When it comes to the game of life, at times, it appears Wiz Khalifa is playing with cheat codes on. At age 26, he’s already created classic material (Kush & Orange Juice), created life, and married the woman of his dreams. His loyal fans—dubbed “Taylors”—are some of the most supportive in the game, and year in year out, the financials speak for themselves. He’s forged strong bonds with other artists in an industry that tears apart childhood friends, and is constantly working with those he grew up admiring. He’s done all this with a smile and his signature laugh, coming from a place where before him, there was very little consistent, mainstream representation.
Approaching the release of what is considered his third retail album (projects like Deal or No Deal were also for sale) Blacc Hollywood, Wiz find himself in a spot a lot of artists don’t make it to.
“I really feel like I’m at that point where people can expect consistency,” Wiz states “I’m not at the trial area, anymore, where you gotta figure out what I’m gonna do, or how I’m gonna do it. It’s just really a matter of getting involved when it happens.”
A little over a week before it happens, Wiz discussed Blacc Hollywood, the “Under The Influence Of Music Tour,” branding, and How Fly the album among other things.
How Wiz Khalifa Sought Inspiration On “Blacc Hollywood”
DX: What’s with the title, Blacc Hollywood?
Wiz Khalifa: It’s just something different. It’s something that inspires youth, and something that talks about creativity. It’s kind of like the outsiders and people who make it on their own.
DX: You’ve dropped a lot of singles, which bring back memories of all of your different styles. How would you describe the sound of this album?
Wiz Khalifa: Well rounded.
DX: I read in an interview Mannie Fresh has a joint on Blacc Hollywood, is that true?
Wiz Khalifa: I recorded with Mannie for the album, but it didn’t make the album. It’s on something else. I gotta use the Mannie Fresh joint. He was super cool. I worked with him in Miami. He just had a little room upstairs. He basically stayed in there and pounded out beats all day while I smoked weed and wrote raps.
DX: With one of your first major singles off the album, “We Dem Boyz” you did a remix that featured Nas, how did that come about?
Wiz Khalifa: I bumped into him at a festival we did together. I told him how big of a fan of his I was. We exchanged numbers, and when I was in New York, I called him. He came through.
DX: You’ve sort of been one of the younger guys all the OGs respect, whether it be Nas, Snoop, or your work with Juicy J, how does that feel?
Wiz Khalifa: It feels good. It’s very validating to the fact of, where I’m headed with my music. Just them being fans of mine, or respecting what I do for whatever reason, it pushes me in the right direction.
Wiz Khalifa Reveals Branding Lessons Learned From “Kush & OJ”
DX: Taylor Gang has to be one of the stronger brands in Hip Hop. You could tell by some of your earlier moves you understood the importance of branding. When and how did you first fully get a handle on the idea of branding?
Wiz Khalifa: I really started getting an idea of branding at the time of Kush & Orange Juice and my early tours, just because I seen how hand and hand the lifestyle and the music went.
DX: Speaking of Kush and Orange Juice, around that time, you first started working with Curren$y. Is there any truth to the rumors of you guys doing a How Fly 2?
Wiz Khalifa: That was a possibility because me and Big Sean were on tour. We were on the first “Under The Influence Of Music Tour.” We put that together thinking it would be a good thing, but due to time and scheduling, it didn’t happen. But it’s actually kind of good because me and Curren$y were able to put out Live In Concert which is a real underground effort. It’s a real classic piece for people to hold on to forever, and then when we do the album, we can really go in. That was my idea behind it, to really get us a situation where we could do this thing for real instead of putting it together ourselves, which we could always do. But [it was about] kind of taking advantage of the work that we put in and making it something that it should be.
DX: So How Fly the album is coming?
Wiz Khalifa: It’s definitely coming.
DX: As far as the “Under The Influence Of Music Tour,” how have things been this time around?
Wiz Khalifa: The tour has been going amazing; this is my favorite one by far, actually. I try to bring people that not only I enjoy, but I know other people enjoy on different levels. I just want to add to the experience of a concert goer or a kid. [People wonder] if this is their first time coming to a show, if they’re kind of nervous if they’re gonna fit in, or they’re gonna hear the kind of music that they’re going to like. I just want to reassure everybody that what they’re into is the right thing, so I pick artist who cater to that.
DX: I was looking at an older interview, and everyone knows your relationship with Snoop, and how he has influenced you, but I read that Big Daddy Kane also heavily influenced you.
Wiz Khalifa: Right.
DX: What was it that drew you to Kane, and how has he influenced you?
Wiz Khalifa: It’s crazy because Big Daddy Kane looks like my dad. So I thought my dad was Big Daddy Kane for a long time. So I was like “Yo, my dad is a rapper. He can dance, and he wears gold.” I thought Big Daddy Kane was my dad, and that’s why he influenced my style
The Rationale Behind Wiz Khalifa’s Emphasis On Family
DX: Speaking of Kane and dancing, I feel like back in those days, cats had more fun with the game. You seem to be somebody whose light hearted and having a good time. Do you feel like that’s missing from the game or do you feel like we have enough of that?
Wiz Khalifa: I feel like it’s coming back. I feel like what you’re talking about, a lot of those guys were from the streets and they didn’t have many opportunities. They made everything on their own, so when they finally got it, they were celebrating it. They were happy, and you could see that. That’s where I come from, and that’s why I put that energy out. I think that’s where a lot more kids are headed.
DX: Looking at your catalog, when you first came out, your music was more street, and it seems like as you got older and matured, you stepped away from that. Do you feel like at times dudes try too hard to be serious?
Wiz Khalifa: I feel like, I don’t think they try too hard to be serious. I think that in the world and how things are today, they need more acceptance for not being so serious.
DX: That’s a good way to look at it. As far as the culture goes, it seems the culture’s idea of family has become more open. I feel like you have been part of the influence as to why that’s changed. Do you feel like the idea of family in Hip Hop has changed?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, definitely. I’m happy to have some type of influence on that, because that’s another positive thing—people valuing family, and valuing the people close to you, and treating them nice and making them feel good. As artists and public figures, we have an opportunity to inspire people just by what we do and how we treat our people. I live by example as far as that goes. My mom, my family, my cousins... I try not to let the business overshadow who I am as a real person.
DX: Everyone knows Wiz is probably one of the heaviest smokers in the game. How have your experiences been In Colorado, since they’ve legalized things?
Wiz Khalifa: It’s been good smoking out there. I get straight off the plane, fire up, and nobody says nothing.
DX: Do you feel like that could affect the music scene out there? We haven’t really gotten too many artists from out there, when you’re out there, do you have artist give you music and you’re like, “This is sort of dope?”
Wiz Khalifa: I think it’s sort of like Pittsburgh, where they’re just waiting for that one thing. There’s so many outside influences coming into Denver, and they support so many people and they bring so many acts, that when it comes to supporting their own, it gets sort of grey around that.
Wiz Khalifa Applauds Pittsburgh Artists & Revisits Meeting Curren$y
DX: On the subject of Pittsburgh, it seems like everybody who has come out of there has their own style. Who are some of the other artists that you see coming up out of Pittsburgh?
Wiz Khalifa: I see my man Joey Fattz doing his thing. He had slowed down a little bit, because he went to jail. But he came home, and he’s killing it. My man Hardo just came home, and he’s about to do his thing. My homie KH, they got a young crew Mo’$crill from our neighborhood, and they’re doing their thing. My boy Jonny Goood is actually on the road with me. He’s in my band, he makes music, and he’s from Pittsburgh. He’s tight. The FTR boys, they from the North Side, and they work really hard and do their thing.
DX: Speaking of production, Taylor Gang has a solid squad of in house producers. When did you guys make that decision?
Wiz Khalifa: I think that decision was made sort of as we go. We found it much easier and more beneficial to just work with our producers that we’re used to working with. As time went on, we found out from fans that was a lot of their favorite music was the stuff that we were creating on our own.
DX: So who is all officially in Taylor Gang? Some people come and say, “I’m Taylor Gang!” but then you don’t really see them in the crew.
Wiz Khalifa: Taylor Gang is me, Juicy J, Ty Dolla $ign, Courtney Noelle, Chevy Woods, J.R. Donato, Berner, and Tuki Carter. Then there’s our producers, Sledgren, E. Dan, and Big Jerm. We got video people, and we got online people as well. We got graphic designers as well, and then we have our merch department, which is its own business.
DX: In an earlier interview, Curren$y said, “My man Wiz, he wanted to be a planet, like a rock star. I wanted to be in the cut with a couple of low-riders and doing my thing. Now we’re here, and god damn it, my man is a planet! We got what we wanted.” How does it feel for your and Curren$y to still be working together and be where you’re at now?
Wiz Khalifa: It validated what we started out this thing for and what we knew we was gonna do…we did it. And we can take it anywhere we want to go from here.