Wiz Khalifa: Still an Outsider

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Wiz Khalifa

Since the release of his debut album Show and Prove in 2006, Wiz Khalifa hasn’t been one to color within the black and yellow lines. His musical style remains unpredictable, the vocals alternating between singing and rapping, sometimes pulling on Eurodance influences while tracks like the recent “We Dem Boyz” veer closer to a merger of pure hip-hop and trap with a club-ready vigor. His torso and arms are wholly coated with tattoos, displaying years’ worth of stories and symbolism that add even more transparency and candidness to the artist’s intimate album cover. He speaks openly about his love of weed, as well as his family life (including wife Amber Rose, originally of Kanye West fame). We spoke with the rapper about his fifth studio album, Blacc Hollywood, due out tomorrow, August 19th.

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“I still think the main thing in my career… is overcoming people and the way they try to block my vision or stunt my growth with their own ideas and what they feel like,” he replies when asked about difficulties he’s faced. “I value opinions and I’m loyal. A lot of the time that can get in the way of the original idea.”

His appreciation of others’ artistry extends beyond that of those playing within the hip-hop realm; he’s mentioned a desire to work with Lady Gaga, revealing, “I just really respect her craft and what she does, and her loyal fan base.” That said, artists to be featured on the new album include Nicki Minaj, Curren$y, Ty Dolla $ign, Juicy J, and Young Jeezy. Despite smoking “a ton” of weed with Miley Cyrus and talking about a possible collaboration for the new album, Khalifa tells us “she didn’t end up making it on there.”

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To overcome the excess of opinion that goes into creating an album for an artist as influential as Khalifa, the rapper relies on his strong sense of confidence. “I came from a world where everyone doesn’t understand me right away but it pays off later,” he says. This sense of conviction is not undeserved; Khalifa been signed to two major record labels, charted numerous tracks, sold out entire tours, and been nominated for five Grammy awards, among another milestones. When battling pressure from record executives, collaborators, fans and the media, Khalifa says, “having that confidence, you know, that really helps me move forward. When I don’t have that, it’s a weird place for me.”

Though his family, which now includes one-and-a-half year old son Sebastian Taylor Thomaz, has changed significantly since the start of his career and surely plays a big roll outside of the studio, they haven’t had an overwhelming effect on Khalifa’s work.

“Honestly, the music is pretty much still the same. My message is directed to people who can understand and know what I’m talking about.” This message has everything to do with being alienated from the rest of the world, a feeling Khalifa connects to strongly. “The name of the album is just basically the attitude towards my generation and our culture and just how we’re looked at. It doesn’t matter how far you get in life or where you come from. We’re always going to be the same outsiders.” In an attempt to rid any possibility of this message seeming racially focused, Khalifa changed the “ck” in black to his own spelling, thus broadening the message to anyone who shares this feeling.

When describing Blacc Hollywood as a whole, he says, “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better than anything. I just feel like the message is really relevant right now.” This approach stems perhaps from the previously mentioned self-assurance, showing that Khalifa is a unique player in the music industry, focusing more on fulfilling artistic ambition than surpassing previous successes, or the expectations of others. He seems unfazed by any possibility of failure, assuring us, “I already know what I’m capable of doing.”

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Want more music? Check out this interview with Fifth Harmony, then click over to see our shoot with Jacob Latimore.

Photos courtesy of Wiz Khalifa