On his own steam, Wiz Khalifa is living the life most of us can only dream of. Don’t get jealous, though. Get familiar. This 22-year-old Pittsburgh pen pilot has landed in a world fueled with private planes, purps by the pound and skillet-handling women who are as bright as they are beautiful by doing one thing and one thing alone: staying persistant. In the four years since his first forward-thinking album, Show & Prove, this hustler has dropped seven of the most sought-after mixtapes in the business, using them as leverage to justify openly leaving behind a major label deal that most artists would sell their soul for.
Never one to pass on an opportunity (unless it’s a Swisher,) Wiz speaks to TSS’s Beware about what it takes to fly solo as an independent artist, the perks of having loyal fans and why, despite releasing his second, aptly-titled Deal Or No Deal album on November 24th, the Wiz Kid is already looking towards the future.
TSS: I hear you’re on set for a video shoot. Why don’t you tell us a lil’ bit about that.
Wiz Khalifa: The video is going great. We rented out a private jet hangar. So, we in a hangar. There’s private jets everywhere. They shut down the runway for us. It’s crazy.
TSS: Yeah. I’d say so. What song is the video for?
Wiz Khalifa: It’s for “This Plane,” off Deal Or No Deal.
TSS: That’s a good one. And also, a nice lead into my first question. Your first album, Show & Prove, was released in ’06 and are just now dropping the follow up, Deal Or No Deal, three long years later this November 24. Did the album meet your expectations?
Wiz: Yeah. Definitely. The situation happened with Warner, or whatever, where we signed up and were supposed to be doing an album with them. Unfortunately, you know, that didn’t happen. Everything went cool over there, but it just got to the point where I would do much better off on my own and you know, they granted that as soon as we asked. So, now I’m just putting out that album with some of that material that was supposed to be on there, while still preparing for my real, real album. Because, I feel that I still haven’t had my debut, for sure album yet. So I’m working towards that.
TSS: So this one’s kind of like the prelude?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, exactly.
TSS: Tell me how the process went down, where…you know, so many rappers are out there talking about how their whole aspirations are to get that major deal. Then, you actually had that deal, but things broke down, if you will. How did that force you to change your grind?
Wiz Khalifa: Well, really I just stayed focused the whole time I was over there on Warner, and just really tried to pay attention to how the game was going and what was really happening. So, when it got to that point where we were leaving Warner, six-to-eight months before had premeditated to start building my own brand independently and do things on my own. So, that’s when I started my YouTube page and Twitter started getting real popular around this time last year for me. So, it was just like when I realized I had to start working for myself, I figured out how to. Then, I just went as hard as I could at it. And the situation at Warner never really discouraged me, or made me feel bad in any way, because I’ve always been able to adapt in any situation. It was just another hurdle for me to get over and it ended up working out in my favor completely. So, I’m glad that it happened.
TSS: So, Twitter and other online networking opportunities have proven fairly resourceful for you and your career?
Wiz Khalifa: Oh, Twitter has been crazy for me, man. It really just took me from one place and just put me five steps higher than I thought I would be to connect like with my fans and stay in touch with ‘em and also drop new music and build up suspense for any project I got coming out. It’s so easy and quick to reach so many people and you know, so many people like the music. A lot of people feel like I’m slept on. I don’t feel like I’m slept on, because as soon as people hear the music, they love it. So, that’s pretty much what’s happened because of Twitter. It’s almost as good as word of mouth, because you’ve got everybody telling everybody.
TSS: It is word of mouth. Do you feel like the Internet makes rappers work harder?
Wiz Khalifa: Definitely. It forces rappers to work harder. It forces rappers to be more creative. The Internet is so quick and hands on, so you’ve got to be able to keep up and stay relevant. That’s where the majority of the kids are, and the audiences are. There’s still the hardcore fan base that will still go to the stores, listen to the radio and watch videos, but for the most part it’s all Internet right now. So, if you can’t capitalize off of that, or at least keep up with the dude’s who’re doing it well, well…it gets hard for an artist.
TSS: Yup. You can’t just expect to make a hit. People don’t just pop off hits anymore. It’s a grind these days.
Wiz Khalifa: Exactly. You got build it up. You got to have a fan base and people who support you.
TSS: Right. So, if there were no Internet, what would you be doing differently?
Wiz Khalifa: I’d definitely be hitting the shows harder. In a lot more cities. I’d find my target market in a city, or in an area and just stay there and pop that off for a little bit, then move on to the next one. Just do it real old school (Laughs).
TSS: Speaking of catering to specific target markets, your music is different than a lot of rappers. Even though you’re coming from “Pistolvania,” your music harbors more on Pop sensibilities and you’ve got a little more sing-song in your delivery these days. I was doing some reading and read that since your dad was in the service, your family moved around a lot when you were growing up. How much did that affect your musical taste and upbringing?
Wiz Khalifa: Well, my parents moving around didn’t affect my music as much as, you know, the music my parents brought me up listening to. Like, my dad was always playing old records in the house and he would play anything from old, Classic Rock to the old soul stuff. Disco. Funk. All that type of stuff. Plus, through the nineties I would hear all the stuff they were listening to through then, as well. So, it was really just my parents’ musical tastes and just me enjoying music as much as I did as a kid. Plus, my parents supported anything I wanted to do. Me moving around, it really just helped me adapt and make myself known in an area – or in a situation – where I might not have been comfortable. I was always the new guy, you know what I mean? So, that helped out a lot.
TSS: What non-rap do you listen to on the regular?
Wiz Khalifa: Well, I watch VH1 all the time. I listen to a lot of Animal Collective. Who else have I been listening to? Oh, Empire Of The Sun. I listen to a lot of old, classic rock, like The Police and Rod Stewart. Just anything. Anything good that comes on. I like soulful stuff, too. Angela Bofill.
TSS: It sounds like you got a pretty diverse palette over there.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah. I pretty much listen to all music. All the time. Every day.
TSS: That’s great. I feel there are a lot of rappers – not just rappers, people in general – who confine themselves to one certain genre. Like, “I only listen to rap. I only like Jeezy. Or, I only like DJ Premier beats.” So, with you – I mean, you rap to Pharcyde, Alice Deejay, Empire Of The Sun, Rick Ross, etc. Do you feel you need to stay versatile to cater to certain fans, or do you basically just rap to whatever the hell you like?
Wiz Khalifa: I honestly rap to whatever the hell I want to. Since I listen to every type of music, I feel like everything inspires me, as far as music. I’m more into knowing all about music, than just rapping. I get into the sequence in the songs, different instruments that come in at different parts. So, I apply that to my music, so there’s tons more people who can connect with good music than with Gangsta Rap or this type of music or that type of music. Being versatile is a good thing, because I have fun with it, but it just comes with me being me.
TSS: Why limit yourself, you know?
Wiz Khalifa: Exactly.
TSS: If you could collaborate with any non-Hip-Hop artist out there, who would it be?
Wiz Khalifa: Um…non-Hip-Hop? Probably John Mayer, or somebody like that. He’s pretty tight.
TSS: You hear that new one he did with Wale? “Letter”?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, Wale’s killing ‘em right now.
TSS: Yeah, I know. He’s promoting real hard on Twitter for Attention Deficit, and I feel bad I haven’t gone out there and copped, because I support his music.
Wiz Khalifa: I had to grab it off iTunes. I fucks with Wale.
TSS: I have a hard time buying things from iTunes. I’m more of a CD in a package kind-of-guy myself. I feel like I’m not getting the whole package when I buy off iTunes.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, I feel you. It’s just so much quicker for me because I just buy it from iTunes and put it straight on my iPhone, instead of buying the CD and having to keep track of the CD. I lose **** like all the time.
TSS: I could see that. On track 2 from Burn After Rolling, “Getting’ Up,” you say “…Been considered hipster ‘cause my shirts fit.” What does a classification like hipster mean to you?
Wiz Khalifa Well, “hipster,” the word and the people I would consider to be hipster, they’re like…the way I would differentiate myself from them is the way I was growing up in Pittsburgh. Being around the people that I’ve been around, it’s like everything around me is street. In Pittsburgh, all my homies…they…do what they do and I’ve got homeboys in jail. You know, that was never really my life, but that’s what I’m exposed to. The reality. I really been in that. As opposed to a lot of people who stay away from that. I was in that, but I never let it take over me. Not saying that I’m cooler than anyone else, but I got both perspectives – from the street side and just being a normal kid. And think people can get that from my music, because you know, I can do a show at an all-white college or an all-white club. Then, go to Detroit or something like that and go to a hood-ass club and everybody’s gon’ love it and nobody’s going to try me just because they respect it. They can tell that my music – they way I talk, the way I act and what I say – is authentic.
I’ve seen it a lot where white kids will come completely out of their element – to a hood-ass club – just to make sure they see me. Then, vice-versa, where some hood cats will be all the way out in the sticks somewhere just to make sure they see me. So, I think it’s just about having that balance of having that hood and just having the regular, normal people, but not exercising the hood factor, because I never wanted to do that.
TSS: Do you think that when people do put a hipster tag, or a gangsta tag, on a rapper, that it leaves that rapper with something extra to prove?
Wiz Khalifa: I definitely think it does. Most rappers have something to prove, because they’re either going to try and prove that they are or they aren’t what people are talking about. However extreme it is, they’re going to have to clear that up or make sure that people keep thinking that about them.
TSS: If XXL does the Freshman gimmick cover again, you think you deserve a spot?
Wiz Khalifa: I don’t know, man. I don’t ever try and sit around say I deserve anything. If they decide to give it to me, it’d be cool. If not, I’m gonna’ still keep doin’ whatever it is I’m doin. Last year, when I didn’t get the cover, that kind of fueled everything for me and made me grind harder. So, maybe they’ll consider me for this year, or the next one that they do. But, you know, I just keep working.
TSS: What other rappers would be on the cover with you?
Wiz Khalifa: Hmmm…well, I don’t know, because everyone…well, J. Cole would be on there. Drake would be on there, because he wasn’t on the other one…
TSS: Yeah, they blew it on that one.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, he went to a whole other level. Probably J. Cole, XV, that dude CurT@!n$, Mickey Factz was already on there…I don’t know if I have enough names. I don’t know everybody, man (Laughs).
TSS: What about Big Sean?
Wiz Khalifa: Oh yeah. Definitely Big Sean. He’d definitely be on there.
TSS: You know, I was kind of bummed out I missed the show you did with Sean and Mike Posner around here in Pontiac not too long ago.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, Mike Posner’s tight. He would be on there, too.
TSS: When’s the next time you’re coming around here in MI?
Wiz Khalifa:I’m actually going to be around there next month, I think around the 3rd or the 4th of December. I got another show around the MSU area.
TSS: Lansing, huh? They like to get wild over there in Spartan country.
Wiz Khalifa: Oh yeah. This is going to be my third time doing shows in Lansing. It was crazy last time. A whole lot of fun (Laughs).
TSS: A lot of pretty white girls.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeeeaaah. Those kids are just trying to have a good time (Laughs).
TSS: With themes like planes, jets, space, atmosphere, stars and all that, you not only make it known that you’re a fly individual, but an avid smoker as well. Is that niche you chose for yourself or something you kind of adopted as fans became more receptive of that aspect of your music?
Wiz Khalifa: I really adopted that myself, even when people didn’t want me to all the way. I made sure that I stood strong by my chronic image (Laughs), because the weed umbrella is so big, you know everybody smokes weed. And that’s what a lot of people don’t understand. There’ll be older people who like my music just because it’s something they can smoke weed to. When I was younger, there was a few people who was against it, like ‘you might not want to put the weed line there, or say that,’ but one of my favorite rappers ever is Snoop Dogg. Everything he was. Everything he became. He whole swag. Everything. I know how important for him when he talks about weed, and how important it is for him, because he say it all the time. So, I just applied that to me too, because there’s people who want to hear that ****.
TSS: I’ll tell you what, if you got a career half as good as Snoop Dogg’s, I think you’ll be in a good place. He’s taken it to levels that most rappers never dream to aspire to. He’s a pop icon.
Wiz Khalifa: And the fact that he’s 30’s, 40 maybe, and still when drops his first single, people go crazy.
TSS: Yeah, that new single with The-Dream is dope.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, but I mean his first singles, like “Gin ‘N Juice” or “Deep Cover.” If he performs that, people go nuts and that’s the first **** he ever came out with, so he’ll be good forever.
TSS: I’ve heard you say a few times that you’re strictly an E-Z-Wider guy. Are you telling me that if a blunt of goods comes your way you’re going to pass?
Wiz Khalifa: Nah man, I’m not going to smoke that blunt (Laughs). I don’t smoke blunts at all, dog. I don’t care what weed is in there.
TSS: Too much paper? Too harsh?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah. The cigar, it gets in between the high and the weed and the taste and all that. It’s too harsh. And I smoked a lot of blunts, because you know, that’s where everybody starts. I been smoking since I was 15 and I’m 22 now. So, it’s like after non-stop blunts, I’m coughing up brown ****. I’m breathing all heavy on stage. So, I just had to cut back. I love weed too much to let it kill me, man. And blunts were getting to be a little too much on my lungs.
TSS: Curren$y boasts like he’s the best toker of all time. When you guys are kicking it together, who gets outsmoked?
Wiz Khalifa: We both outsmoke each other. Like, I don’t think that either one of us outsmokes each other. And it’s crazy because he never expected it. It’s crazy, because Curren$y been around way longer than I have. That’s why I love him so much, because he’s like a big brother to me, but he fucks with me on the same level. He don’t treat it like he’s been in the game for years and I’m a new cat. He put me on the same level with him and dudes who’ve doing it for ten years. So, when we started smoking, he was like, ‘Dude, no one has ever been able to keep up with me. Everyone else is always passed out, asleep, and you rolling ‘em and passing to me while I’m trying to go to sleep.’ We just get it in, man. I think that we’re the top two smokers in the country, as far as this new wave of dudes. There’s nobody who’s messing with us.
TSS: You know, this isn’t even in my questions, but I remember back last year, or earlier this year, there was talk of a Smoke-A-Thon, with Snoop Dogg and Juelz Santana and then all the rappers started coming out of the wood works. I remember seeing Yukmouth with like garbage bags full. What’d you think of that?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, that was crazy. I was going to get into that lil’ Smoke-A-Thon, but then it got a lil’ wild. You know, a lot of rappers, they got cases and **** and they’re just on some other ****. Smoking, and knowing there’s going to be smoking going on, there’s definitely going to be some police there. People are going to trying to make money out of it that ain’t supposed to be getting money…so, it kind of got messed up. But, I think we should definitely do something, like a movie or a tour, something where all the best smokers brings all their best weed and we just get it on. Go hard.
TSS: If y’all could separate how the profits were distributed, I know for a fact that would be a platinum-selling DVD or what not, because I personally know a lot of people that would watch their favorite rappers challenging each other to smoke.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, and then there’d be a lot of people getting involved with it. You saw how easy it was to start that **** up. To do the real ****, it’d be easy find the people to get involved with it. We gon’ put that **** together.
TSS: How many spliffs do you roll on the daily?
Wiz Khalifa: I honestly don’t know. Twenty-four come in a pack, so I probably roll at least like 15-20 of ‘em. And that’s just me to myself. So, my homies is going to roll at least that many, too. So, yeah, we get pretty baked.
TSS: Well then, I think it’s probably a good idea that you stopped smoking blunts.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah! Yeah. And blunts, they make you smoke more because of the tobacco high, because you get the highest you’re going to get as soon as you hit it. So, you’re left chasing that head rush. Where, with a joint, you’re just getting high off the weed. So, I honestly don’t smoke as many joints as I would blunts.
TSS: You’ve been around the world and back. Which city has the best buds?
Wiz Khalifa: Cali definitely has the buds and New Orleans is number two.
TSS: Okay. You and Spitta are goin’ at it down there in the NO, huh?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah! I didn’t know there was gonna’ be that good of trees down there, either. He put me on with some **** (Laughs).
TSS: (Laughs) yeah, I didn’t expect that, either. That’s why I asked.
Wiz Khalifa: I know, right? You can come over here to Pittsburgh and get some good ****, because stuff lands here. But, it’s all coming from out there, though.
TSS: What city in the world has the best women?
Wiz Khalifa: The best women? I would have to say…it’s not even a city, it’s a region. Like Detroit area, Michigan and all that ****, they got bad bitches out there. And they be ready, too. They like to have fun. I like cool chicks, you know what I’m saying? There’s pretty girls in Cali, but they’re not all cool. Atlanta has got some nice girls, too. They’re real nice, like their attitudes and the way they talk.
TSS: I got to agree. A hot chick is only going so far when her personality don’t match.
Wiz Khalifa: Oh, exactly. There’s some real nice chicks down in New Orleans, too. Real homey, like they just want to take you home and cook you breakfast. We always like that.
TSS: In a lot of your songs you mention how you have a habit of snatching up other dudes’ ladies. What’s the craziest thing that’s happened to you as a result of grabbing somebody’s girl?
Wiz Khalifa: (Laughs)…The craziest…thing…that’s happened to me from grabbing somebody else’s girl? Well, my homies always tell me like, ‘all these girls have boyfriends, dog. Don’t listen to anything they tell you.’ And most girls will try and lie to cover it up, but I’m with this one chick or whatever…and we’re just chillin’ and she’s real cool, she smokes, laughs at the right jokes and watches cool stuff on TV. I’m chillin’ with her for a whole day and a half and I’m about to leave ‘n **** and I’m like ‘you’re so sweet and cool, how do you not have a boyfriend?’ She was like, ‘I do.’ I’m like….”Awwww man!’ (Laughs) I mean, she kept it funky and most people lie and she was just honest, like ‘I do.’ I’m ‘okay, well, I see why then.’ So, that just furthered why I think that every girl has a boyfriend, and that’s why I rap about stealing other dudes’ chicks (Laughs).
TSS: You mention you’re life is like a movie in more than one song. You drop movie punchlines and re-use the covers for your mixtapes. What’s the most movie-like thing that’s ever happened to you?
Wiz Khalifa: When I have a lot of shows – back to back – where we’re in town for a night and get it poppin,’ then I’ll wake up on the plane and I’m still drunk on the plane. Then I get on the plane and there’s more weed waiting for me. Then, get it poppin’ again and leave. It’s just a process, like the **** that goes on, it’s just like - wow. I never really thought I would be…you know, you always wish that it would happen and hope that it would happen, but you never know how real it is until you’re in it. Sometimes I can just step back and look at it like I’m looking through a camera.
TSS: Yeah, it obviously helps when you’re sitting at a private jet hangar with fuckin’ private jets flown in for you.
Wiz Khalifa: (Laughs) Yeah, this is a whole new type of motivation right here, dog. Dude said the jet was like 14 million, and said ‘are you gonna’ come buy it?’
TSS: Whoa! Maybe next year, bro.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, maybe next year. We’ll turn that bitch into a smoking plane, too.
TSS: I got one more question for ya’ Wiz. Where do you see yourself in five years?
Wiz Khalifa: Just more successful than I am now, man. I don’t know how successful, just more successful. I ain’t gonna’ try to gauge that **** or put a sealant on it. I don’t know what’s gonna’ happen. Five years ago, I didn’t I’d be right here – well, not ‘didn’t think,’ but I couldn’t imagine…I couldn’t have told you that I was going to be cool on the Internet or be doing all of these shows, or that people were even going to like my music (Laughs). You know, I hoped for it and it’s happening, so five years from now I want to be celebrating the five year anniversary of this conversation!
And go here to see if Wiz is will be in a hood near you for the remainder of 2K9.