"When I look at the vinyl of it, I’m like, damn, bro that’s like a Marvin Gaye record or something," says Wiz. "That shit just looks classic. That shit looks like Wu-Tang 36 Chambers. You can’t doubt that shit, yo. Like, The Chronic, even if you never heard it, you’re just like, 'Damn, that looks like a classic.' Same shit with Rolling Papers."
Billboard caught up with Wiz Khalifa to speak about his forthcoming album Rolling Papers 2, his Dazed and Blazed Tour with Rae Sremmurd, balancing fatherhood and music, his favorite moment from the Rolling Papers era, and why a project with Juicy J and A$AP Rocky could be around the corner.
Let's take it back to Rolling Papers. The intro, “When I’m Gone,” do you remember how you started the track?
*Begins rapping* “And they say all I rap about is bitches and champagne/ You would too if every night you seen the same thing.”
Seven years later, for Rolling Papers 2, are we going to get that same vibe?
I came on this one and said: “Through with the basics, you think it’s a spaceship/ When I ride through, feel like I’m on ice we just glide. N---as is parasites, I get pussy in a pair of Off Whites/ Know I want it, you could see it in my eyes, surprise./ ‘Cause I visualized it. Always knew I was the man, you just realized it.” Ohh!
How did that intro come about?
Just me writing and finishing up the album. It was the last verse that I wrote for the entire album. I said, this is it! I was like, how do we end it and begin it at the same time?
What would you say was the most memorable moment from the Rolling Papers era? Something that sticks with you today.
My favorite moment was making “The Race.” That was a special time and experience. I remember going to the studio with E. Dan and I was in Pittsburgh for the rest of the summer. I took the summer off and I didn’t do no tour and didn’t do nothing because I wanted to work on the album. I remember telling E, “I don’t give a fuck what I record during the day. If I record a hook, or some sounds, or whatever, I don’t care. I just want to get the best ideas.” He started making the beat and he took it in the perfect direction. I was like, “Alright, I’ma go get drunk.” [Laughs]
I came back the next day and I was like, “Aw man, you killed this beat!” I sang the hook. Then, I was like, “Alright, I’ma go fuck this girl.” [Laughs] Came back two days later and did the verses and shit. It was just a fun process of putting it together. What I was talking about, I was living it at that time. I was living in all those words that I was saying. It was a personal record but I was putting it out to the world. It was just a good combination of fun shit and reality.
One of my favorite records is “Rooftops.” The hook was: “They used to lock us out of the buildings. Now, we’re on the rooftops.” At what point in your career did you feel you reached that apex or the rooftop of hip-hop?
Shit, I still don’t even feel like I’m at the rooftop of hip-hop. I just think, on a boss level as far as respect, you gotta put me up there as far as real life goes.
That’s a fact.
It comes from being looked at as somebody who couldn’t reach those goals. Then, you’re right there sitting with the same people who counted you out. In hip-hop, there’s a lot of different classes. There’s the elite, the JAY-Z’s and Snoop’s and shit like that. I feel like only time can put you up there.
But you’ve been out for a minute, though. Deal or No Deal was, what, 2009?
Yeah, 10 years is good, but..
You’re trying to hit that 20-year mark.
That’s where them dudes is at. So I’m still going.
With Rolling Papers 2, did you have any hesitation because of the success of Rolling Papers? I mean, “Black and Yellow,” “Roll Up,” “No Sleep” -- that’s a lot to try and top.
This is as important as my first album. That’s the mark I want to make and that’s how I’m coming into it. I had this great career to stand on and all this work I’ve done, but let’s strip all of that away and focus on what I’m about to do right now. This is my time to prove what I’m made of now. Fuck what we’ve done before. We done that, that’s done now. It’s like, what are we doing right now? This moment is so important. It’s as important as when I first came into the game.
What would you say is your favorite 16 from Rolling Papers 2?
My favorite verse is on "Bootsy Bellows" just because I rap my ass off on there. [Laughs] I mean, I got some personal verses on there and I love the personal shit, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite because music makes me cry. So when I do my personal shit, it’s going to be hard for me to say it.
What would you say is the last album or song that made you cry? Not one of yours.
Last song that made me cry is the song by The Police, “Every Breath You Take.” Shit, that was the other day! It’s just a beautiful song and it got all types of different emotions in it and when it picks up at the end, man, that shit just hit me.
It’s mind-boggling to me because I feel like you’re among the elite for our generation, but I still hear that chip on your shoulder. Do you feel like you get your just due?
I do, for sure. I’m satisfied with the respect that I get. I get nothing but love and if I get negative feedback, it’s to make the product better. And, don’t nobody try me. Nobody test me. I haven’t been tested. That means that I’m good, I’m straight. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.
What was the biggest challenge artistically making Rolling Papers 2?
Finding what fuckin’ style I wanted to used and what sound I wanted to land on. This is it. Honestly, I think I made like three albums in this process. I scrapped all of ‘em, yo. So many different directions that this album took because I have so many styles. To me, everything that I make is great. It took me stepping outside of it and really trying to figure out not what’s good, but what’s next. I can give you what’s good in like 15 minutes.
You already made a “Black and Yellow” and a “Roll Up.”
Exactly. You’re absolutely right. Then, going in and making sure that those real textures are there so people feel like they’re listening to a Wiz album and not just another album. I really had to like step outside of it and listen to my old shit and ask, “What’s the new version of that?” Motherfuckers don’t want to feel like they’re in 2009. The want to know that it’s the same n---a. Bring that shit into right now for people to experience. It was a difficult process but it was fun and something I enjoyed figuring out and I’m glad I didn’t skip over. The product is perfect.
Who can you say feature-wise surprised you the most on Rolling Papers 2?
Swae Lee. He texted me the song randomly and when I got it, it was like a 20-minute freestyle.
Singing or rapping?
Singing. So he’s just singing for 20 minutes. I called him and I was like, “OK?” [Laughs] He was like, “Yeah, big bro! Whatever you want to do to it!” So, I chopped it up and put a verse to it and sent it back. He said, “This shit’s crazy.” His whole squad was with it and everybody was with it. That was really interesting because people are like, “I gotta get in the studio with you” or “Don’t mess with my vocals” but he’s just was really free with it. He was like, “Here, big bruh. Chop it up. Have some fun with it.”
Speaking of Swae, I know you got the Dazed & Blazed Tour coming up with Rae Sremmurd, Lil Skies and O.T. Genesis. Give me a strength of each artist that's going on tour with you.
I like Lil Skies because he’s new, he’s young and he’s melodic. Anybody who understands melody in this game, he’s good. He’s got a good fan base as well. His fans love him. That’s like, the recipe right there.
O.T., I love him because he makes hits. He’s actually a friend of mine like, we kick it, we go bowling, birthday parties and shit. That’s my guy. When we first started getting close, I told him I’m taking him out on tour. I always likes to put money in my homies’ pockets and give them an experience you can take for the rest of your life. He makes hits and has great energy. He’s a really good performer. He listens really well so he’s going to pick up on game nice.
Rae Sremmurd, I love their music. I love their energy. That’s the main thing about them, their energy. They really give no fucks and they’re at a point right now where if you’re not down with them, there’s something wrong with you. [Laughs] That’s why I fuck with them because they just force you to like them.
Are there any changes you would make to Rolling Papers?
None. It’s a classic. When I look at the vinyl of it, I’m like, damn, bro that’s like a Marvin Gaye record or something. That shit just looks classic. That shit looks like Wu-Tang 36 Chambers. You can’t doubt that shit yo. Like, The Chronic, even if you never heard it, you’re just like “Damn, that looks like a classic.” Same shit with Rolling Papers.
Are you ready to call Rolling Papers 2 a classic?
Instant classic. What the game’s been looking for.
Let’s talk about the production. When it comes to beats, we know you got the crazy ear. Talk about the transition production-wise to Rolling Papers 2.
I did a lot of in-house production on this one. E. Dan is on there doing his thing. Sledgren is on there providing those good Kush & OJ vibes. Young Chop is on there producing the good Chiraq vibes. TM88, we signed him to Taylor Gang. A lot of people don’t know that. Them bottom-heavy but still melodic ass beats that people love, we got that.
You've picked up a lot of gems in terms of artists with Taylor Gang, man. How would you rate your eye for talent as a businessman?
My people’s is successful and that’s all I need. As far as finding people, that’s one thing. But as far as them actually blossoming and being successful, I’m happy to be a part of being a lot of people’s careers, even if they’re not signed to Taylor Gang. I’m happy to be that segue into who you’re supposed become. As far as Taylor Gang, Juicy was the first person I put my energy into other than myself. Ty Dolla Sign, he’s killing it. I knew Ty was going to be killing it. He’s really that dude and the fact that he really reps the Gang is crazy. With the next artist we do that with, it’s going to be that same amount of love. Everybody’s doing their thing. That’s what we’re doing it for.
I spoke to Juicy a couple months back and he kept teasing that you, him and Ty have songs on songs on songs and it’s just a matter of deciding when to drop a project.
We’ll probably put it out before the end of the year. Like a little album. Something quick. I was talking about doing a project with me, Juicy and [A$AP Rocky] Rocky. Rocky is low-key a missing member of Three 6 Mafia. I think we’re going to wind up doing that.
The women, man.
I love women. [Laughs]
Obviously, they see you getting big out here in the gym. Talk about your workout regimen and how that has translated into your level of confidence.
I just smoke a lot of pot and hit the gym. I fell back on partying a little bit. I get a lot of rest. Eat good. Sweat. It took about a year to get to where I am. It definitely helps, man. It’s a confidence booster for sure. My DM’s are fucking full.
You’re a father too. What would you say has been the biggest joy and hurdle for you from that front?
The biggest joy is seeing that boy every day and he just lights my life up. When I see his face or when I hear his voice. He sleeps in my bed with me so I just roll over and look at him like, “I love this boy.” The biggest hurdle is just the balance between studio live and normal life. For a long ass time, it takes a lot to reprogram your brain from 18 years of work. I’ve been going to the studio every day since high school. Then, to have another responsibility that’s just as important, I had to reprogram and put just as much energy into that balance.
I never want to miss out on any of those moment with my son, but I never want to miss out on the bag either. They’re equally attackable. When you become a real boss you learn how to really do them at the appropriate times and apply pressure.
I thought it was so dope when you guys went to go see Taylor Swift.
We had such a good time, man. The fact that he gravitates towards music -- he sings the words or like looks at people and sees artists as larger than life and he knows I’m an artist. I feel like that does so much good stuff with his brain.
Would you be open to let him pursue a music career?
Absolutely. He’ll be better than me. I’m that n---a, so I know my son gon’ be a G. [Laughs]
If you could title this chapter of your life with one word, what would it be and why?
Awesome. I feel awesome, I look awesome and I give off awesome energy. Anybody that touches me becomes awesome after they get the juices.
If you could pick a song or album that could be the soundtrack of your life, what would it be?
My favorite album is [Outkast's] Aquemini, so we could rock with that. It takes a complex person to understand how dope Aquemini really is. You really gotta be super tight to understand how dope I really am. You could think I’m dope because someone told you, and same thing with Aquemini. People talk about Outkast, but you have no understanding of it. When you dive in, sit down, take time with it, you get infected with dopeness, as do you with me.