Penn State History Lesson: Wiz Khalifa’s State College & Delta Upsilon Fraternity Connections
Before Grammy-nominated rapper Wiz Khalifa was selling out stadiums, he was performing at Penn State fraternities. For seven years, Khalifa was known to frequent the State College area.
In October 2007, the up-and-coming Pittsburgh rapper performed a Friday night charity concert at the Delta Upsilon fraternity. The concert benefitted the family of Aaron Stidd, a DU brother who was hit crossing the street by a drunk driver the previous year and left critically injured. Its purpose was also to spread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.
Just one day before the concert, DU received news that another brother, Justin Parent, had passed away after being found in a state of cardiac arrest, according to The Daily Collegian. Parent loved rap music and was a stark supporter of the Stidd charity, so DU decided to still host the concert. Khalifa was said to give shout-outs to Parent throughout the night.
Leading up to the performance, Khalifa was only 19 years old and named a new artist to watch by Rolling Stone.
At the time, Penn State sophomore Will Dzombak was the co-founder of Nittany Booking, which put on the show for $10 a head. Now, Dzombak is a Grammy-nominated producer and the CEO and founder of Taylor Gang Entertainment. He talked about the beginning of his relationship with Khalifa in an episode of Onward State’s podcast, Podward State, in April.
This concert was the catalyst for Dzombak’s relationship with Khalifa, as it grew personally and professionally. Khalifa didn’t have a place to crash for the weekend, so he ended up staying in Dzombak’s apartment.
“When we first brought him to the frat, he had just gotten signed with Warner Bros. Records, and we had a single called ‘Say Yeah’, which is an Alice Deejay sample, and that song was on the radio,” Dzombak told Podward State. “This was in 2007 before social media was a thing, so it was cool as fuck.”
After an eventful weekend, the duo put a tour together in the summer of 2008 and have worked together ever since.
Naturally, Khalifa celebrated 4/20 in State College, too. Dzombak shared a throwback photo of Khalifa performing at a fraternity daylong.
In September 2008, Khalifa posted to his YouTube channel, documenting a trip to Penn State with other Taylor Gang members, including Chevy Woods and Young Knock. In the video below, Khalifa does a “We Are!” chant at time 4:40.
They performed “Paper Planes,” “Hero,” “Say Yeah,” an unreleased “A Milli” freestyle, “Ink My Whole Body,” and “Goodbye” at a rush event. Rapper Throwback posted a YouTube video showing Khalifa behind the scenes at the September concert.
Another YouTube video posted by user “Max S” shows Khalifa shouting out the “ladies” and “dawgs” at the frat before introducing members of Taylor Gang.
Khalifa came back to State College a handful of times in 2009. He traveled to Happy Valley in July, October, and December that year.
Khalifa performed again at DU during the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, better known as Arts Fest, on July 11, 2009. This event is arguably one of the most epic parties in Penn State’s history.
Khalifa’s concert at DU was certainly one for the books, but the fraternity landed itself in some trouble following the event.
“Having @wizkhalifa headline our event before he became big and a Grammy award finalist was truly an amazing night with huge attendance,” Rocco Pro, a presumed DU member, wrote on Instagram. “Unfortunately, the alumni board did not see it as that and decided to kick 60 undergrads out of the fraternity a month before fall classes started with over 40 brothers committed to live in the house that fall leaving them to find housing weeks before classes started.”
“At least we went out with a banger,” he continued. “Still was an epic night and prob one of the greatest Arts Fests parties in PSU history.”
At the time of the concert, the frat was being investigated for drugs and alcohol, so it was told not to host any parties. Instead, the group threw arguably the best one ever. Allegedly, the drug and alcohol policies had been a battle for nearly two years.
Two weeks later, the brothers were evicted from their house located at 229 Locust Lane. The Arts Fest party was “the straw that broke the camel’s back,” then-chapter president, Jaret Haffner, told the Collegian.
Interestingly, the frat was approaching its 100-year anniversary, which would occur in 2011. Then-alumni president John DelSignore told the Collegian that “the only other time that the house has been emptied was during WWII.”
(Photos courtesy of Will Dzombak)
Khalifa also played a show at another Penn State fraternity, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, in 2009.
In December 2009, DU reestablished itself and initiated 14 new members. The new brothers were able to move into the house again that spring and take over the residence from the Kappa Delta Rho brothers, who were temporarily living there.
Ironically enough, Khalifa was back in State College that same weekend.
Just one day before DU was reestablished, Khalifa took to Twitter to ask for the moves. Twitter archives indicate that Khalifa performed at “Cell Block”, which was located in the former location of Stage West.
It is unclear why Khalifa came back to State College in October of the same year, but it was likely to just hang out with his friends.
Khalifa also recorded a music video for “Shame” in the DU house that was released in 2010. This song was a part of his Flight School mixtape. In the video, you can see the frat’s signature Tudor architecture and Khalifa smoking a blunt on the DU couch and walking the halls.
After gaining exponential traction, Khalifa came back to Penn State to perform at the Bryce Jordan Center in 2011 and 2012. In April 2011, Khalifa joined Mac Miller, another up-and-coming Pittsburgh artist at the time. Tickets were less than $30 a pop.
The following October, he performed at the BJC as a part of the 2050 Tour with Taylor Gang recording artists Juicy J, Chevy Woods, Lola Monroe, Berner, and Tuki Carter. Here, fans heard him perform classics like, “Black and Yellow,” “Roll Up,” “No Sleep,” “Young, Wild & Free,” and “Work Hard, Play Hard.” He premiered “Rise Above,” a Pharrell Williams produced track, at this concert, too.
Khalifa’s relationship with Penn State didn’t end there. In 2014, he performed at Movin’ On in place of A$AP Rocky, who had to cancel due to “unforeseen circumstances.” Dzombak did the folks in attendance a favor and brought in an even bigger name than A$AP Rocky.
“Bob used to run the BJC with Bernie and they had reached out and were like, ‘Hey we’re in a bind. Can you help us out?’ And we were like, ‘Yeah. Sure. We’ll be there. See you tomorrow,'” Dzombak said. “It was really cool. That was a really cool show. That was in the IM Fields up by East.”
After Khalifa’s Movin’ On performance, he partied one last time downtown with a surprise performance at the Lion’s Den.
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