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WIZ

KHALIFA

The Pittsburgh–raised rapper and weed entrepreneur smoked a mere two joints before this interview. Clarity ensues as he takes on everything from cops to Kanye.

Q1:

You will have released two albums by the end of this year. Khalifa came out in February, and Rolling Papers 2: The Weed Album will drop later this summer. What phase are you in right now as an artist?

I'm in the reinvention stage, like when Justin Bieber was a child and then transformed himself into a different person but one who was still successful. I was a streetwear brand, and now I'm a high–end designer. People are going to accept me as a grown man. A lot of people don't even know I'm only 28 because I'm kind of ageless.

Q2:

Your song "Black and Yellow" reached number one on Billboard and was nominated for two Grammys. Did you know it would be a huge hit?

I actually did. It was crazy. As soon as they played the beat, I thought of the hook in two seconds. After [2010 mixtape] Kush & Orange Juice, I knew I had to switch up my style and do something different, but how could I do that and make the label and myself happy? So I wrote a bunch of songs about the first thing I thought of—whether it was corny or stupid, I was going to record it. But once we recorded "Black and Yellow," the label went back and forth on it. I was like, "Man, that's the song. That song is the shit." They waited all summer for me to try to record other shit, and still I was like, "That's the song!" I took it back to Pittsburgh, played it for a roomful of people and was like, "This is my new single." They were so excited to hear it. Then when I played it, they were like, "Damn, he about to lose again."

Q3:

What kind of artists did you gravitate to when you were growing up?

The people who had a crew, who had their own slang. Of course Wu–Tang, because they had the whole mathematics and the science and all. That's why I was into Bone Thugs–N–Harmony. It's the unity of it all: being able to know what to look forward to and disconnect from everybody else and be like, "This is my shit." And then the older I got, I started liking Cam'ron more because of his personality. That's how I see myself as a rapper: this cocky, fly...you know what I mean, jewelry. I thought, When I become a rapper, that's how I'm gonna act.

Q4:

Your parents were in the Air Force. You were born in North Dakota, but you grew up in England, Japan, Germany, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Did constantly moving prepare you for the rigors of fame?

I'm pretty sure it's just my intuition. That's how my parents raised me: to see through bullshit and always tell the truth. It's hard to fool me. I've always been super chill—fun–loving, trying to get along with everybody.

Q5:

What was Pittsburgh like when you were growing up there?

It was fucked–up and really dark. A lot of shootings and gang violence. I saw people get killed. You'd get off the bus and somebody would be dead and they'd be cleaning it up. A lot of waking up in the morning and seeing people you knew dead on the news.

Q6:

Did you personally encounter police brutality?

Hell, yeah. Cops there are crazy. I've never been pulled over without them having a gun to my head. Even with traffic stops, they'll put a gun to your head and say, "Get the fuck out the car. What you got?" Searching you, breaking shit, twisting your arm. They're cool about weed, though. I got jammed up a lot in Pittsburgh, but I never did real time.

Q7:

What are your thoughts on the Black Lives Matter movement?

It's about knowledge. A lot of people are surprised that this still exists, and when the media puts it out there, people get upset. But it's about education and figuring out how to defend yourself and how to fight back and not be a victim. They victimize us because we don't know. Body cameras? That shit is just to make people think we're safe. We ain't safe. It's not about fighting the cops physically. You have to know how to outsmart them, and what they can and can't do to you. That won't make things all good, but it will help level the playing field.

Q8:

There was a lot of controversy about race surrounding this year's Academy Awards. What did you think about it?

I didn't pay attention to that too much, because I feel like black people are always being shit on. They stand up and shit on us publicly at the Oscars, and when you put gas on it, then it becomes a thing. Black people should boss up and say "We don't give a fuck," and then really not give a fuck. If you nominate me and I get an award, cool. But if you don't, I don't give a fuck.

Q9:

Have there been moments in your life when you think making a different decision would have completely altered your trajectory?

Probably just my relationship with Amber Rose. I feel like not being in that relationship helped me out a lot. I learned how to be present where I need to be present. I'd been present in the relationship, but at that age and with what was going on, it just wasn't right for me. It helps to walk away sometimes, even though it was super hard.

Q10:

Did the public nature of your divorce make things more difficult?

Definitely. Dealing with a breakup or a divorce is hard enough, let alone for it to be public and on TV and radio. Suddenly everyone has advice. I'm a private dude, so I only talk to my family and the people next to me. I don't trust anybody with information, so I would never tell a rapper how I really felt.

BLACK PEOPLE SHOULD BOSS UP
AND SAY "WE DON'T GIVE A FUCK,"
AND THEN REALLY NOT GIVE A FUCK.
BLACK PEOPLE SHOULD BOSS UP
AND SAY "WE DON'T GIVE A FUCK,"
AND THEN REALLY NOT GIVE A FUCK.
Q11:

Do you think you'll ever get married again?

I think I will, but it will be later. It was cool; it was fun. I learned a lot. Things that would've taken me much longer to learn, I learned in a short period of time. I feel like I'll probably get married again when I'm in my 50s. I was sad after it ended, but I wasn't depressed; I've never really been depressed in my life. I was sad because we were going through a lot and my son was involved, and that hurt me because my main goal is to raise my son how I want. I'm a control freak, and not being able to control that was weird. I didn't know how to deal with it and didn't understand that feeling. A year later, I'm way smarter and better equipped to deal with it.

Q12:

You tweeted about a Pam Grier movie a while back. Now that you're single, who are your top five ideal women?

Pam Grier, Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, 1990s–era Madonna, Apollonia Kotero from Purple Rain and Pocahontas. I like classic chicks, not these new girls who aren't really stunning. All those women are stunning, classic beauties. If they came in here now, they would be awesome and beautiful—cool people on top of being sexy as fuck.

Q13:

You also had a very public Twitter beef with Kanye West earlier this year. What happened?

That was a weird situation, because it was something I would do in real life. All I did was speak my mind. I'm a Max B fan, and if me and Kanye were in a room and he said, "Yo, I'mma name my album Waves," I'd be like, "Don't do that. You're not allowed to do that." Nobody really does that these days. Nobody checks niggas like, "Nah, nigga." No one is above being spoken to, and if you've got real friends, they'll tell you how they feel. That's how I handle all my situations in real life. Even if I have a problem with somebody, I'm not gonna advertise it. We can go around the corner and we can really do it. But all in front of people? That's not me. Niggas talk shit every day, and niggas say shit about my ex, niggas say shit about my kid. It's all good. There's competition in rap, and Kanye obviously sees me as that.

Q14:

You split with Warner Bros. Records when you were 21. Did you worry that was the end for you?

It was crazy, but I never saw that as the end for me. I always hustled on my own, and I knew there was something wrong with them; it wasn't me. They thought I was this pop kid. They thought I was going take a bunch of samples and flip them into club songs because "Say Yeah" was one of the first times that had been done on a rap level. The beat was so hard, there was so much bass in it, so they thought that's what they do in Pittsburgh—they take dance songs and flip them. They were trying to do that shit, and it wasn't working. And I was giving them other songs, and they weren't taking them. They didn't know what to do with me. When I asked to be released it was like, "All right, what's next?" They didn't really give me that much fucking money, but I was making money. I was good. I had a big–ass chain. I was 21. I just thought, I'll smoke weed and come up with another plan.

Q15:

Did you like weed the first time you smoked it?

Nah, I didn't really like it at first. My mom used to smoke weed a lot, and I thought it was bad, because that's how I was programmed to think as a kid. So for a while I was like, I don't need that shit. I ain't trying to smoke. And then shit got fucked–up when I was in high school; my mom was at a point where she wasn't making a lot of money, and it was like, "Yo, we struggling." I started hanging out with my friends, and they were selling weed. I started selling weed, and then one night at the studio I was like, "Fuck it, I'mma smoke." And then I was like "Damn, I love this shit!"

Q16:

You've been vocal about marijuana legalization. How involved are you politically with that issue?

I'm active, and it's gonna get bigger and bigger. I just bought a grow house, and I'm in business with one of the largest growers in America, but people don't know that because they're legal and legit. It's crazy. We're gonna be manufacturing and selling, so that's why I'm gonna be trying to help get bills passed—to talk to the people and explain, "Hey, this is why you gotta do it."

Q17:

What have your experiences with other drugs been like?

I've done mushrooms. I shroomed in Las Vegas for a weekend on my birthday. I did mushrooms in Switzerland and at Coachella. It was pretty awesome. But I don't do party drugs. I've never popped any pills. I've never done coke. Painkillers make me sick; I think I'm allergic to them. I tried Xanax one time, but it made me throw up, so I was like, "Nah, I don't like this shit." I did lean, but it just made me sleepy. It's just cough medicine. I don't know what it is with rappers on lean, because that shit don't help. It don't help you be creative, it don't help you hear anything differently. I think they do it and they get addicted.

Q18:

It seems that weed is becoming legal everywhere and is less subversive now. Has that changed how much you want to publicly embrace it?

The whole world doesn't have to know you're getting stoned. I feel like the rebel part of it is what made me think, Yo, I gotta smoke everywhere; I gotta do this because fuck that! But now I wanna be high on the low. I still smoke a lot, but I definitely smoke less. Today I probably only smoked two joints, but back in the day I'd be tripping if I only smoked two joints. To other people, it's like, "What? Wiz only smoked two joints?" But guess what—I'm fucking high. I feel great.

Q19:

Who do you make music for?

Anybody who thinks, who likes Bob Marley, who likes Willie Nelson, who likes Prince, who loves music and poetry. It could be a young person who doesn't know why they love the music or an old person who wonders, Why isn't music like this anymore? I don't give a fuck about an awards show. I love my cars, but that's just me as a person. I go crazy trying to come up with new ways to do shit, and that energy gets transferred through my music.

Q20:

You're touring this summer with Snoop Dogg, who is 44. Where do you see yourself in 10, 20 and 50 years?

In 10 years I'll be a billionaire. I'm going to hit a lick, the biggest one ever, and people are going to be like, "What the fuck?" In 20 years I'm not even going to give a fuck about money. In 50 years I'll probably be back to caring about money, on the road, chilling, doing young shit, because I'm going to be bored. I've already done it all, so I'm just going to get back out here and do this again.

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