Wiz Khalifa Interview

Wiz Khalifa
Artist:Wiz Khalifa
Label:Atlantic Records
Next Project:Untitled Sophomore LP (Q3, '08)
Twitter:Wiz Khalifa on Twitter
Website:Wiz Khalifa's Website

For every market across America that doesn’t have a nationally recognized rap star, a countless number of up-in-coming candidates are constantly vying to be the one for their metropolis.  In the non-traditional hip-hop city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it appears day by day that the lead candidate in the race for ‘the one’ is Warner Bros. recording artist, Wiz Khalifa.

The 19-year-old MC is currently riding high off the mounting success of his new single, “Say Yeah,” which samples Alice Deejay’s ‘00 hit single, “Better Off Alone,” and later this year he will release his major label debut album.

In an exclusive interview with DJBooth‘s DJZ,” Wiz Khalifa steps inside the booth to talk about conquering his own hometown market of Pittsburgh, how his travels abroad as a child have helped him in the music industry, and what he will do for fans who receive speeding tickets while listening to his music in the car.

Listen to the Interview

    Download Download Interview (MP3)
    iTunes Subscribe to the iTunes Podcast

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 an artist who is looking to proudly and properly put his city of Pittsburgh on the proverbial hip hop map.  Please welcome my man Wiz Khalifa – how you doin’?

Wiz Khalifa:  Yeahhh… what up, Z?  How you feelin’?

DJ Booth:  I’m feelin’ great.  Thank you so much for joinin’ me inside the DJ Booth.

Wiz Khalifa:  Thanks for havin’ me.

DJ Booth:  My pleasure.  Wiz, hip hop music has always been about hometown representation.  You won’t find me anywhere without a Chicago White Sox cap on, and I know you happily wear your Pittsburgh ‘P’ around your neck.

Wiz Khalifa:  Yessir.

DJ Booth:  What does your city mean to both who you are as a person, and as an artist?

Wiz Khalifa:  My city’s real big to me, just as a person, because that’s where I grew up.  This is really what molded me, and let me know what I stand for out here in the world.  These are the people that I grew to know and love.  And everywhere I will go, I will always come back to Pittsburgh.  I will go rep Pittsburgh wherever I was at, but I will come back to Pittsburgh.  So it’s more like my home base.  And as far as my music goes, it just goes hand in hand, because Pittsburgh inspires me so much.  Just from the time I wake up, what I see outside, and the people that I run into, and bein’ where I’m at – it’s totally new for Pittsburgh, so every day is brand new for me, and that helps inspire my music as well, just to keep goin’, and really take us to where we need to be at.  That’s one of my goals and motivations that I keep, and that sort of keeps me hungry for Pittsburgh.

DJ Booth:  I’ve interviewed countless artists who have not grown up in your quote unquote, “traditional hip hop cities,” who felt the only way that they could succeed in this business was to move to Atlanta, New York, Miami, or Los Angeles – what made you so confident that you could stay in Pittsburgh and succeed?

Wiz Khalifa:  It’s definitely necessary at a point to expand to these other places, because the markets are so big, but it was important for me to stay in Pittsburgh just to make sure I could get the love and the support of my whole hometown before I started goin’ to any other place, just to make sure I had my own fanbase of people who love me where I’m from.  A lot of artists don’t even know, that’s the hardest thing to conquer, is your hometown, for real for real.

DJ Booth:  Exactly.

Wiz Khalifa:  And as soon as I figured out I could do that, then it was on and poppin’ there.  I was buzzin’ a couple other places as well, but my biggest buzz was in Pittsburgh, and then it spread out.

DJ Booth:  In terms of music, cities across America usually differentiate themselves by production style, or a fashion sense, maybe a trendy dance move.  So educate non-Pittsburgh citizens about what makes the Steel City hip hop?

Wiz Khalifa:  Well, the Pittsburgh sound is basically a well-rounded sound; it’s real diverse, and it’s got everything you need.  Based on where we’re located in Pittsburgh – we’re close to the Midwest, we’re close to the East Coast, we got a lot of Southern influence.  There’s people in Pittsburgh that like just Southern rap, or just conscious rap, or just West Coast music.  So here you gotta be able to make all them types of music, so everybody from every spot in Pittsburgh will be able to like your music.  And bein’ able to do that here transpires into the rest of the country and the rest of the world bein’ able to make more general and likable music just for everybody to listen to, and not really be able to put your finger on, like, “Oh, that’s snap music,” or “That’s this,” or, “That’s that.”  It’s just great music, period.

DJ Booth:  It seems similar to Chicago in the sense that it’s a potpourri of different sounds.

Wiz Khalifa:  Exactly

DJ Booth:  I’ve spoken with people in Pittsburgh who say that fellow Pittsburgh rapper, Pittsburgh Slim, is not your truest representation of what the hip hop sound not only is like in Pittsburgh, but just hip hop in general.  Without starting any beef, do you feel the same way, that him and other artists from Pittsburgh don’t represent the city as well as you’d like?

Wiz Khalifa:  I don’t feel like they don’t represent it as well as I would like ‘em to, ‘cause my standards only apply for me, because I’m doin’ my thing and they’re doin’ their thing.  I like Pittsburgh Slim a whole lot, and we been grindin’ it out ever since the beginning of my career, and since younger in his career.  And I just feel like he’s makin’ the type of music that’s acceptable for him right now.  Whatever his lane is, that’s the type of music that he’s makin’, whatever he’s feelin’.  I just don’t think he’s as focused on bringin’ the whole ‘Burgh on as I am.  I feel like he’s more focused on tryin’ to find his own little pocket, which is cool, which is totally fine.  I don’t disagree with anything any other artist do in Pittsburgh.  I feel like they’re doin’ their thing.

DJ Booth:  Well, you certainly found your own pocket – new, successful single, “Say Yeah.”  Just about every genre has been sampled within hip hop, some successfully, some not.  So when you decided to scoop up a trance track for the single, was there any hesitation?

Wiz Khalifa:  No, there wasn’t any hesitation at all.  It was pretty much like, my man Juliano – that’s who made the beat – he basically just came through one day in the studio, and I listened to it and heard how hot it was.  I was a big fan of the Alice Deejay song when it first came on.  I never knew exactly what it was, but I was younger and I would hear it in movies and stuff like that, and it always made me wanna dance.  I like all types of music, period.  So when I heard the beat with the sample and I’m like, “Oh, that’s crazy!” The beat wasn’t corny and the sample was a little bit iffy, but I knew that I could bring it in a type of way where it wasn’t gonna sound corny or cliché.  So we just put it together and we pulled it off – it came out hot.

DJ Booth:  Over the past year, more and more rap music has been geared towards the dance floor – chart-topping hits like Kanye’s “Flashing Lights,” Timbo’s “The Way I Are.”  As a fan of music, not as an artist, does the ability for a song to be danceable make a difference to you?

Wiz Khalifa:  Yeah, it definitely makes a difference for me.  It changes the durability of the song – like, if you hear a song come on while you’re in the club, and you’re drunk, and you can dance to it, it feels good to you, so you’re gonna want to return to that song all the time, for real for real.  If you’re ridin’ in your car, it’ll just make you love the song more and more, if you can dance to it, or if it’s just got that good feeling to it, that good vibe.  And that’s basically what I’ve been tryin’ to focus on, is makin’ good general music with a good vibe and you can dance to it, too.  I got other type of stuff, too, but I think people gearin’ their music towards dancin’ and havin’ fun is real good for hip hop.

DJ Booth:  I couldn’t agree more.  Another thing that your song does: it makes me speed.  When I’m listening to it in the car, I speed.  It’s a bad thing; if I get a ticket, can I send it to you?

Wiz Khalifa:  [laughter] We gonna start collecting tickets from all the people who speed to “Say Yeah.”

DJ Booth:  Okay, good. [laughter] We mentioned a second ago, Alice Deejay, the group whose popular single, “Better Off Alone,” is sampled in “Say Yeah.”  They only released one commercial album.  What can you do, on your major label debut, so that your career is not one and done like so many artists in the field?

Wiz Khalifa:  It just has to do with the whole setup, I like how Warner has set me up and put me out there to the people, and really slow-walkin’ the whole situation and not rushin’ and tryin’ to blow everything out of proportion before it gets a chance to really bubble.  Along with that, I’m just gonna make a good, complete album that’s full of real music, where people can really know who I am and where I’m from.  The album is not gonna all sound like, “Say Yeah.”  There’s gonna be some good party tracks on there, but it’s gonna be full of good music.  I feel like if I just continue to do what I’m doin’ as far as my music and workin’ as hard as I am - because I’m always in the studio, every day.  I’m always workin’ and tryin’ to make sure my show gets better and better.  I’m just gonna keep building on top of what I’ve been doing, and hopefully the people will still connect with young Khalifa, and buy my albums ten years from now.

DJ Booth:  Wiz, it sounds like the most important thing to you right now is just a dedication to your craft, and dedication is something, after reading your bio, I’m sure you got from your parents, both of which served in the military.  I’m gonna completely go off the topic of music right now – what are your thoughts on the current war?

Wiz Khalifa:  The current war?  As everybody knows, it’s pretty much senseless.  I feel like we’re over there for reasons we don’t need to be, and we definitely need to get a lot of those soldiers back, ‘cause there’s cats over there dyin’ for no reason.  And I have a young family who is out here, and really don’t have too many options and stuff like that, so the military becomes some of the options, and havin’ to deal with possibly losin’ family members is real big for me.  I definitely think we need to stop that war.

DJ Booth:  Being an artist, and having the opportunity to have your voice heard by a large group of people, do you feel obligated in any sense to put into your music a message that maybe other artists would be too afraid to?

Wiz Khalifa:  I really don’t ever stress myself, as far as, “I gotta talk about this,” or, “I gotta talk about that,” just because I try to do the first thing that comes into my head, which usually comes off the most creative.  But I do feel an obligation to speak on some of these subjects, just because we do have a platform to talk to so many people, and really get our point across, and influence people that do things that they don’t see people that they think are cool doing.  I definitely think we as artists or athletes or actors or whoever, we should speak on these subjects, however we feel about ‘em.

DJ Booth:  When you were raised, obviously, because your parents were in the military, you constantly had to move.  You lived in South Carolina, Georgia, Oklahoma, Germany, Japan, and England – that’s quite a few cities there.  Do you feel all that traveling that you were forced to do as a child has helped you now as an adult?

Wiz Khalifa:  Yeah, definitely, definitely.  I feel like it got me all the way, just bein’ able to mingle with different types of people and connect, and just really put myself out there as the new guy, nobody really knowin’ me, and just makin’ everybody like me off the bat.  And also it just helped me not be afraid to travel and really like bein’ on the road and bein’ out, because that’s where a lot of the major work gets done, or my major work gets done recently, is on the road – doin’ shows, doin’ promo runs, and this, that, and the other thing.  It helped me get ready for that, too, just knowin’ what I’m up for when I go to these different places, and not bein’ afraid to go to different places.  It definitely helped out.

DJ Booth:  Well, everyone’s pretty excited about your new project.  Talk about when people will be able to hear a full-length album, and what they can expect once it’s available?

Wiz Khalifa:  Well, right now, we’re pumpin’ “Say Yeah,” real real heavily.  We’re gonna be on the road promotin’ that and doin’ shows and goin’ crazy, and the album will probably by the end of summer, early fall.  And you can definitely expect just real good music from the album.  It’s gonna be all the way through just thorough from front to back.  There’s gonna be some good dance tracks, there’s gonna be some hood tracks, there’s gonna be some stuff that just make you think on there, and there’s just gonna be a lot of music.  I’m more into the feel of music right now.  I always got, how it sounds, on lock – you know, the words and the concept.  But I’m definitely tryin’ to make a whole feel for my music right now, so that’s what I’m focused on.

DJ Booth:  Well, it sounds like we’re gonna have a well-rounded, diversified album on our hands once it drops, hopefully third quarter this year.  Wiz, give everybody a website or a MySpace page so they can find out more about you and what you got goin’ on.

Wiz Khalifa:  myspace.com/wizkhalifa. You can go to rostrumrecords.com, and look at Wiz Khalifa on there, or you can go to wizkhalifa.com.

DJ Booth:  I wish you nothing but the best of luck, and thank you so much for joining me inside the DJ Booth.

Wiz Khalifa:  All right, thank you, man, and shout out to DJ Z and the whole Chi-town.

Best of DJBooth