Wiz Khalifa had the right idea when he decided to name his 2007 mixtape Grow Season. Back then, he was a tall, lanky 19-year-old trying to make noise out of a buzzless Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Today, while the herb-toking rapper’s frame hasn’t filled out much, Wiz is carrying the ’Burgh on his slender shoulders—thanks to his smash hometown ode “Black and Yellow.”

Since appearing on this very magazine’s “10 Freshmen for ’10” cover last April, Wiz has become rap’s biggest breakout star. He sold out 47 of 50 dates on his Deal or No Deal tour. He watched his eighth mixtape, Kush & Orange Juice, become a trending topic on Twitter. And he signed to Atlantic Records, through Pittsburgh indie label Rostrum Records. Along the way, there was a weed bust, an on-the-hush relationship with Kanye West’s ex-girlfriend Amber Rose, and a spirited performance of the song that was about to become No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, at the Pittsburgh Steelers’ AFC championship game against the New York Jets this past January.

It’s been quite the ride. So on the eve of the release of his first major-label effort, Rolling Papers, the Taylor Gang general sat down with XXL for a year in review.

April 14, 2010
Kush & Orange Juice becomes a No. 1 trending topic on Twitter

“It took me from October 2009 all the way up to about March 2010, where I recorded my last couple of songs for the tape… That one really didn’t surprise me. I had been planning that for so long. I was putting that together and nailing my sound down. Even the promotion of it had started in August of 2009. That’s when I first started saying anything about Kush & Orange Juice and applying that name. Even in my XXL [2010 Freshman] freestyle, I said, ‘Kush and orange juice.’ In my head, I was already Kush & Orange Juice’d out. It was just that I was puttin’ it down and gettin’ it ready for everybody else.”

April 2010
Wiz begins recording what is to become his major-label debut

“I made the title Rolling Papers up before I started recording it. I had the title; I just had to have it make sense. It was really just gettin’ started and changin’ my mind and nailing my style down to somethin’ else. I was trying new things, other than what I was naturally doin’ with Kush & Orange Juice.”

May 2, 2010
Wiz wraps up his Deal or No Deal tour, selling out 47 of 50 dates

“All of my tours, they really started from building a following and building my reputation in different cities with different people. Building relationships with promoters and just building a reputation as a good performer and as someone that’s gonna show up and really excite people.”

July 30, 2010
Wiz announces his deal with Atlantic Records

“Everybody knows, nobody just signs a deal the day that they talk about it or the week that they talk about it, or even the month that they talk about it. If you do it the right way, contracts have to be negotiated, lawyers got to be talked to, and terms got to be worked out. So the shit was in the works for a minute. Atlantic was really, really on point with keeping it a secret and keeping it under wraps, just for my following and my movement. They were really adamant about keeping everything grassroots. It was our idea, as well. We kept it under wraps for a minute, and we just got to the point that we had to calculate these moves, and we had to tell the people at some time, so we just went ahead and did it then.”

August 7, 2010
Fans bum-rush Wiz onstage at the Boston Urban Music Festival

“I wasn’t scared, I just didn’t want anyone else to get hurt. I was more worried about that. It was a positive bum-rush—they did it with style. They didn’t jump up on me or rip my clothes off. They didn’t take anything from me. I just really felt the love. I think that they were really, really excited, and when the barrier broke, they were like, We can get to him. So I had to get out of there before it got too crazy.”