Wiz Khalifa and Mac Miller are the superstars of the Rostrum Records stable. Based out of Pittsburgh, the label is currently flush from the success of Miller's Watching Movies With The Sound Off album. But who's next to follow in Mac and Wiz's footsteps?
First up is Vali, the R&B-styled singer who has pitched herself as the "princess of Rostrum Records." Then there's multi-instrumentalist Leon Thomas III, who has traded in screen-time on the Nickelodeon show Victorious to ready up his solo album under the tutelage of Babyface. Solidifying the label's rap roots is Boaz, about whom Mac Miller says, "Growing up in Pittsburgh making music, Boaz is who everybody looked up to. He was and is the best rapper to come out of Pittsburgh."
"I'm really excited to see the roster expand with such great acts," offers Khalifa. "They are all extremely talented and have been working very hard for years"
With all three artists beavering away on their solo projects for the label, here's an insider's guide to the things you really need to know about the next wave of Rostrum talent.
1. Vali is braver than Wiz Khalifa around alligators
"I've been working with Wiz Khalifa for a long time. I used to be on all his old mixtapes, and he's on my new song, 'Dimes.' The video is extremely awesome and it should be out next week. It's visually stimulating: We've got girls on swings, I have a little alligator with me in the video. Wiz wouldn't even get in the room with the alligator. The whole idea was I was supposed to be interacting with the alligator but it was really in a bad mood on set. You could see it was not happy. Every time it came near the camera the camera guys would freak out 'cause it was really fast!"
2. Boaz likes to sport a strange animal mask
"That's my animal cuh! That's a little character I created. I did a video in Brooklyn a couple of weeks ago with Sean Price and Illa Ghee for a song we got out now on SoundCloud, 'Psycho Killa.' I wanted to give a new look for the video so animal cuh kinda emerged as a new character! I got that mask from a famous costume store in New York City. It fits pretty good, man. It's funny 'cause the mouth seems so weird but it actually fits me good!"
3. Leon Thomas III is a Christmas music connoisseur
"I think Christmas music is great! I think it's always fun to have something that you can play every year, what with Christmas never going out to style. I've done some cover versions of Christmas songs and a new song with Vali, 'Palm Trees Or Mistletoe.' If I had to do a Christmas record with Wiz Khalifa? Ha, I have no idea what we'd do! It would be crazy though."
4. Boaz recorded his first raps in a funeral home
"A friend of mine's grandfather owns a funeral home. Back when we didn't have the means to pay for full studio time, we knew that when he was through with the funerals he had a microphone there. We utilized that to our full ability, man. We used to turn the funeral home into a full studio. I was talking to one of his brothers the other day and he said, 'I used to laugh like mad at y'all turning that karaoke machine into a studio.' We used it to our advantage: We'd bring girls over and turn it into a haunted house. We did what we could with it!"
5. Vali is fascinated with Audrey Hepburn
"I've loved Audrey Hepburn since I was a little girl. I'm fascinated with her 'cause she's such a classic beauty. I've always worn my hair up like her, until recently, so I called myself Urban Hepburn. My favorite movie of hers is Charade with Cary Grant. I saw it when I was really little with my mom and I remember she took me to a movie theater in New York that plays old movies so I got to see it on the big screen and I remember being really scared at parts of the movie."
6. Leon Thomas III counts Babyface as a mentor
"I'm currently writing my debut album and I'm working with Babyface. Man, he's one of my greatest mentors right now. I grew up listening to his music and he's probably one of the only geniuses I know. Watching him work you can tell his mind works about a thousand miles a minute. He knows how to really provoke emotions in a song. When I first met him, I was trying to play it cool but now it's more natural around him. When I was growing up, I remember always singing 'When Can I See You.' That song is amazing."
7. Vali is on a winning streak at the casino
"I've gambled in casinos and won some money playing blackjack and roulette. For blackjack I literally walked up to the table with $20, I put it down and I left with $500. I'd advise people to stop when they're ahead though. I bought a new iPhone with the winnings 'cause I had one and it cracked."
8. Boaz learned industry lessons from Wiz and Mac
"I saw Wiz and Mac coming up in Pittsburgh doing all these different tours but I got to see them stay humble and not get too caught up in the life. I got some good advice from Wiz. He told me that at the heights of being on tour there would be 30 groupies in a single file line but the dude doesn't cheat on his wife. So instead of sitting down and telling me some industry advice he showed me that he's a good leader. I've taken good notes from both of those guys."
9. Vali has recorded as unreleased answer version of Sting's "Roxanne"
"About two years ago I got a track that was really different to anything I'd ever recorded on. And I always liked the name Roxanne so I decided to do an urban-rock version of the song. It took me like only 20 minutes to write 'cause I was really in the vibe. It's unreleased at the moment -- it might be on my album -- but it's so different to my other music it might throw everything off. I'm writing it from the point of view of Roxanne singing to the Police."
10. Leon Thomas III made his stage debut aged 3
"The first instrument I learned to play was the drums. I was 3 years old, and my mom was in a local group and I gravitated towards a lot of percussion instruments. I don't remember much about the performance but my mom told me everyone was backstage and I just ran out and the next thing I knew I had the crowd going and then the band came out and joined in. Apparently there's footage of it somewhere but we haven't been able to find it."