Hours before the world-famous annual Met Gala in Manhattan this May, 11-time platinum-selling artist Wiz Khalifa takes a look at himself in a full-length mirror in a hotel room and smooths the front of an all-cream, personally tailored Rag & Bone suit.
The contrast of Wiz’ iconic, dyed dreads, his copious tattoos, and gold bling, set against the cool cream suit with Gucci loafers is unequivocally gangsta. “Siiiiick,” says Lauren Matos, his stylist.
The so-called Mister Cap smiles, high fives Lauren, turns to the camera and does a Bruce Lee flurry punch combo, pulling his closed fists tight at his sides, his lanky arms tucked tight and back.
He stomps his foot, looks in the mirror again, and says, “Uhhh!”, like the world is his.
Because it kinda is.
Amid a brutal election year and a tense summer, it seems like the Wiz Khalifa’s crew — the Taylor Gang — are having the most fun in America. The 28 year-old, now-Los Angeles-based rapper has seemingly generated a headline a minute blitzing across the globe in 2016.
Born Cameron Thomaz and in the rap game since age 12, Wiz has adapted to a “flood them with music” reality of digital distribution in 2016, he says.
He’s dropped: “Khalifa” in February; the “TGOD Mafia: Rude Awakening” mixtape in June; and “Rolling Papers 2” is coming up. With signature strain Khalifa Kush “KK” blazing, Wiz smoked his way across America on “The High Road” tour with Snoop Dogg this summer, and hit six times platinum for the single “See You Again” — the blockbuster dedicated to Fast/Furious fatality Paul Walker. The video for it hit one billion views on YouTube on the way to becoming the best-selling song of 2015 worldwide.
Cap’s pushing his strain KK nationally, while buying weed farmland, and developing new strains for Colorado and California stores. He’s also boosting his advocacy for medical marijuana, and planning a dispensary in Pennsylvania.
The single motivating drive behind all these moves is his 3-year-old son, Wiz says. Life’s less ‘young, wild and free,’ but more fulfilling now.
“My life has kind of led me that way,” he tells Cannabis Now Magazine. “I spend a lot of time with my son. He’s three, so before I had him, I was kind of just living for myself and if I wanted to go to the studio or if I wanted to perform or it didn’t matter. I could just do it and now everything is planned and based around him. And I like it that way. I was never really balanced, because I didn’t have to be, but now he’s more my reason for doing things, other than whatever other reason.”
CALIFORNIA DREAMIN’ BIG
Cap’s son with celebrity model and now ex-wife Amber Rose might have helped bring Wiz to the West Coast from Pennsylvania, but dude is in his element out West. Just check the July video “Pull Up” with Wiz cruising around in classic convertibles like his own “Grand Theft Auto V” character.
“The weed brought me to the West Coast,” he said. “Being able to smoke and have access to pounds and pounds of weed all the time — that’s definitely what attracted me to coming out here, but the longer I stay I just really started to adapt to the lifestyle of it. That’s where my family is at, my son is there. I have my home life. Here I’m not really working or partying too hard. I’m really just kind of hanging out doing normal stuff.”
“California feels like a place to do that. I could drive my cars. I could go to the beach and I could just hang out with my son as much as I want to and not get bothered by too many people. In New York, the weed laws suck and you can’t drive anywhere. I would never move there. And down South, it’s just too racist. So California — that’s where I’m at with it.”
Khalifa’s West Coast swerve has put him front and center in pop culture, building with the likes of Snoop Dogg, who he toured with through Labor Day playing to tens of thousands together. “It’s fun for me to be onstage with Snoop, cus he’s such an inspiration to me and what I’m doing with my music,” he said.
“So what we get druuuuunk / so what we smoke weeeeeed!” thousands shouted back at Snoop and Wiz this summer, from Vegas to New York, and Texas to California.
“The experience we put together for the crowd is something new, unique and fun,” he said.
Wiz was a military brat who grew up in several countries and states before high school in Pittsburgh. As such Khalifa has proved a fusionary rapper, and a die-hard worker — prone to poppy party anthems playful and energetic, yet gangsta, with mean hooks, and an ability to hit both high and low cultures.
He sums up his highly anticipated “Rolling Papers 2” mission as: “I’m just going to drop another dope-ass album.”
On the July “Rude Awakening” mixtape with TGOD Mafia, Khalifa’s bars are a mellow, dope blur of baller parties stocked with hot models. Where others have grams, Cap has pounds. Where others have a plant, he has a farm. Yet he’s never aggro about it.
“That got recorded between April and June and that was a really fun record. It was one of those things where Juicy J wanted to do a project, we pretty much had all these songs together, and he brought it up to me, and I was able to add my versions and then it was pretty much done after that,” said Wiz. “I feel like the best way to entertain people is to flood them with music, and not really have a set schedule but just for them to look forward to music.”
His sound is reflected in his updated look — a mix of light, button-down party shirts and stylish skinny jeans; the tatts and bling never fading.
“I feel like it’s more of a feeling than anything,” he says of his sound. “People know what my music feels like, so when I’m making [“Papers 2”], I’m making sure that those people who are looking forward to those moments in my album, they get those, as well as the expression of what I want to say and taking them on a new journey. I don’t want to give anybody anything that they’ve heard before, but it’s definitely a consistent sound and they’re going to get more of that.”
“With this production it’s just really important to me to use my producers that I’ve really been rocking with for a lot of years and actually put them in a position to be able to say, ‘Those are my producers’ and ‘they’ve created my sound’. So it’s only right that for this album that I work with then and really put a lot of energy into getting that sound out.”
“KK” BLOWING UP
When he’s not making headlines for new mixtapes albums, singles, videos, and tours, Khalifa’s cannabis moves carry weight. Khalifa’s branded strain KK — a high-THC, super-flavorful Diesel-OG phenotype —has been spotted in California and officially hits Colorado this summer.
Khalifa announced his partnership with River Rock in Colorado in February with KK flowers and Amber Ice extracts. Plus, there are reports Wiz bought farm land and has been building with rapper Berner at the Reef farms in Las Vegas. Wiz says his next flavors are going to be more personal favorites, just like KK.
“It’s more about just getting products that I can stand behind and I’m confident in. Now that KK is growing and doing what it’s supposed to do,” he said.
“Really it’s what I like. So I like the flavor of KK. I like how it looks. I like the taste of it and how it makes me feel. So that’s what made me really stand behind that. Any other strain that I pick that I get behind, it’s going to be the same thing. Like, personal preference, not just like the taste, but the whole experience.”
Khalifa shouted out Zkittlez and Gelato this year. “That’s really blowing up,” he said.
And Khalifa’s cannabis moves are about to include way more active lobbying for medical marijuana, even in the halls of Congress.
“You’ll definitely see me speaking more publicly about it. Anywhere I can put my influence, I’m going to be there,” he said. “It’s more about medicating people. There’s a lot of patients out there who need it, and if they can get it to help them physically and psychologically, then that will be a goal of mine as well.”
Like many, Wiz has a personal connection to the healing plant. “There’s a couple people in my family, and that are in my life, and as time goes on people will understand who they are and what’s their story and the connection with me and them.”
With Pennsylvania enacting medical marijuana laws that allow for licensed dispensaries, Khalifa said he’s planning a dispensary. “You already know!” he said.
Wiz said he thinks California will legalize cannabis in the 2016 election, and signed off on Prop 64’s limits of six plants per residence “for sure”, saying he would grow KK and some new projects.
Khalifa also endorsed Proposition 64’s limits of up to an ounce in public, he said. As a teen, he’s had police put a gun to his head over traffic stops for weed. He got busted for pot possession as recently as 2014. “I think an ounce is a good amount,” he said.
In recent days the artist has watched with horror as America convulsed over the very same police brutality he’s denounced for years in his art.
“It’s something that hit close to home and it’s pretty heartbreaking. And at the same time it’s something that when asked about it, I speak on how extreme it really is. And whether people get it when you say it, or they understand when they see it actually happening, I feel like everybody is getting the point now.”
“It happens in waves. There’s a lot of people who are uneducated to the fact that this could happen, so now a lot of those people are shocked, but they’re learning what America can really look like.”
Still, Wiz ain’t gonna vote this year, he says. Not for Trump, Bernie, Hillary, or whoever. Not even for legal weed. The tide is rising regardless, he says.
“I just don’t care,” he said. “Whoever is in office is going to [legalize] it so it don’t matter who I vote for.”
What about the world he’ll leave his son? I ask.
“I do my job, and we as people can only do what we can. I can do my job personally and I do that to my fullest.”
That includes being a voice of authority on cannabis in his son’s life, the new dad said.
“The best way to do it is, it’s got to come from you. The outside world is going to teach him some bullshit and try and tell him that weed is bad, it slows you down, you can’t function. It’s really up to you to teach them the realness about it, so their minds aren’t fucked up and they know you’re not doing a bad thing.”
I ask him — father to father — when is old enough to allow your son to smoke. College?
“Probably like 16,” Wiz says. “I wouldn’t be mad if he started at 16.”
As long as he’s getting his shit done?
“Even if he wasn’t getting shit done. Fuck it. Maybe the weed will help him find his way. It helped me,” he said.
Weed could also help America with its anger-management and violence issues, he said.
“Smoke more weed,” he said. “I just want to shout out to all the patients outs there who really need medical marijuana and know that we’re fighting for ya’ll and we’re going to make it available and we’re going to make you not feel wrong or looked at bad because you need your medicine,” he said.
“For those who want to just smoke weed and chill, “Rolling Papers 2” is going to be perfect for that. Come to the High Road, cus that’s going to be amazing, get VIP, with me and Snoop and chill, and maybe even smoke with us.”