate, Big Sean ("My Last"), Kreayshawn ("Gucci Gucci"), Tyler, the Creator ("Yonkers") and indie-pop band Foster the People ("Pumped Up Kicks").
"I think it's really good competition, and it's just a good sign of the new wave of how an artist can come up and get recognition these days," Khalifa said. "Big Sean, I know his situation, how he came from nothing. Kreayshawn, she built her buzz similar with the Internet, and Tyler as well. These are all people who have their own movements."
While each Best New Artist nominee is different in their own right, Wiz finds a common thread that binds them: "All of us, we're really just living our dreams and getting nominated for it, so it's excellent."
You can vote for general VMA categories, including Best New Artist, by visiting vma.mtv.com or m.mtv.com on your mobile phone. In addition, you can get in on Best New Artist text voting by texting BNA to 66333 on your wireless phone. Voting continues through the show, which airs live August 28 at 9 p.m. ET. (Verizon subscribers can vote on all categories via SMS by texting VMA to 66333; standard message rates apply.)
The 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards will air live on Sunday, August 28, from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles at 9 p.m. ET/PT. See the list of nominees, revisit last year's highlights and vote for your favorites in the general categories by visiting VMA.MTV.com.