At first glance, Wiz Khalifa, the rapper—born Cameron Jibril Thomaz—and Laurence Thomaz, the military man, appear to be polar opposites. A stately and strong man, the elder Thomaz, an Air Force veteran, always encouraged his son’s free-spirited endeavors, regardless of how abstract the goal. “Despite my military background, it was always my role to be supportive of Cam’s dreams. I even bought him some inexpensive audio equipment and opened a little studio for him when he was young,” he says. But of course, there were stipulations. Wiz would never squander opportunity under his  dad’s roof. “I explained to him that he didn’t have to be a doctor nor a lawyer; the world always needs entertainers. But once he graduated from high school, I gave him just one year to make his mark in music. I told him if things didn’t take off in the industry, then he needed to give college a try.” Just shy of the deadline, Wiz signed with a major record label, having listened to his father’s words.

Family love and support made dreams a reality. “No matter what was going on in my life, my father made sure I’d become a self-sufficient man. My dad let me express myself creatively through my clothes, my hair and everything else I wanted to do as a kid,” notes Wiz. And it’s that very faith and steadfastness his father instilled in him that helped mold him into the man he is today. “My dad told me to always give 100 percent in anything that I do; that’s why I’m standing here today as an artist.”

But then there’s always tabloid fodder that clouds many a perception and distorts the image of a man. With Wiz’s engagement to model Amber Rose making headlines, Thomaz reflects on teaching his son about being a gentleman and entering relationships with the best of intentions. “He’s always been respectful. This may sound corny, but he was born a gentleman,” says Thomaz. “I always let him know to be honest in life and to be honest with any lady [who] shares that life with you.”