Wiz Khalifa talks Black Flag, 'Blacc Hollywood,' being a dad
July 31, 2014 12:00 AM
John Heller /Post-Gazette
By Scott Mervis / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Being a husband, father and multiple home owner, Wiz Khalifa is a little less Young, Wild and Free these days.
But some things haven't changed. He's still getting busted for weed. He's still dropping mixtapes between the albums. And he's still the same smiling, lanky, dancing presence on stage.
The Pittsburgh rapper brings the third edition of the Under the Influence of Music tour to the First Niagara Pavilion on Friday with Ty Dolla $ign, Rich Homie Quan, Sage The Gemini and more. The platinum artist and five-time Grammy nominee is just a few weeks away (Aug. 19) from releasing his third major-label album, "Blacc Hollywood," the follow-up to 2012's "O.N.I.F.C."
So far, he's issued three singles: the synth-powered "Black and Yellow"-style anthem "We Dem Boyz," with a happy, gritty neighborhood video shot in Atlanta that has 27 million YouTube views; trippy weed ode "KK" with equally trippy video with Project Pat and Juicy J; and the breezier "You and Your Friends" with Snoop Dogg and Ty Dolla $ign. (Miley Cyrus was to be on it, but he's told Billboard that another rapper paid for the beat.)
In May, he dropped his 10th mixtape, "28 Grams," a day after getting busted for marijuana possession yet again, this time in Dallas, where he posted a jail selfie.
He'll be hitting more states with strict cannabis laws on this tour that comes after his huge reception at Bonnaroo, where he joyfully rocked a packed crowd just before headliner Elton John. Unlike most rap artists, Khalifa travels with a full band that has learned how to stretch out more with each tour.
Last week Khalifa checked in with the hometown paper by phone from Scranton, where the tour opened.
I just watched that interview they did with you on "Chelsea Lately." It was goofy as hell. So, you were wearing a hoodie and then you took it off and you were wearing a Black Flag T-shirt. I was shocked to see that. I would expect maybe Hendrix or Marley. What was that all about?
You know what, man? I've been around a lot of inspirational people and they're kids or they're younger than me, some of them are older than me, and they know what's going to catch people's eye. And there's certain stuff in my wardrobe that I would just wear every day and they're like, "Nah, you gotta make a statement with that." And that was one of those situations where my homie Ian was like, "Yo, Wiz, this is gonna kill it, bro. You have to do this." And I'm glad you checked that out.
Now, have you listened to Black Flag before?
Yeah. Hell, yeah!
Yeah, 'cause when you wear a band T-shirt, you gotta ...
... You gotta know the band. You gotta be up on it. You can't just have a band tee and not [expletive] rock with the band.
The last time I ran into you it was Wiz Khalifa Day in Pittsburgh. I remember Bill Peduto put you up for that, and some people were going, "Wiz is like a weedhead, and you're honoring him in City Council." What did you think of him becoming mayor?
Well, it is what it is. Everybody loves weed, hahaha. I felt like I knew he was going to be the mayor off of his energy.
So, [your son] Bash must be about 1 1/2. What is this phase like?
He's good. He's saying "daddy" and "mommy." To me he's super advanced. He's super talkative and very detailed.
Do you get advice from other musicians on fatherhood?
Ludacris gives me a lot of fatherly advice. Snoop gives me a lot of advice and Puff Daddy. And Jim Johnson. Snoop always says make sure we do everything together with the baby at that age.
You don't want to pass them off to nannies all the time.
Does it make it any harder to get work done?
No. I know I got a job to do, and I gotta hustle. I definitely miss him a lot, and that's just another emotion to deal with. But it doesn't make it hard or anything.
So, the Under the Influence tour. Do you have a big hand in putting the acts together?
Yeah. We put the acts together based on who's popular, who I enjoy their music and who I feel like the crowd would enjoy their music. Jeezy is a legend. Mack Wilds, I love this kid as a person, and I feel like he's up and coming and I always like to give people opportunities. I feel like after this tour he's going to become a huge star. So I want to be one of the ones who said I believed in him early and we gave him a shot. Rich Homie Quan, he's going to have a long successful career. IAMSU! and Sage [the Gemini] being from the West Coast and being from that new movement that only makes it. Ty Dolla $ign, and then I'm there.
I watched your set from Bonnaroo. It was great. You're still only a couple years into the band thing and not a lot of rappers use bands. What do you see as the beauty of a band on stage?
I like it better because it's actual music and I'm a really musical person. I feel like rap is just one of my talents, being able to put words together, but when it comes to performing and making a show and sequencing and having moments for the crowd, those are things you need a band and a full production for, and I'm as involved in that as I am in making my music or doing my videos or coming up with my outfits. I spend a lot of time with my band and my DJ and my set designer and production people making sure every moment, a reflection of me and my character, comes out on the stage.
You obviously have to rehearse more with a band than a DJ.
Yeah, it takes rehearsals just to communicate certain things because my band is awesome. We can go in so many different directions with the music. It can go dark, it can go light, it can go jazzy, it can be classical, it can be reggae, it can be this, it can be that. It really all boils down to how we feel and us being on the same page, and where we're performing at. The other thing is they're great musicians. I'm just a good rapper, but they're better at their music than I am at rapping because I've only been rapping for a certain amount of years, but they've been playing music their whole life, so they can improvise and they can come up with situations that play off the environment right then and there, whereas my song is written and that's what I gotta do.
So, the situation is really different because you're not in there with live musicians when you're recording.
Nah, I don't record with live band members. I record the exact same way I used to. I feel like that's the beauty of it because my music and my style is very eclectic and musical anyway. But there are certain songs I might do in the studio that I don't even know how dope they sound when we perform them live. And vice versa. There's songs that I do in the studio where I go, "This is going to sound craaazy when we perform it live." I keep the studio for the studio and when we bring it out on stage, we turn it up.
Have you thought about recording with this band in the studio?
I feel like we could do a project together when it makes sense. A lot of my albums and things like that, people have so many expectations that I can't be like, "No, I'm not working with any producers. I'm only working with my band." I'll lose so much support, just on a label's standpoint. But if I step to the side and say, "This is a side project I want to do. I'm gonna spend two months with my band and come out with an indie project," I could do that. The game is wide open for stuff like that.
You're between releasing "28 Grams" and "Blacc Hollywood." What do you see as the difference between making the album and the mixtape?
Making the mixtapes is a lot more on the spot and just breezy because all of those songs are songs that I've made in the month leading up to the release of that, and then making the album. Those songs come from a year ago, and some of them are patched together at the end of the process, and there's so much going back to the table and editing and re-editing that happens with the album because of how big and important it is and the effect that it's supposed to have on so many people. So you put the time and energy there. But the mixtape is just supposed to be fun, and it's supposed to be a complete expression of where the artist is at in their career right then and there, so that's what I accomplish with my mixtapes, and with my albums I like to take my time.
Are there some things you deal with on "Blacc Hollywood" that you haven't before?
I wouldn't say it's anything anyone hasn't heard before, as far as content. I do talk about different things in a different way because I'm older and more mature. But I would say it's the consistency that will make people gravitate toward it. All the songs are very strong and it's to the point, and that was my mind state and what I wanted to do going into the album. I wanted to make it short and sweet and to the point and really accomplish big records that stand out and that stick around forever. And I feel like "Blacc Hollywood" is full of that, and it conveys the attitude and the message of freedom and creativity that I'm trying to get across, so just thinking about classics like a Michael Jackson album or a Prince album or something like that, that's what I modeled "Blacc Hollywood" after.
So, do you feel excited, a little bit nervous for people to hear it?
I'm excited. Very excited. And confident, and I can't wait.
[Publicist breaks in and says, "One more question."] Let me ask you something Power 105 asked: Are you tired of getting arrested for weed? And tell me about the timing of that tweet with releasing "28 Grams."
I wouldn't say I'm tired of getting arrested for weed, and I feel like what's supposed to happen happens and I'm always ready for any situation. And when I did the tweet, I was just being me.
Finally, you have a Ninja Turtles track ...
I love the fact that the Ninja Turtles came to me and asked me to do that. It's such a big standout point in my career because of how much I love the Ninja Turtles. I loved the Ninja Turtles before I even loved rap music, so that's how big that is for me, and I'm like an honorary Turtle now!
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