Since Mel-Man assisted Dr. Dre with 2001,
Pittsburgh, “Pistolvania” has been vacant from mainstream Hip-Hop’s
radar. Hard for some to fathom, a 17 year old aims to change all of
that. Wiz Khalifa, which is a bond of “wisdom” and the Arabic word for “successor” has released several mixtapes, including his most recent, Prince of the City with New York DJ, Big Mike. With a monster hits like “Oh No” and “Thrown,” the response has been boisterous.
prodigious Wiz spoke to AllHipHop.com about his city, some
misperceptions, as well as some of the city’s charm. He also touches
upon some of the controversial topics within his rhymes – and how they
compare to his own thoughts. With meetings allegedly in progress with
several major labels, Wiz Khalifa may inch out Big Ben Rothlisberger
for the youngest star in the Steel City.
Since the Super Bowl, Pittsburgh has had a media blitz. Why is it time
right now, for a star in the Steel City Hip-Hop community?
Khalifa: I think it’s time for a star to come from Pittsburgh ‘cause
there’s a lot of openness in the game right now. I think there’s an
openin’ for somethin’ new – somethin’ fresh for the people to enjoy.
With the South doin’ they thing for as long as they been doin’ [it],
it’s kinda time for people to get a whole new vibe, a whole new feel.
There’s a lot of talent out here as far as rappers and producers,
there’s a whole bunch of music goin’ on out here.
Part of your management and production was in the group, Strict Flow, a
late 90’s Pittsburgh Hip-Hop outfit that had some national success.
What sense of Pittsburgh Hip-Hop history do you have?
Khalifa: I have a lil’ bit of Hip-Hop history. I’m kinda young, so I
really don’t know as much as some other people might. When Strict Flow
was around, I was probably like 13, 14, still in middle school.
People in the city have only had Sam Sneed and Mel-Man to really look
up to. It’s always appeared that there’s this “glass ceiling”
preventing people to blow. Do you honestly feel you can break it?
Khalifa: I feel like I can set my own barriers. I can go as far as I
wanna let myself go. I don’t plan on not pushin’ myself any harder than
I have been. I just feel like the sky’s the limit. I don’t gauge my
successes against anyone else’s successes.
AllHipHop.com: On the Prince of the City mixtape, I’m very drawn to this record, “Thrown.” It’s good musically, it’s energetic, it’s gangsta. Tell me more about this record…
Khalifa: It was just somethin’ that was on the spot. I walked into the
studio, E-Dan had the beat playin’. I said, “Yo, whenever you finish
that, you just gotta throw it to me.” He wrapped it up, gave it to me –
and when I do music, I like to let the beat write the song. I sit back
and vibe, and put words to it. It was a real good thing.
You’re constantly in the studio, as mentioned. You’re also juggling
school too. I want to play devil’s advocate with you for a second.
You’re doing these two things, and then the majority of your rhymes are
on that cocaine and gun flow. Quite frankly, how do you find the time?
Khalifa: Well, I mean I got a lot of people in Pittsburgh. This is my
roots, right here. All my peoples are from here, and they all go
through different things. You got your crazy sons, your crazy cousins
in lock-down, and I got a lot of friends as well. They be in certain
areas, or I be in certain areas with them. I hear what the streets talk
about, and listen to and vibe off of what goes on around me, that’s
what I put in my music. I also put in stuff that I go through myself.
As a young Black kid growing up in urban America, it’s hard. You see
some things that you shouldn’t see. I just put all that together and
paint one big picture.
I never heard the term “Pittsburgh, Pistolvania” before. Still, there
were less than 50 murders in Pittsburgh in 2005. A lot of folks out
there may think that the Steel City is really just Wal-Mart’s and
Khalifa: Pistolvania is not actually a term that I came up with. It’s
somethin’ that I heard before, liked it, and ran with it ‘cause I
didn’t think whoever came up with it ran with it enough. But there is a
lot of gun violence that goes in my city, whether people know it or
not. There’s kids walkin’ around with AK’s and all types of stuff. It’s
not that I’m glorifying the gun violence out here, I’m just making
people understand that it’s official.
AllHipHop.com: They laid off a bulk of the urban police force there. How has that affected the streets? Are they vigilante?
Khalifa: Yeah, there’s a lot goin’ on. Without the police, cats is
gettin’ back on the gang-bangin’ like it was in the early 90’s. There’s
actually Bloods and Crips in Pittsburgh, and you probably remember, but
it’s back again. But it’s mainly younger people that’s doing all this
craziness. It’s definitely heightened.
AllHipHop.com: In your opinion, where’s the spot in Pitt? If heads are passing through, where should they go?
Khalifa: Definitely, after the club, everybody be down Oakland – down
“The O” – that’s where it’s poppin’ to get somethin’ to eat after the
club, holla at a few females, whatever, whatever.
You know that RZA used to stay in Pitt for a minute, and 15 or so years
ago, that’s where the RZA used to chill too – at The O…
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, that’s definitely the main spot. That’s always gonna be there.
AllHipHop.com: Which part of the city do you actually represent?
Khalifa: Actually, I don’t even represent one certain part of the city.
I’ve moved around a whole bunch – Wilkinsburg, East Hills, North Side,
the Hill [District]. My roots are all over.
AllHipHop.com: That’s probably smart, as to not marginalize certain areas…
Wiz Khalifa: Exactly. Cats be only tryin’ to sell CD’s to their one certain area.
On “Testify”, you allude that you’re the “hardest out” in the city.
Then, on “What It Is,” you give credit to Govament. What sense of unity
or animosity is there in the scene now?
Khalifa: I respect what [Govament] does, they respect what I do, as far
as musically. [We share the same studio], IDLabs. We see each other, so
we can’t help but bump into each other. We figured out that we was both
hot, so [we unified]. They rap about a lil’ different stuff than I rap
about. But people can still feel them as much as they feel me, and
vice-versa. We just figured that instead of goin’ at it like a few
other people do in the city, we might as well keep it movin’.
The Govament was rumored to have been involved in that incident with
Jim Jones and the Diplomats, when they were in town. Were you involved
Khalifa: Oh, no. I wasn’t involved in that situation at all. That whole
thing was between them, and the other guys that were involved in that
situation – nothin’ to do with me.
AllHipHop.com: You’re both opening for Ghostface. How important are those live events to your career?
Khalifa: I’ve always been one that’s comfortable with performing.
That’s one of my high-points. I love to perform. I’m not really nervous
about it, I’m anxious. I love Ghostface, and I’m a big fan of his. I’m
ready to see how it goes and move on from there.
AllHipHop.com: What is thee song that the fans really want to hear?
Wiz Khalifa: I’ve been gettin’ a lot of feedback from “Oh No.”
That’s the one that they want to hear. I haven’t performed “Throwed”
yet, I’m gonna try and get into that. But definitely “Oh No.”
Back in the day, Friday and Saturday nights used to be prime space to
sneak in local cats. Now, they’ve syndicated Clinton Sparks’ radio
show. Has that hurt you and your peers?
Khalifa: It’s rough. It’s hard tryin’ to get out there, but we workin’
at it. Everyday it’s gettin’ closer and closer. We just keep in
AllHipHop.com: The city has been plagued with a heroin epidemic for a few years. Again, devil’s advocate here, but on “Get Away,” you say, “Kids know Wiz sick like salmonella, you want a brick? / Heroin runnin’ s**t.” I’ll let you do the talking…
Khalifa: Specifically with that line, I didn’t actually say, “heroin”
like you think I said, I said, “here on runnin’ s**t.” [laughs] I can
see how you can get it mixed up on how I talk a lil’ bit. That’s a good
question though. With the drugs in the community, I really don’t
condone the distribution of drugs like that. If I talk about any type
of drug or anything, I’m talking about my music being like that drug,
as far as the addiction. I don’t sell drugs or anythin’ like that, and
I don’t really promote sellin’ drugs either.
AllHipHop.com: You’re still in high school. What’s it like going to high school as one of the biggest rappers in the city?
Khalifa: I’m gettin’ a lot of good reception from my peers. They love
what I’m doing. In a sense, it gives them somethin’ to brag about, plus
something to enjoy. They love the mixtape. They love what I’m doin’.
Everybody at school shows mad love – all the teachers, staff, kids,
AllHipHop.com: Your content and swagger reminded me a bit of Young Jeezy. But who are your influences for doin’ what you do?
Khalifa: I’m most influenced by Jay-Z, Cam’ron, Biggie. I like Jeezy. I
listen to Jeezy, I got into kinda [late]. I’m not sayin’ that you’re
wrong, but I don’t see how his style could influence mine. I never
heard that before. [laughs] I definitely got a cocky swagger.
AllHipHop.com: In an article in The New Pittsburgh Courier, your manager said he’s strongly trying to shop you to Island/Def Jam or Interscope. What’s happening right now?
Khalifa: Right now, as far as distribution, there’s no definite.
There’s a lot of offers out. My manager just had a couple meetings with
Atlantic, and Epic’s interested. Universal’s still interested. There’s
a lot on the table. We have to get the largest amount of money and the
best backin’ for what we tryin’ to do. I don’t even know.
You won’t have to worry about college tuition. So when you get that
signing bonus, what’s the first thing you want to buy?
Wiz Khalifa: Ummm… I haven’t even thought that far yet. I’m just tryin’ to make sure I get to that point. [laughs]
Visit Wiz Khalifa at www.rostrumrecords.com