Wiz Khalifa: Youngin’ On His Grind

By Allen Starbury  |  05/20/2008

Wiz KhalifaMeet Wiz Khalifa, the new kid on the block with one of the hottest singles blazing radio. You might have heard "Say Yeah," the Alice Deejay sampled track. However, you might not know Wiz.

Let's get you up to speed. This 19-year-old has been on a mission to make it in the industry since the ripe young age of 9, when he first began putting the pen to the pad. But, it's been his constant grind -- not the norm for a young kid his age -- that has seen him progress from local Pittsburgh phenom to the newest kid signed to Warner Bros. Records.

Before you judge him for his poppy techno-laced single, give some of his other music a listen and you can tell from the jump, Wiz is no one-sided artist. Instead, he determined to show all sides of his musical mind, as he explains in this interview. He's got street records, conscious records, and yes, even fun club bangers. So, without further adieu, meet Wiz Khalifa...

BallerStatus.com: How old are you?

Wiz Khalifa: I'm 19.

BallerStatus.com: So how did you into rap? You're young and you have a deal already, so tell us about the process.

Wiz Khalifa: Basically, I started writing when I was 9. Just basically, my love for music and how much music inspired me, I was always into writing, as far as stories and poetry. I got into a lot of different stuff when I was younger, and I've always been into performing. It was just natural for me to go into music. Like I said, I started writing at 9, and got my first record deal at 15. I signed to an independent label, and since then I released four more records, and then got signed to a major, to Warner. We just been rocking since then.

BallerStatus.com: I heard a few labels were interested, so why did you go to Warner?

Wiz Khalifa: Warner just came the most correct. I liked what they was talking about. I liked the plan that they had for my career and my future, instead of just riding one of my hottest songs. I feel more comfortable with Warner, long-term.

BallerStatus.com: I noticed you leaked a few videos over the past year. You had a couple street songs, and then the "Say Yeah" single, which is a little different from what I heard from you. Why did you decide to go with a techno type single?

Wiz Khalifa: Well, just being from where I'm from -- Pittsburgh is real diverse -- so I always get different kinds of things from different types of music from around my way and the type of producers that I work with. It was just natural as far as doing something crazy, as far as next level stuff and doing the techno thing. We actually did the jam before Kanye did his "Stronger" one, so it was kind of wild he came out with that. But it lets us know we on the right track.

When it came down to making the song, I had recognized the sample. It was familiar to me, and I knew that a lot of other people would recognize it and know what it was, and it would be real big for the clubs and stuff like that. I knew I had the capability to just jump on there and make it hot, not make it corny. We did what we did, and it came out crazy.

BallerStatus.com: And it's getting a lot of love so far?

Wiz Khalifa: Yea, it's getting a lot of good feedback. It's on radio, the video is on MTV. It's doing it on the internet. Yea man, it's going crazy. It's going nuts in the club.

BallerStatus.com: We had featured you a couple years back, and since then you started popping up on the net everywhere. Now you have a deal and a hit single, so how you feeling right now?

Wiz Khalifa: I'm feeling real good. I worked real hard and I continue to work, even at the point I'm at right now. I'm working like it's day one. It's just good to see the hard work paying off and really going towards something. I got a lot of people that I'm comfortable with, we got the single that's going crazy, and I'm real confident on how the single and the album's gonna do man. I'm just working hard. I'm just grinding.

BallerStatus.com: Pittsburgh is not a city known for breeding a lot of huge hip-hop stars. What was it like coming up there and trying to get recognized?

Wiz Khalifa: It was really difficult trying to get recognized in Pittsburgh, just basically 'cause, like you said, there's not a lot of acts out there who's known nationally. But there is a lot of people that's trying to break out like anywhere else. The support factor from Pittsburgh, though, has been there through the years. Just me doing what I'm doing and connecting with the people I've been connecting with, people have really recognized my skill and how cool I am and how much I support the whole Burgh as much as they support me. Over the years, I've built a fanbase that's super strong in the Burgh, to the point where if I go anywhere else, it's crazy there too. But it was real good for me to take care of home, and really get the love and support of my people there. That's never happened before. There's people that's left Pittsburgh, and people all over the world love them, but its not never been nobody who gained the love and fanbase in Pittsburgh and is really still here. So it's big.

BallerStatus.com: Like I said, you're young, and right now a lot of the young hip-hop cats are taking over -- from Soulja Boy to Bow Wow to Lil Mama. They're all coming up right now, so what do you think about all the young artists coming up, and what do you think about yourself repping the young generation?

Wiz Khalifa: I like pretty much all the music that's coming out, especially from the younger cats. It's good to see younger people having fun and making the music that they wanna make. And just having fun with it and inspiring other people to just have fun. I feel like I fit in there because my music is real fun as well, but I got a lot of lyrical content that can reach out to all the audiences as well as the younger people. I feel like my music is well-rounded and general enough, but has enough perspective and detail in it that anybody can like it. So I can make a "Say Yeah" or make a more conscious record, but it's still gonna be me, Wiz Khalifa, but anybody can mess with it.

BallerStatus.com: As far as the music itself, tell us about what people should expect from the album.

Wiz Khalifa: The album's gonna be crazy and definitely be through Warner. I've been working with a bunch of producers so far, but I haven't worked with any artists yet. But I've been working wth Terrance Martin, DJ Toomp, The Runners and a couple other people. Basically, I'm just trying to find the sound that I wanna run with for the album. The whole album is gonna be real diverse and it's gonna be a nice variety, but it's gonna come together to make one sound. It's gonna be real musical. And I got a lot of points I'm gonna touch on and hopefully the rest of the world is gonna rock with it.

I'm still in the process of recording it. We doing the whole thing as we go, basically, as far as promoting "Say Yeah."

BallerStatus.com: Back when we featured you on the site a year or so back, your mom had reached out and thanked us for it. She seems to be really supportive of your career. What's your relationship with your mother, and how supportive she is of your rap career?

Wiz Khalifa: It's actually both of my parents who are really supportive. They're not together, but my mother and my father are real active in my life. They are real supportive of what I do. They're just happy that I'm out here living my dream. They seen me grinding since day one. It's not even something like I'm doing something they didn't want me to do, but I went hard at it. They seen me work at it from day one, but they didn't think I was serious at first. They see where I'm at now, and they just love it. I'm having fun living my life, and they couldn't be happier, both of them.

BallerStatus.com: You mentioned how they didn't think you were serious at first. Was there a time where they kind of encouraged you to give it up and stick to school?

Wiz Khalifa: They never really told me not to work on my music. They always encouraged me to work on my music and get all my creativeness out. There wasn't a time where they was like "Nah, you ain't gonna be able to do that." It was just like I knew what I had to do to get to where I'm at. I knew I had to graduate high school, and handle the regular, average everyday thing before I could go into the studio. It was just about finding that balance. They made sure I finished being a good student before I could do what I wanted to do. When I graduated high school, it was all me from then and there. They was like "Alright, you can do what you want."

BallerStatus.com: So is college in the future or are you focusing on music full-force?

Wiz Khalifa: I'm going full-force in music right now. I plan on taking some college later, but I wanna get myself established as far as my career, so I can make this money.

BallerStatus.com: It's crazy. Most 19-year-olds don't have this type of drive and determination to focus and grind like you do. Where did you get those qualities from?

Wiz Khalifa: I basically got it from both of my parents, growing up with both of them. My dad is real strong willed and real determined. He's an entrepreneur too. Everywhere we go, he opens up businesses of some sort. He opened up the first studio that I ever recorded in. Just seeing my dad growing up and seeing how he handles his business, and my mom as well. Seeing my mom, and how strong she is and motivated. She raised me and my brother without anybody. There was times when we didn't have food in the house and this and that, but we was never all the way down and out. My moms taught me how to stick in there. It's a combination of all of that.

Also, because I'm an old soul. I'm young, but ... that's why they call me Wiz. They call me Young Wiz because I'm wise beyond my years. I just put it all together. I got a lot of hard work to do, so I just stick to that.

BallerStatus.com: Since you're pretty new, what are a few things you want people to know about yourself?

Wiz Khalifa: I definitely want them to know how musical I am, and how into what I do I am. Like I'm not here for the short run, make a single and I'm out. I got some things to say and some swag to bring to the game. Also, I'm not no artist coming out trying to be hard or a thug or none of that. I got all types of music. I got all types of sounds, from having fun to going hard on the grind. It's more than be this and do that. Everything is about the music with me.

Fans can check me at Myspace.com/WizKhalifa and if you want the "Say Yea" ringtone, text Wiz to 99499.