The Making of Wiz Khalifa's "Rolling Papers"

"On My Level" f/ Too $hort

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Produced by: Jim Jonsin

Wiz Khalifa: “I made that in Miami with Jim Jonson. I just wanted it to be a real grimy, slimy, and dirty sounding. Almost some dirty South music, but some grungy rock-type shit too because Jim Jonson does all that. I wanted to mix all those elements into it and not just make this a straight rap album.

“We were in Miami so of course I went down to Ocean and got drunk as hell and then we went to Wet Willie’s, got shitfaced and we were drinking on the way to the studio. It was me and all my homies, we were so faded. I was drinking in the studio and—of course—smoking while rapping. [In the booth] I’m hitting the joint and rapping with smoke in my mouth. For that song, I literally just sat on a stool and recorded that whole song in like two hours. I just did it straight through. I was absolutely falling out the stool.

“Jim Jonsin made the beat during the day. I think Jim left the studio at like six or seven because Jim gets in early and then bounces. I was working with an engineer who I had worked with for the first time, but he was really good because the way that I record, I punch a lot. I do the editing right there in my head, so I do a lot of punches. But he was right there with it and he made everything sound good.

“We put Too $hort on it when we were gonna shoot the video. I wanted to do something exciting and I just felt like it would be a good idea to just reach backwards and do something with an OG instead of doing something people were used to. It worked out really well and shocked a lot of people. I’m just a big fan of Too $hort, his movement, and what he brought to the game. And it was the sound that I was going for, just raunchy and muddy. I felt like he matched perfectly. It was a different type of raunchy, but it was right what I was looking for.”

Too $hort: “Wiz got the word to my man E-40 and he called me up one day and said, ‘Do you know about Wiz Khalifa?’ I said, ‘No doubt. Who doesn’t know about him?’ At the time, ‘Black And Yellow’ was blowing up. And he said, ‘The guy’s got a song, he wants you to get on it.’ I’m like, ‘I’d love to do it.’ Zvi actually came to my studio. Wiz’s verse was on there, they had the open space for me, and I just got down. They personally brought it, recorded, and took it back with them. I didn’t actually meet Wiz until they did the video.

“At the video shoot, we did the ritual: the smoking of the peace pipe with a little bit of marijuana, pass it back and fourth, tell a couple of stories. I told him how how ironic it was that they call it the Taylor Gang and they smoke joints. I was telling him, back in the day in Oakland—probably before he was even born—when you rolled a big joint, we used to call it a Tailor. We called them Tailors because they’d be tailor-made just for the motherfucker who rolled it. I thought he was saying Taylor Gang because they smoke thick joints. [Laughs.]. That’s not the reason, but he got a good laugh out of that though.

“I really like when the younger guys want to do some songs because that way we get a good look at each other’s audience. A lot of people that know about him from different regions and different places don’t even know about me. When the video came out, I was reading some of the comments and a lot of people who were hitting it up were telling people in the comments, ‘You need to get up on Too $hort.’ So it’s a good thing to have a potential other audience.

“My first reaction when I met him was that he’s like a young Snoop Dogg. And that’s just because he has so much weed smoke in the air. [Laughs.] Then he opens up the computer and it’s a picture of him and Snoop. I was like, ‘I knew it was something going on there.’ They’re like Cheech and Chong or some shit. I’ve worked with a lot of people and I give him the thumbs up. The way he handles himself, he was professional.”

Jim Jonsin: “We worked at Circle House [Studios] in Miami, Florida. I was familiar with some of his work but I didn’t really know what direction he wanted to go. He came in the room, we kicked it for a minute, I played him a few beats. [There were] a couple that he liked and started an idea for one of them. We liked it, but we didn’t love it.”

“Then Rico Love came in. He tried an idea on something and then created a track for ‘On My Level.’ Like, ‘Let’s do something that’s super hard that just has a beat that any rapper’s just going to be like, ‘Damn!’ So we did that. Rico Love wrote a hook idea to it and then Wiz wrote a hook idea to it, which became ‘On My Level.’

“Rico worked with Wiz, he came in and helped come up with ideas. Wiz was the one with the concept part. I just helped him out by making the track for it. But that was Wiz’s hook. I didn’t know if Wiz was going to use it or not because we didn’t have a finished hook on it, it was just an idea. Actually, Rico wrote a song with Tank over that same beat when we did another session with Tank. I think Tank’s version got leaked.

“The coolest thing about working with Wiz was I went home and told my little sister, who’s 14, ‘I was working with this new artist, Wiz Khalifa.’ She about flipped her lid like, ‘Oh my god! We love Wiz Khalifa! He’s the best thing ever!’ So Wiz, thank you for making me super cool with my little sister, buddy.

“I’m not taking nothing from anyone—B.o.B is the best in the world—but Wiz is like a rebel. This guy who has the image that young kids want, they just want to be him. He’s maybe not the mom and dad’s favorite kid, but he’s breaking the cool factor in half.”

Benjy Grinberg (Executive Producer and CEO of Rostrum Records): “Wiz might have had it in his mind that ‘I want someone like Too $hort’ the whole time, but the actual direction from him that ‘I want Too $hort on this’ came last minute. It was a week or two before the video was shot.”

Zvi Edelman (Vice President Of A&R, Atlantic Records): “It was a bunch of us at Circle House and everyone was really, really drunk. We were drinking Gin all day. So, naturally, they made a Gin drinking song. It was like the seventh or eighth beat that was played for him. I think maybe they had a done a song the previous day. They were talking about sort of a 'Tear The Club Up Three 6 Mafia-like feeling that Wiz was going for and I think Jim just knew exactly what it was.

”Put some 808s in there. Keep it really spare. I just remember it being three in the morning and the song was basically done and Jim had by that time long since gone home and Benjy, Wiz, and me just listening to it over and over again and being like, ‘Yeah, this song just makes me wanna fucking go out and break things.’ Just being happy because I think it was pretty much the first session he had done with an outside producer and you never have any idea how that’s gonna turn out. Whether it’s gonna be a disaster.”

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