Wiz Khalifa is the cocky underdog who won't stop winning. Three years removed from his breakout "Black and Yellow,” the Pittsburgh native, whose real name is Cameron Thomaz, has made great use of his mid-20s, dutifully transitioning from the adopted leader of the "weed rap" movement into an unlikely global brand.
Khalifa's latest victory comes by way of his third album, Blacc Hollywood, a critically-polarizing 16-track effort filled with party anthems and self-assured hymns of hope and debauchery. While the project was expected to flop after a string of middling reviews (despite a hit single with "We Dem Boyz"), the laid-back MC crept into last week's Billboard 200 and stole its top spot—his first Number One album. Wiz's private life is also (seemingly) idyllic: he's married to model Amber Rose and the proud father of 18-month-old Sebastian, with loose plans for more on the way.
We chatted with Wiz just three days after Blacc Hollywood's arrival. Despite an appreciable exhaustion incurred by a hectic release week, he chatted optimistically about the album’s potential success, what it was like working with Terry Richardson and the possibility of a follow-up to his star-making Kush & OJ mixtape.
You've been putting albums out since 2006. How has the release process changed for you, as far as press and expectations? Was it any easier this time? It definitely wasn't easier. I feel like it took a lot of careful planning so that we could execute it. I feel like we executed very, very well. I'm happy with everything, from the recording to picking the songs to scheduling the videos and budgeting. Everything came out really well.
There were a handful of delays with the release, including several release-date changes. Was there a moment when you felt really frustrated? Nah, definitely not. Everything, I feel like, happened in the time it was supposed to happen. We were really specific to everything, whether it was the music or how we dropped. We made everything coincide with the tour to where if you buy tickets, you get to re-download the album with the tickets. It was just careful planning, that's all.
Did the success of "We Dem Boyz" and 28 Grams give this album a sense of urgency, like you had to put it out now? I don't think they made me feel like I had to put it out now. Those were things leading up to it that got everybody really, really interested in me and what I had going on. I'm always lingering in the cut, but there's certain things that I can do to make people go crazy. I felt like a strong single and really, really dope mixtape would help that.
Do you think "We Dem Boyz" is the best song you've made? Nah. One of them though. It's like top three.
What's your top three? "Black and Yellow," "We Dem Boyz" and "Who I Am."
Both albums Blacc Hollywood and O.N.I.F.C. touch on the theme of being an outcast. What does the new title mean to you? It more has to do with where I come from—well, not me personally—but where you come from, and where you end up. For a lot of people in my crowd, we're looked at like outsiders or weirdos or crazy people because of our ideas. And then you go through life and figure out you're not so weird, and that you can make money off these ideas, or you can become famous, or you can help other people become famous. Whatever it may be, I want people to embrace their full journey throughout life, and kind of validate that some people are cool and you might not think they are. That's the Blacc part. And the Hollywood part is like, where are you going with it? Where are you gonna end up?
Terry Richardson shot the album cover. What was it like collaborating with him? It was great, because I was always a huge fan of Terry's—before I became famous or anything. I would just lurk his pictures and put them on random things. People didn't even know what I was doing or why I was into it. And now I'm able to shoot with him and do my album packaging, so it was dope. We shot in Paris, and Kate Moss was there. It was amazing.
Did it feel good to get introspective and talk about real issues on the album? Well, those are the issues that are real to me. That's been real to me since I was 16 years old; it's just that nobody really knows that or nobody accepts that message from me because they see the partying or they see the weed smoke and stuff like that. Anybody who lives a real life can connect with this stuff, and that's why my music doesn't catch on right away. Sometimes you have to live it, go through it and then hear it again, and be like, "Wow, this is the music that's validating my life."
"I want people to embrace their full journey throughout life, and validate that some people are cool and you might not think they are."
Your fan base has continued to grow over the years but there are still a lot of critics. It's all entertainment, and it's a game. I feel like I've been through a lot in my life and some of the things that I've experienced—whether it be good or bad—some people have to live to be 50 or 60 years old to see these things. So I've just given these reviewers a little more time; I feel like I'm a little bit more advanced than them.
What do you say to people who want a Kush & OJ 2? I would say that that's cool for them to want that. That's fair. But you know, at the end of the day, I don't think I could ever do that again because that was brand new. You could never be brand new all over again.
Would you ever do an anniversary tour or reissue of that tape? I would probably do a live version with my band, Kush & Orange Juice. That would be my way to do it.
You take a lot of young talent on the road with you, and you've had newer acts like Two-9 in some of your videos. Do you see yourself as a mentor? Yeah, definitely. That just comes with the responsibility because people look up to me for more than just my music. They look up to me as far as my family goes, as far my business goes, as far as how I handle everything. If I could rub off and inspire people to take different views on life and go through their whole life with it—not just while they're on TV—then I think it's my responsibility to do that.
Have you started thinking about having another kid yet? Yeah, I am definitely thinking about it. But not soon though.
Do you have an ideal number of kids that you want? Probably about five.