Talking story with Wiz Khalifa
Once you've had the chance to speak with Cameron Thomas — better known to legions of fans as Wiz Khalifa — it quickly becomes evident that he's an articulate young man with his entire career ahead of him, and he has no plans to slow down or change the way he's living his life.
Hailing from Pittsburgh, Khalifa is a recording artist who realizes that hard work is the only way to make his hip-hop hustle pay off. But unlike others who rose above the gritty reality of drugs and street violence to legitimate success — or worse, pretended to be someone they're not (i.e. a "studio gangsta") — he willingly talks about his military family upbringing and is quick to mention his crew, Taylor Gang, and how he wants to make sure his friends get a taste of the same success he currently enjoys.
Khalifa spoke with the Pulse earlier this month by phone from Los Angeles in advance of his first-ever visit to Hawaii.
QUESTION: Did you smoke before brushing this morning?
ANSWER: Actually, I did. (laughs)
Q: You've spoken a lot in interviews about your use of marijuana. Has that subject gotten old for you yet?
A: It doesn't get old. At the end of the day, I put it out there. It's a fun fact about me. It's easy to go ahead (and talk about).
Q: How would you characterize your childhood?
A: I was always a good kid. I never got into any trouble and I always did well in school. I have a real normal life. I wasn't the kid who was spoiled and had all the clothes, but I didn't grow up broke either.
I've experienced both sides, living in a military family. I still had that on-base, structured lifestyle. But I didn't have a rough upbringing at all. My parents showed me a lot of love.
Q: Talk about growing up in a military family. What was it like growing up in different cities around the world?
A: My parents were in the Air Force, so I traveled a lot when I was younger. It was cool getting to travel and see different things. It really just opened me up to a lot of different thinking. It had me more worldly than other kids my age.
I moved to Pittsburgh when I was 3 years old. It was always a back and forth type thing. But then I was in Pittsburgh for good since I was about 15 years old.
A: People still call me Cameron. Or Cam. All my family still calls me that.
Q: Rolling Stone called you an "Artist to Watch" back in 2006. Did that motivate you at all, or was it something you expected at that point in your career?
A: I was still in high school when that happened, so it kind of came out of nowhere. I think a lot of people seen it for what it was, but they didn't understand how big it was.
But for me, for someone who just works and doesn't expect too many pats on the back, it was good. But I knew I had bigger and better stuff to keep doing.
Q: "Black & Yellow" really put you on the map with mainstream listeners. Did you think that single was going to turn out as successful as it did?
A: I designed it, you know what I'm saying, to get my foot in the door and really represent. So the natural energy that went into it made it the success that it was. I'm glad everyone was able to grasp it.
Q: "No Sleep" is the next single off "Rolling Papers." How many tracks do you plan to push from that album before dedicating your focus to the next project?
A: I don't even know. The album still has a lot of life to it, so we're just maximizing that and not trying to cut it short. When it's time to move on, we'll go to the next thing. We're just pushing with the things that are working.
Q: Any update on the new album? Got a title or release date yet?
A: No, definitely no release date. I've got a title that I'm keeping to myself at this point. But I'm not going to be as secretive as I was with the first album.
Q: You seem to be in the media spotlight a lot these days. How do you deal with that? Do you enjoy all the attention?
A: It's definitely just part of the job. It's nothing I enjoy or don't enjoy. It comes with the territory.
At the end of the day, I've gotta just keep being me. That's what keeps me on top of my game. There's always going to be distractions, but it's up to me to check my morality and push forward.
Q: For a network that doesn't actually play a lot of music videos these days, MTV has quite a bit of coverage of your career online. Can you talk about your relationship with the network?
A: I think MTV, they try to stay ahead of the curve (and) try to do what's the coolest at the time.
And you know, at this certain point in time, I've built a buzz, a momentum, that's involved viral deals and the Internet, so they always show me love. They make me feel welcome and appreciate me as much as I appreciate them.
Q: Are all your Twitter updates actually written by you?
A: My Twitter is definitely all me. I'd freak out if someone else was tweeting for me. I've always been into technology, so anything that's new, I think my generation, we just naturally feel like we need to be involved.
Q: "5 O'Clock" — T-Pain's new single with you and Lily Allen - why did you choose to participate on that track?
A: I've always been a fan of T-Pain and his music, so when he came to me and said that was going to be his next single, I was like, it's going to be an honor.
Q: You celebrated your birthday in Vegas last month. Did you think getting dressed up for the evening would spark marriage rumors for you and Amber Rose?
A: I didn't think that at all. I didn't know it was going to happen. I just wanted to do something nice for my birthday and do something nice, and people ran with it. At the end of the day, all this normal stuff turns into news these days.
Q: Did you really turn down Drake's invite to go on tour with him last year?
A: That was early in the year. It was my first major tour, and he had offered me to do that, but I really wanted to be dedicated to my fans and get where I was going.
I can definitely see myself going on a big tour with other big names (in the future), but it would just need to be a huge experience for everyone. I don't think it would be anyone opening for anyone. It would just be a lot of great music in the room.
Q: Ever been to Hawaii?
A: Never been to Hawaii before. I'm really excited to come. I'm really looking forward to it.
Q: Anything else going on that you want to mention?
A:Yeah, I got a movie with Snoop coming out towards the end of the year. We just finished up the soundtrack. So that's going to be a lot of fun.
Jason Genegabus is Entertainment Editor/Online at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser and has covered the local nightlife, music, bar and entertainment scenes since 2001. Contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.