Raised on Bone and Too Short
It makes sense then that Khalifa’s first memories of hip-hop are Bone-Thugz & Harmony, a thuggish mid-‘90s group with dark songs done in half-singing/half-rapping cadences.
“I was in Atlanta in a mall with my mom and ‘Crossroads’ by Bone came on,” Khalifa remembers. “That was the first time I felt like I really took in rap music.”
And like Bone, Khalifa at times also combines rap with singing, choosing catchiness over substance or even coherence. It’s a formula that’s never failed him and one that struck him as a young listener.
“Before that, I had always listened to what my dad had playing around the house like Father MC or Big Daddy Kane,” he says. “But Bone was the first time I was like ‘whoa!’”
Khalifa also grew up on heavy doses of ’90s gangsta rap. He also cites Bay Area legend Too $hort as an influence. “I first heard of him in the early ’90s and it was actually through my mom. We moved all over the place and took long car rides and Too Short was always on.”
An Early Buzz
In 2005, “Young Wiz” became Wiz Khalifa and the rapper started taking music more seriously. Within a few months Rolling Stone declared him as “An Artist To Watch”.
For someone who brags about liquor and weed smoke, Khalifa made sobering, ambitious decisions about his music career. He wanted to do this full-time, do more than put out mixtapes. He wanted to have full control of his songs. He wanted big time producers and major labels. He wanted to make films and act too.
“Back then, I was still trying to just put stuff out, just trying to find myself and my voice,” he says. “Now, I have my old stuff to compete against. Once you’ve made a bunch of songs, you don’t wanna repeat the same shit—you have to keep moving.”
Khalifa remains one of the few young rappers who indeed has the excessive, over-the-top lifestyle he talks about. He’s made two films (both fall into the “stoner flick” category) and is pursuing more acting. Khalifa sums up his growth over the last few years: “It’s hard making an album. I pretty much write everything. And I think that shows my growth and strength as a writer and performer. That’s where I’m at right now.”