Wiz Khalifa: Balancing Act (2012 Cover Story)

Wiz Khalifa: Balancing Act (2012 Cover Story)By Insanul Ahmed (@incilin); Photography by Bryce Duffy; Click Here For Additional Credits.

BALANCE

The day after ending his national tour in Detroit, Wiz is in LA for a photo shoot. Later on, he’ll hit the studio and then a club. Tomorrow, he’ll record a segment for Chelsea Lately, knock out a few guest verses, and then do some work with his artist, Lola Monroe. But right now, while rolling yet another joint, Wiz shows off a vintage 1974 gold Rolex that he bought earlier that day “just because.”

Being rich and famous doesn’t just afford Wiz a lifestyle of first-class flights and fancy wristwear, it’s also made him some new friends. Although he still rolls with the people who’ve been around for years, these days he also hangs out with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Juicy J, and Curren$y. He discusses musical tastes with Snoop (“Snoop loves Kendrick, Curren$y, and Mac.”), rides around with Juicy (“Juicy put faith in me, he didn’t have to ride with me.”), and feels he owes a debt to Curren$y Spitta.

“He helped me stay out of the way of a lot of bullshit because he’s seen so much,” says Wiz of Spitta, who languished on No Limit and Cash Money before cultivating a buzz independently and signing with Warner. “He helped me with marketing and branding when we were coming up. Where I was confused, he had the answer. When he was confused, I had the answer. Curren$y helped me way more than I helped him.” 

 

We’re going to do O.N.I.F.C. exactly how I want to do it to see how that works. It can’t be one-sided.

 

“We’re like Ryu and Ken,” adds Curren$y, who remembers the days of going half on Chinese food plates with Wiz while recording their collaborative mixtape, How Fly. “Ken had the uppercut with all the fire and shit. Ryu had a more controlled uppercut, but he’s the one that showed Ken the uppercut.”

Curren$y cautions that Wiz’s level of success isn’t for everyone. “He’s like fucking Puff Daddy right now,” says Spitta. “People be like, ‘You should be right there with your brother.’ But I’d rather lay low and kick it. It’s super awesome to be Puff Daddy but it’s a gift and a curse.”

Not only does Wiz have high-profile friends, he’s also got a high-profile relationship with Amber Rose. The couple are not shy about PDA, like the time Wiz licked Amber on stage.

“He’s so special,” Amber says of her man. “These bitches shouldn’t even be around him. They’re not cool enough to be in his presence. It’s like, ew, stay away.”

And stay away he does. “I don’t look at no girls. All I look at is my fiancée,” says Wiz. “I don’t got no reason to look at other girls. It’s weird to some people, but to us it’s the right thing. It’s how much we love each other.”

Just how much does Wiz love Amber? He doesn’t even peep cell phone pictures of groupies. “Groupies? I don’t do that,” he says with disdain. “My girl said to me, ‘Baby, these bitches don’t even deserve to breathe your air.’ And I was like, ‘You know what? You right.’” Call it another sort of balancing act.

What does command Wiz’s full attention is his upcoming album. He and everyone in his camp feel confident about O.N.I.F.C.—everyone, apparently, except for Atlantic Records.

“Atlantic likes O.N.I.F.C.,” says Wiz. “But they want more obvious singles because that’s what sells it for them. My belief in the record is what sells it to me. It’s not a conflict. You just have to communicate so everybody understands it.”

Wiz is looking for that delicate balance. “When you’re working with other people, you figure out how much you do for them and how much you do for yourself,” he says. “You can’t just be an artist fighting for your opinion and that’s it. The label has to understand artists. I wanted to make Rolling Papers when I made Rolling Papers, now it’s time for O.N.I.F.C. Now we’re going to do it exactly how I want to do it to see how that works. It can’t be one-sided.”

Wiz looks to Snoop Dogg’s classic “Gin and Juice,” a song he says wasn’t meant to be a single but that went on to become a hip-hop classic. He’ll save his “obvious singles” for guest spots, like Maroon 5’s “Payphone”—Wiz’s second biggest hit to date. But don’t expect him to switch up his style.

“When you start forcing things, you lose people,” says Wiz. “I never want to do that because none of my favorite artists have ever done that to me—i.e., Juicy J. You know what’s right and you know what’s wrong. You know when you’re forcing it and when you’re just laying it down. I’m trying to do more laying it down than forcing it. That’s how you become legendary.”

Speaking of legends, Wiz is quick to bring up how he’ll soon be 25—the same age as 2Pac when he died. “We’re the new 2Pacs,” he says of the artists on his tour: Mac, Kendrick Lamar, and Schoolboy Q.

But he must balance these lofty ideals with other goals. Wiz has talked about wanting to make $100 million. He recalls seeing a prince spend $1.5 million on champagne in the South of France and aspires to do the same. That’s the meaning behind his album’s title—having all the finest things in life, but getting them his way.

It all came into focus during a moment onstage back at Jones Beach. Wiz was rocking with a live band, his mic stand adorned with a worn and torn American flag. He performed a medley of mixtape cuts but closed his set with hits from his albums. The mostly white, teenage crowd responded particularly well to “Young, Wild & Free,” his collab with Snoop Dogg and Bruno Mars.

“So what we get drunk?” he sang as the flag fluttered in the heavy winds blowing across Jones Beach. “So what we smoke weed?/We’re just having fun/We don’t care who sees.” For pop fans the song was catchy; for hard-core fans it was cringeworthy, but Wiz sees the big picture. This play doesn’t end here. There will be other acts to follow.

WATCH WIZ KHALIFA'S BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIDEO:

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ADDITIONAL CREDITS: (GROOMING) Erin Lee Smith. (CLOTHING) FIRST IMAGE: T-shirt by Givenchy / Jeans by Nudie Jeans / Sneakers by Jordan / Sunglasses by Super / Hat by Bailey / All jewelry Wiz's own. SECOND, THIRD & FOURTH IMAGES: Top by Balenciaga / Jeans by Nudie Jeans. All jewelry Wiz's own.

Tags: wiz-khalifa, complex-cover-stories
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