Whatever your take on Rolling Stone's relevance, appearing on the magazine's cover signals that you've arrived -- somewhere in pop culture, and perhaps not for long. Currently sharing a double-cover with Jersey Shore's Snooki is Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa. I laughed when I saw Rolling Stone's caption: "Hip-Hop Rookie of the Year."
The cover portrait of Khalifa reminded me of writing City Paper's 2006 cover story on him. When I interviewed him at the ID Labs studio, I was struck by the then-17-year-old's maturity and dignity. He clearly had something meaningful to express, and was going places.
I was far from alone in this realization; others included writers at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Tribune-Review, and the Rostrum Records team working on his behalf.
But it would take five years -- nearly a quarter of his life so far -- to jump from CP's cover to Rolling Stone's. Even in the viral, social-media era, success can be very slow. And when Khalifa's album Rolling Papers comes out later this month, he's probably looking at the most difficult, work-intensive year of his life.
It also takes five years to jump from our cover to Whirl's.
"We shot Wiz for the cover four years ago, but the time wasn't right. Today, it is," writes Victoria Bradley, the local magazine's executive editor. "We are as enamoured [sic] with the Pittsburgh star as the rest of the world -- maybe more so, as we consider ourselves to be some of his longest-running supporters."
Just over five years ago, I joined City Paper as music editor, and wrote my first local-music column. Now I'm leaving to focus on graduate school at Carnegie Mellon.
In that time, we've featured all kinds of Pittsburgh musicians on our cover: Girl Talk; Morgan Erina; Eric Singer; Tusk Lord; The Cynics; Mike Tamburo; Pairdown; Dave Bernabo; Eric Graf; Transition; Takeover UK; Omar Abdul; Basick Sickness; Masai Turner; and Charon Don. Chilean folk musicians, bagpipers and circus musicians. Some have moved on to new projects, some have found remarkable success, some measure success in complicated ways.
Was "the time" right? Time will tell.