Wiz Khalifa Interview
|Next Project:||Deal or No Deal|
|Twitter:||Wiz Khalifa on Twitter|
|Website:||Wiz Khalifa's Website|
As anyone who’s ever flown with a major airline is well aware, getting off the ground is never as simple as it seems. Even after you’ve managed to check your baggage, get through security and find your gate, unforeseen circumstances can leave you landlocked for hours on end. Since last we spoke with him, buzzmaking emcee Wiz Khalifa‘s found himself in a similar situation; tired of watching his sophomore full-length idle on Warner Bros.’ runway, the Pittsburgh native’s decided to ditch the major and bring the project to the masses via his tried and true indie label, Rostrum Records.
Fresh off the release of his B.A.R. (Burn After Rolling) mixtape, the emcee who brought us exclusive freestyle “Runnin’” is preparing to prove once and for all that, Deal or No Deal, he’s headed to the top. Fueled by the success of lead single “This Plane” (currently #4 on the DJBooth.net Rap Chart) Khalifa’s long-awaited second studio album is cleared to finally land on record store shelves next Tuesday, November 24.
In an exclusive interview with our own DJ “Z,” Wiz Khalifa steps into the Booth to discuss why he doesn’t consider his time with Warner Bros. to be wasted, the New Year’s resolution that will make Steve Jobs very unhappy, and the perils of enjoying some “Studio Lovin’” when you’re 6’4”.
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Wiz Khalifa Interview Transcription
DJ Booth: What’s goin’ on, everybody? It’s your boy, “Z,” doin’ it real big, and joining me inside the DJ Booth is a buzzworthy emcee whose first interview with us came back in March of 2008. Following the release of his very successful Burn After Rolling mixtape and on the verge of finally releasing his brand new, long-delayed sophomore album, entitled Deal or No Deal, please welcome my main man, Wiz Khalifa – how you doin’?
Wiz Khalifa: Chillin’, man, I’m good. Just relaxing, getting things together. I’m about to go to D.C., mess with my man Wale for his release – you know, just show that good old support and keep the good music rollin’.
DJ Booth: Let’s backtrack for a second. This past July, you split from your label home at Warner Bros. Did they not understand the direction that you wanted to take your music, or did you simply not wanna wait around any longer for them to push your project?
Wiz Khalifa: They completely understood the direction of where I wanted to take my music, and that’s why they were so lenient and so generous about releasin’ us when we asked them to let us go. I think Warner was looking for a specific thing from me, and they thought I was a certain type of artist, just a poppy artist and a fad-type artist, where it would be cool for a second and I’d start this fad, and then that would be that. I think, as time went by, they realized that I had some substance, and it would take time to build a fanbase and really market what I’ve got goin’ on, and that’s a little more difficult these days, especially with how people are stealin’ music, and how fast the game moves. I don’t have any hard feelings towards Warner. I learned a lot of things while I was over there, but it was definitely time for me to just take what I had learned and apply that to myself and do the independent thing.
DJ Booth: Obviously, considering the circumstances, do you view the signing and that entire period of your career as a success or as a failure?
Wiz Khalifa: I definitely view it as a success, ‘cause just being at Warner, A., it introduced me to the mainstream and the radio people, I got to meet a lot of DJs and get a lot of good people in my corner. It also let me know that I have hit potential – I can make good radio songs as well as what I’m doin’ right now, which is lyrical stuff, fun stuff for my fans and stuff like that. ‘Cause it’s really all about buildin’ a fanbase and havin people who are gonna support you forever, so I feel like I got the best of both worlds, which is really rare for an artist these days, bein’ that they don’t do too much artist development and things like that. I feel like that time period was sort of like that artist development that people don’t get these days, so I’m just way more dangerous now.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. You milked that situation for all it was worth! [laughs]
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, for sure.
DJ Booth: The title of the new album, as I alluded to in the open, Deal or No Deal. I assume by this you mean, straightforward, you are gonna succeed with or without major label backing. Did I nail it, or is there a hidden meaning?
Wiz Khalifa: Nah, man, you hit the nail on the head, there’s nothing else to it. That’s it, man. My fans are gonna support me whether I’m signed to major label or not; everybody showed me that, with the support for me leavin’ my label and my buzz growin’ more and me bein’ more of a factor now than when I was on a major label. That right there proves [it], Deal or No Deal.
DJ Booth: The project’s lead single is “This Plane,” which we have featured on DJBooth.net and has been on our Top Picks Chart for several weeks in a row now. It couldn’t be a more appropriate title to the song, as your career really has begun to take off. Now that you’ve boarded this flight, so to speak, and you know where you wanna go, how are you gonna make sure that you can get there smoothly?
Wiz Khalifa: I’m really just gonna stick to my guns and my original plans and actions and stuff that I do. When you start to do more, and people see what you’re doing is taking off, a lot of people try to put input and tell you what you should be doing, or who you need to be doin’ it with, but my whole thing is just sticking to what I’ve been doin’, workin’ with the people I’ve been workin’ with, and really just building on top of what we already have, and not really trying to rush into anything. Our whole process is taking time. I waited this long, so I can just keep slow-walking and taking my little steps, and eventually we’ll get to where we at, but when we get there we’re gonna have a strong foundation to stand on, so we’re gonna be there forever.
DJ Booth: Exactly. And you mentioned, you’ve been waiting for a while, but you’re still so young. In the grand scheme of a career, it’s really just begun for you.
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, exactly. That’s why I’m cool with it; everything’s happening how it’s supposed to happen and when it’s supposed to happen. I feel like, if I would have blown up on Warner, then where would I be now? I would be having to reinvent myself, and having to come back out another way, whereas now it’s like, I’ve been around, but I’ve still got the privilege of being looked at as a new cat, a young cat, a fresh cat. So I’m just attacking all that.
DJ Booth: Without a doubt. If you have to take one step forward, but in the process take two steps back, it wasn’t worth it.
Wiz Khalifa: Exactly.
DJ Booth: Let’s go back to our earlier interview from ‘08 for a second. At the time, I asked you what your top priority was as an artist, and you told me that you wanted to develop a good feel for the direction of your music. So, 20 months later, what would you say is your top focus now, in terms of the direction of your music?
Wiz Khalifa: It’s crazy that I said that, because that’s exactly what I feel like I’ve done in the last 20 months. That’s actually kinda cool that I said that and that you would bring that up, man – that’s great! Now it’s really just me maintaining what I’ve done and, like I keep sayin’, just building on top of it and just expanding and going deeper into what I’ve already created, and keep surprising myself. Right now I feel like it’s at a point where I have a certain fanbase, and I have people who wanna hear certain things from me when I get an. And when I go in the studio, I don’t put too much pressure on myself to make any type of song; I just do whatever I feel. But I do have a key audience, and I do have people who listen to me for certain reasons, that do certain things, but not it’s just me building on top of that and taking it to the next level. Deal or No Deal, it’s an album, but there’s a couple songs I had that were supposed to go on the album before, and then there’s a couple new songs as well, like, “This Plane” is pretty new. When I do my album – like my real, for sure album – I want it to be a studio sound, like a real musical sound [with] everything put together, and have it to a point where I’m on the radio and I’ve got a video on TV, but I’m still the same underground cat that people feel like I am.
DJ Booth: You mentioned attitude – let’s discuss perception for a second. Whenever I brought up your name in conversation with a casual hip-hop fan, someone who has not immersed themselves in everything that’s going on online, I hear one of a few things: “Didn’t that guy do that song, ‘Say Yeah,’” or “Isn’t that the guy with all the tattoos?” So, when you think perception, how difficult is it for you to differentiate between true identity and what maybe you believe people view you as?
Wiz Khalifa: I really don’t have a big problem with that, just because if I do something, like put out a song like “Say Yeah,” I don’t regret that. I don’t hate the song, “Say Yeah.”
DJ Booth: You shouldn’t, it’s hot!
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, I love that song. It was a great song, it was a great idea that we had, and we executed it right, and people received it well, so for people to relate that to me, that’s cool, I like that, or if they relate tattoos to me. I pride myself on not playin’ myself; anything I do, I don’t regret it, I don’t look back at it like, “I shouldn’t have done that,” or, “I shouldn’t have said that,” or, “I shouldn’t have worn that,” you know? It’s all a learning experience, and I’m just moving forward. The only thing I don’t like is when people get stuck on one thing, and try to make that you. If you’re gonna pay attention to an artist, then you’ve gotta pay attention to their growth as well, and see where they came from and how they got to where they’re at, and then try to talk about where they’re goin’.
DJ Booth: Well, you know what they need to do? They need to log onto their computers, go to Google, type in your name, and they can see your track record.
Wiz Khalifa: [laughs] There’s a lot of people that still don’t know, man! It’s cool, I don’t have a problem with that, ‘cause a lot of people tell me I’m the most slept-on or underrated [artist]; I don’t feel like I’m slept on, it’s just, a lot of people don’t know. And as soon as they know, and they get on with it then it’s cool, then they love it.
DJ Booth: Let’s discuss a few of the songs on the new album. Track 8 is entitled “Studio Lovin’” and, based off the title alone, I had to bring this up. I’ve been in plenty of recording studios – not as many as you, of course – and, nice couches aside, they don’t strike me as the best place to really get it in, if you will. What have you found to be the case in your experience?
Wiz Khalifa: [laughs] Um… studios are not the best place to get it in. That’s why, in the song, you’ll hear about me being all tangled up and messing stuff up. And me being as tall as I am, I’m 6’4”, so it’s definitely not the business for me. But, you know, when you’re young and you’re just tryin’ stuff, you just try stuff to do it and then rap about it. It makes for a great song, though! [laughs]
DJ Booth: [laughs] Isn’t that the truth! Another song I want to talk about is number 14. It’s entitled “Who I Am.” Without having heard the full-length version of this record, set the record straight for everybody at this very moment: who are you, who is Wiz Khalifa?
Wiz Khalifa: I would definitely answer, just good times, man – fun, no stress, great music, a lot of weed smoke, and doin’ whatever the f*ck you feel. That’s what I do. And bein’ a business, too. ‘Cause I’m all about conducting business and doin’ sh*t the right way.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. It’s called the music business for a reason.
Wiz Khalifa: [laughs] Exactly.
DJ Booth: The project drops on November 24th. What do you have in store for the world following the release? I’m assuming you’re gonna go on tour.
Wiz Khalifa: Yep. We’re gonna go on tour, we’re going straight on tour starting in the New Year. And yeah, just expect me to be a little more mainstream. Not my music more mainstream, just the look; a lot of the people who’ve been wantin’ to see me out on these award shows and in these cameos, these videos, that’s what I’m about to start doin’ a lot more of. A lot more music bein’ played in the clubs – I’ve just been talkin’ to a lot of DJs and a lot of the radio folks who’s really just lookin’ out for me, and will spin it if they like it. So yeah, man, we’re just gonna keep killin’ em and keep kickin’ body.
DJ Booth: OK, now since we’re almost at the end of the year, these are the two questions I’m gonna ask everybody from here through December 31st. First, what do you want for the holidays and, second, what is your number-one New Year’s resolution?
Wiz Khalifa: What do I want for the holidays… I was never too big on presents, man. My parents ain’t raised me buying me gifts and stuff; they wanted me to not really be too into material stuff, and that had the complete reverse effect on me, ‘cause now I just buy whatever I see, if I can. I just want everybody to be safe and have a great holiday, man. That’s what I want for the holidays.
DJ Booth: OK, you’re opting for the deep answer, I like it.
Wiz Khalifa: [laughs]
DJ Booth: Number-one New Year’s resolution?
Wiz Khalifa: Number-one New Year’s resolution… I don’t know, man. I feel like I did all right this year! [laughs] I don’t do any drugs or anything other than weed, that I wanna stop.
DJ Booth: OK.
Wiz Khalifa: F*ck.
DJ Booth: Maybe you’re on your Blackberry too much, you tweet too much, anything like that, maybe?
Wiz Khalifa: It ain’t even that… I don’t think I tweet too much. I lose my – there it is, New Year’s resolution: not to lose no more phones. I lost five iPhones this year.
DJ Booth: Five? How did you manage to do that?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, just bein’ dumb! That’s my New Year’s resolution right there. Thanks for sayin’ the phone, brother – you’ve got it!
DJ Booth: You know what, though? I think we can get to the bottom of this. You mentioned before, you don’t do any drugs except for weed – is weed the culprit behind why you’re losing the phones?
Wiz Khalifa: No man, because weed helps me slow down and get sh*t together and focus and be like, “Phone, keys, everything – all right, cool.” It’s when I’m moving too fast, that’s when I lose my phone.
DJ Booth: So what you’re sayin’ is, without the weed you might’ve lost 20 iPhones this year!
Wiz Khalifa: Exactly, exactly. The weed saved the other 15 phones.
DJ Booth: You know what? If Steve Jobs is listening to the interview right now, I think he might make sure you never smoke weed again, because then that’ll guarantee that you have to keep on goin’ back.
Wiz Khalifa: Eff Steve Jobs, man! I’ve got some words for Steve Jobs when I see him. And he’s gonna have to listen, too, ‘cause I’ve spent enough money with that boy.
DJ Booth: [laughs] Absolutely. Wiz, give everybody a website or a MySpace page, a Twitter account, something so they can find out more about you and, of course, the brand new album, out this month.
DJ Booth: Absolutely. Well, the best of luck, my man.
Wiz Khalifa: All right, I appreciate it, man. You’re rockin’ with the DJ Booth, you already know – it’s the best thing ever!