By Simon Vozick-Levinson
Updated November 30, 2009 at 11:56 PM EST
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For a short time early last week, a surprising entry crept into the iTunes Music Store’s overall top 10 albums: 22-year-old Pittsburgh rapper Wiz Khalifa’s Deal or No Deal, coming in just below high-profile pop releases by the likes of Adam Lambert, Lady Gaga, John Mayer, and the New Moon soundtrack. It also briefly topped iTunes’ hip-hop chart. Wait a sec — Wiz who?

If you did recognize Wiz’s name, it might have been from last year’s “Say Yeah,” with its prominent sample of Dutch trance act Alice DeeJay’s “Better Off Alone.” That single became a minor hit, but a full-length follow-up failed to materialize, and Wiz left then-label Warner Bros. earlier this year. “I didn’t get dropped from Warner, but they definitely lost interest in the project,” he tells the Music Mix. “After ‘Say Yeah,’ I think they wanted me to be that artist who just does that [sound].” (A Warner Bros. rep confirmed that Wiz parted ways with the label this year, but declined further comment.)

Wiz kept a healthy buzz going among rap fans in recent months with well-received mixtapes and tracks like “This Plane.” He ended up releasing Nov. 24’s Deal or No Deal, many of whose songs were recorded while he was still with Warner Bros., on the considerably smaller (to say the least) Rostrum Records/Frank Radio/iHipHop Distribution. Now he’s getting arguably as much attention for his new project on a teensy indie label as he ever did back when he was signed to a major. “I’m feeling really great, man,” Wiz says with an audible grin. “I’m on my own terms.”

(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)

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