Interview With Wiz Khalifa
By Liquid Todd
Wiz Khalifa hangs out with Snoop Dogg, his hit single went double-platinum and he sells out shows left and right–all at the tender age of 23
While the echoes of his monster hit “Black & Yellow” still ricochet from airwaves to dancefloors, the very young, ridiculously humble and—hell—almost preternaturally chilled-out prodigy, Wiz Khalifa, took some time from his punishing record-and-tour routine to speak to CULTURE about working with his cannabis-infused idol Snoop Dogg and how he manages the stresses and pressures of life in the limelight (hint: The same way you handle the pressures of your superstar existence, playa). This kid is so cooled out, he’s probably on the friggin‘ Moon . . . or maybe somewhere else just as barren . . .
So where are you right now?
I’m in Southern Carolina.
Otherwise known as “South Carolina”?
So this is for a medical marijuana lifestyle magazine called CULTURE out in Southern California. Ever heard of it?
Yeah, I have heard of it actually.
No kidding? That’s impressive.
So, you are from Pittsburgh, right?
Born and raised.
I hear you are a guy who is proud of his hometown and its sports teams.
Yeah, I’m just big on Pittsburgh in general. Just being from the ’burgh, man.
What do you like about Pittsburgh?
I just like the culture. All my family is from there. It’s just really, really different, you know. Its fun to party out there, you know; just be there.
A lot of people found out about you from your recent hit “Black & Yellow”–for the new guys, explain what your name means.
My name comes from a nickname given to me from when I was a little bit younger for being good at whatever I did. You know, they called me a young wiz. And khalifa is spreader of religion, a teller of the word–a name that was also given to me. So put ’em together and you’ve got Wiz Khalifa.
So your debut single was “Say Yeah” and it did pretty well, but “Black & Yellow” went all the way to the top of the charts and you can hear it all over the radio and in the clubs. What’s it like considering . . . you’re 24?
What’s it like to be 23 years old and have a No. 1 single?
It’s cool [. . . ] It gives me a lot to look forward to as well in my life and, you know, to work towards. [It] gives me a lot to be happy about.
Have you heard your songs booming out of cars?
Yeah, I have. And every time I’m in the car it comes on! And I wonder if they are playing it because I’m there.
Has all this success changed your lifestyle a lot?
No, [it ’s] not really changing my life. I just gotta be upfront about everything and, you know, stay working and stay disciplined. That’s the main thing–to keep it up.
How has it been working with Snoop Dogg?
It’s cool, man; it’s been a dream come true, of course. [. . . I’m] a huge fan—like the biggest. And it just helps me feel better, you know, just being in a room with Snoop and seeing him knock out verses and going in right behind him. Knocking out verses is easy so it’s kinda cool. It’s fun.
Have you learned a lot from watching Snoop?
Yeah, totally, totally. I think we learn a lot from each other. You know him being a legend in the game and me being young and–you know what I’m sayin‘–understanding the game kinda now. We just bounce ideas off each other. Just make it real crazy.
Has he taken you under his wing a little?
Yeah, definitely. I mean dude has me in his house, going to all of his parties with him. It’s been humbling.
A lot of music critics have anointed you as “The Next Snoop.” How do you feel about that?
That’s awesome [. . .] Thinking how big an influence he is to me and other kids my age. Just to know that other people are giving me that same potential is awesome.
You seem to have a pretty level head. How do you stay grounded through all the madness?
Well, staying high of course; just working hard. I like to party and stuff like that. But really cutting a lot of the partying out and just making sure I’m in the studio or performing or getting a little rest after the shows because I know I gotta do a lot of stuff in the morning.
Have you seen some crazy shit in this business since you’ve gotten to the A-level that surprised you?
I try not to concern myself with anyone else’s operations. I just do what I do and try to be the best at that.
There’s this theme I’ve noticed running throughout your work. And this theme is green and stinky. Tell me about your relationship with marijuana.
It’s not just a musical thing, not just a creative thing. I just like to be in that zone. And it helps me just do everything. I’m not dependent on it. But pot just plays a huge roll in the everyday mechanics of my life. It totally keeps me grounded.
Explain your music writing process.
I really just hear a beat and from there usually do the hook. It takes me about 15 minutes to figure out what I want the hook to be about. After that, I do my verses and I usually leave it how it is. I don’t go back and change too much of anything. I might add stuff to it. And I never really write anything until I get to the studio either. I always do the writing on the spot. [. . .] That’s how it all comes together. Hear a beat. Smoke some weed. Start rapping.
I think it’s totally ridiculous you got busted for marijuana possession at East Carolina University after a performance when chilling in your own tour bus backstage!
Oh, it wasn’t that bad. It’s all good. Stuff happens. You know that whole situation. It was what it was.
You aren’t actively leading a boycott of ECU?
No, no—totally not. They did what they felt like they had to do so . . . can’t blame ’em for that.
I imagine you’d describe yourself as a supporter of the medical marijuana movement?
Yeah, of course. I don’t think that’s even a question.
You been to a dispensary lately?
Yeah, I’ve been to a couple of them. I have some homies who run them in different parts of the world.
Do you know anyone who has been helped by medical marijuana?
Yeah, me! I’m living proof, man.
Any favorite products? Baked goods?
Nah, I just smoke papers. I got my own papers that are coming out pretty soon. We got them on tour with us.
So, what’s the Taylor Gang all about?
It’s just my fanbase, you know; a group of people that I identify with. It started out with just me and my group of friends, but it just grew to [include] everybody who supports it; everybody who lives that life of just being positive, having fun and being yourself. That’s the main thing that we worried about. That’s what people around us are into.
You don’t have to murder a stranger to join or anything like that—there’re no initiation rituals?
No murdering strangers or breaking mailboxes.
No hazing rituals?
No, none of that.
So, I’m in then? I’m in the gang?
Totally. As long as you ain’t on no circus shit. And you don’t seem to be so . . .
Alright. First the Zulu Nation, now the Taylor Gang. I got some cred!
Is the Taylor Gang merchandise I see for sale on the Web from you?
Yeah. I mean I’m doing another line that’s more high-end fashion, but the Taylor Gang stuff turned into my merch for when we’re on tour so I can keep the fans interested in what’s going on.
Alright, so your album Rolling Papers just dropped. What can people expect from your first proper studio album?
Umm, just the next level of my music, you know. You can just expect me to be working hard as far as like the lyrical contention and the best selection. Everything was really calculated on this and I think people are going to get that feeling from the record.
Are you planning on doing a bunch of remixes of the singles?
We’ll see what’s up. I like to keep that under wraps and have it be a surprise.
You know remix culture has exploded lately. Every time a big track drops, guys out there get busy on their laptops and dozens of bootleg remixes start popping up on music blogs almost instantly. How do you feel about the bootleg mixes people have done of your stuff?
I feel alright about ’em just [because] they’re interested in the record and that they like it enough to go and make their own version ’cause I used to do a lot of remixes, and I knew how much I had to like a song to do a remix. So, just knowing the effort that’s going into it makes it pretty awesome.
You’ve done the superstar collaboration thing before but now you are “Black & Yellow” hot. Are you getting a lot of calls to do guest spots on other people’s songs?
Yeah, people want it, but I try to keep my style contained, you know? There are people that I will work with in the future. But it’s important to keep my brand strong [and] stay an individual. So, I gotta do that.
I heard you got booked for both Coachella and Bonnaroo. That’s big. Congratulations.
Yeah, thanks. I appreciate it.
Have you ever been to Coachella before?
No, I haven’t actually.
I’m sure you’ve heard about it.
Yeah, I’ve heard all about it. It’s gonna be tight. It’s gonna be great for my fans too.
Would you rather play the big festivals or rock the clubs? Or is it all the same to you?
It’s not all the same, you know? They both serve their purpose. I like performing in general so that’s kinda where I’m at with that.
I see you’re kind of a road warrior. How much of last year did you spend traveling?
(Laughs) I have no idea, dog. Yeah, the majority of it.
What’s next for you? Are you putting out any free stuff for the fans?
Everything is about the album right now. I just dropped a mixtape last week which was totally free. So, now it’s all about the new album.
courtesy of Culture Mag