Last week, rapper and avowed marijuana lover Wiz Khalifa went to Colombia to perform a concert in Bogota. But before leaving South America, Khalifa made a controversial pit stop in Medellin.
These days, Medellin is a popular tourist attraction–but for decades, it was a place to not be at all, internationally known as the hometown and operating base of Pablo Escobar, the original cocaine cowboy and (possibly) the most famous drug kingpin to ever live.
Not content to get stoned and watch “Narcos” back in his hotel room, 29-year-old Khalifa capped off his trip to the city with a pilgrimage to the apartment building where Escobar lived for a time prior to his 1993 death in a shootout with police, which he used as the backdrop for a few photos.
He also paid his respects at Escobar’s grave. Khalifa and his crew left a tightly-packed preroll and some flowers at Escobar’s headstone, puffed a joint in the narco’s honor–and posted the entire affair to his very busy Instagram account, setting off an international incident in the process.
Wiz paid his respects on Friday. Very soon afterwards, Medellin mayor Federico Gutierrez went ballistic, calling the rapper a “scoundrel” who was “advocating crime”—and ought to have paid respects to the families of some of the 4,000 people Escobar’s Medellin cartel is said to have killed in order to supply the U.S. with 80 percent of its cocaine.
“It shows that this guy has never had to suffer from the violence inflicted by these drug traffickers,” Gutierrez said, according to the BBC. Wiz and his crew have yet to comment, declining to respond to a request to explain themselves from FADER.
Local newspapers were also incensed, and declared that Wiz’s visit to pay homage at the capo’s grave was a blow to the “dignity” of Colombians.
We don’t need to be the ones to explain the allure drug culture and drug lords have in the rap game, where rhyming about moving snowflakes by the O.Z. and self-comparisons to Tony Montana are de rigeur. But Wiz may have stepped in it with this one. Escoba isn’t known for anything related to cannabis—and it was Escobar who is credited with coining the infamous slogan, “plato o pomo,” i.e., “take a bribe, or I’ll kill you.”
Not exactly the kind of guy you want to emulate… or is it?
Many rappers have taken a shine to Escobar. (Some more so than others.) And Khalifa is indeed in the drug game, though in a very different way, marketing a line of legal cannabis in Colorado—where he enjoys the protection of police.
Then again, Escobar’s cartel is credited with orchestrating the bombing of a civilian airliner, which killed all 107 people on board. Wiz is not the first person to infuriate the locals in this way.
In 2014, a reggaeton artist also committed the narco gaffe—but he apologized. Gutierrez says that Wiz isn’t welcome back in Medellin until he also makes amends. There may be no need—he already has the photos.
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