While scientists debate whether the multiverse actually exists, Wiz Khalifa went out and created his own. The Pittsburgh rap dignitary is quite used to blazing his own path from him, and Wiz experienced with his most personal project from him to date as Multiverse arrived on Friday (July 29).
The Taylor Gang leader set out to craft a “full musical experience” while coloring outside the lines of hip-hop and meshing elements of R&B and groovy funk for his third project of 2022 (and his first solo LP since 2018’s Rolling Papers 2).
Multiverse serves as an emotional rollercoaster featuring Wiz like we’ve never heard him before. High points such as the vulnerable “Homies” serves as a soul-baring diary entry paying tribute to those he’s lost throughout his journey, from childhood friends to rap contemporaries like Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle.
Over 15 years in the music industry rat race has Wiz Khalifa looking at the game with a newfound maturity and perspective. The joint-smoking legend has embraced the “big homie” role, and hopes to pass some of that OG knowledge on to the next generation of artists.
Billboard caught up with the Khalifa Kush founder last week to hear more about his new album, how he ended up on Chief Keef’s “Hate Being Sober,” being asked to re-write verses, and the state of rap. (Catch Wiz on the Vinyl Verse Tour with Logic this summer.)
What did you have in mind for welcoming us into the Multiverse?
Just a full musical experience. That’s what it was all about for me. Anyone who is a fan of my projects, they know how textured they are — and I want this one to be really detailed to how I feel and operate with the things that are important in my life. I wanted to bring that out lyrically, aesthetically and vocally, and I think I was able to do all of that with this album.
Would you agree this is the album where you colored most outside the lines of hip-hop, so to speak?
Definitely experienced outside of the hip-hop area. It was just diving deep into my inspirations, and the things I feel like really make me. I wanted to let that be the DNA of the album and not make a traditional rap record — but it has hardcore hip-hop elements to it, with the structuring of the songs, amount of verses, or length of the verses.
Getting to some tracks, “High Maintenance” sees you naming rappers like Nas, 50 Cent, JAY-Z and Lil Wayne. Was that to show love to your influences?
100 percent. Definitely people I’ve grown up respecting and loving and even having the pleasure of meeting, to the point of becoming friends or acquaintances. That was a good opportunity to ingrain that DNA. I’ve had a lot of influence on different people in different genres, so to give nods to the people who are important to me was real fun.
On a more serious note with “Homies,” I’ve never heard you open like that on a record. What was your mindset going into recording that, and paying homage to your fallen friends?
That one was super-real for me, because that’s a conversation I’ve had with people, and it was an idea of mine to get in the studio and turn that conversation into a song.
You talk about being desensitized to violence at a young age. In your career, you’ve avoided beefs and kept violence out of your music. Was this something you set out early in your career you wanted to stick to?
Yeah, definitely. I know how important that message is — and coming from that, I never wanted to bring that with me… I think it’s a reality, and it’s all about what you want to give off.
Unconsciously, you do those things when you’re younger, but when you grow up, you have a choice. I always wanted to do the right thing and inspire people to do the right thing. And it’s not easy, man — it’s not easy to always let that s–t go and see the other side of things. There is that alternative for life.
And that’s with you coming up in the 2000s era of rap, where the mainstream was dominated by street rap, compared to the landscape we see today.
For sure, it was way rougher. Even now, I don’t think that it’s not rough — because it’s very dangerous, with social media and just people’s mental issues in general. A lot more people are reactionary instead of having a conversation or really looking at things all the way through. I just look at my stance as the big homie now. I just want to guide and help people.
Have you ever thought about doing a project that’s not hip-hop, and diving into a totally different genre like we saw with Drake earlier this year?
I think any real artist wants to branch out, but it’s finding your way of expressing yourself. For me, I always think of doing something way out of the box of hip-hop, whether it be inspired by whatever — but I know how long it takes to actually develop the real bones and DNA of that sound.
And I would never want to jump in as a rapper and not fully accomplish what is appreciated about those sounds — so I go to what’s more comfortable for me, or the things that I research. So that’s where you’ll see me step outside of traditional formulas, because I’ve researched it, tried it, seen how it makes other people feel, and looked at how it makes me feel.
That’s why with the Multiverse album, I’m so comfortable and I’m so happy to put this out — because I’ve put elements in there that may or may not go over people’s heads, but I know how important they are. I think the real beauty of experimentation comes from that for an artist, just the confidence of knowing what you know about that certain subject, and being able to put it out there. So if I’m feeling knowledgeable about something, I’m gonna f–king do it. Until then, I’m still learning.
How was linking with Young Dolph in 2017 for “On the River?”
Dolph was always a cool dude. He was to himself and didn’t like to be around a bunch of people. But the people he did reach out to, he was always super solid [with them]. He was funny, loved to crack jokes, and his music was really good. He worked to get better and better. He was one of them dudes that was always a pleasure to be in contact with. I have smoked a lot of weed too. I loved that about him.
What do you remember about getting the call to hop on Chief Keef’s “Hate Being Sober” in 2012? Did he really ditch the video shoot?
oh man. I always got love for that fool. He’s such a cool dude. I know I recorded the verse in Pittsburgh, but “I Don’t Like” had already come out. I remember I saw the video in Los Angeles, because I moved out there by the time I was a Chief Keef fan. I remember it being a big deal to everybody in Pittsburgh. The whole world was going crazy like, “Oh s–t, you ’bout to do a song with Sosa, that’s crazy!”
Everyone heard the vocals before it came out. Then I heard 50 Cent was on it and I was like, “Oh s–t.” I was on tour when we were supposed to be shooting the video, so I left where I was performing and drove out two or three hours to meet this man. And he really never showed up!
We’re still young at the time, but I’m out there with 50 and we’re shooting our thing and 50’s like, “This lil’ n—a gon’ f–k his career up.” I’m just like, “I’m here, fam, we might as well shoot our parts and get the f–k out of here.” It was cool I got to kick it with 50 all day — but we were tripping that he really didn’t pull up.
Has there ever been a time an artist asked you to re-write a verse for their song?
Yeah, for sure. I’ve been around people who go like, “Could you go harder or could you use this voice?” “Could you speed the cadence up for these bars?” I’ve had people do that a lot. It doesn’t throw me off.
I understand people’s thought process. A lot of them want nostalgia. They don’t understand the concept of something brand new. So instead of fighting them, or making them wrap their heads around new s–t, you just give them the old s–t and send them on their way. Like, “Alright, you get the old s–t.” When the new s–t starts happening, they’re gonna want that too. You just gotta walk them through it.
What do you remember about linking up with Nipsey Hussle to get him on “Hopes & Dreams” for Rolling Papers?
We met at the  XXL Freshman cover shoot in New York. We were at the studio, me, him, Big Sean, French [Montana], and I remember recording that when I moved to LA after we just got off tour. I was in that mode of everywhere I go, I’m recording. It didn’t matter if I was in af–king bedroom, I was setting up and rapping and recording every day. I was really young and just not knowing what I was going for, but knowing I was going for something. So every day, just waking up and rapping was my reassurance I was going to get where I needed to be.
At that time, I didn’t have any concept of being friends with somebody that doesn’t mean they don’t want to do what you want to do. I was so gung-ho about everything, and I made everybody do what I did. If you wanna hang with me, you gotta stay up late, you gotta rap and you gotta do this. It worked out for a lot of people like me, and the artists who were inspired by it. At this time, if I f–ked with you, I involved you with everything I did.
I threw my studio in the LA penthouse up there. I didn’t have many people to call, but I was definitely calling Nip, and told him we had to get together and chill, because he’s from out here. This is my first major label album, and I love Nip so much that he had only done mixtape stuff — but if this was gonna be my first major-label shot, I want to bring my homies with me, and the people I respect, love, and think are tight as f–k. It didn’t matter if they were on blogs at the time. A lot of them didn’t have deals. We recorded that at the penthouse, and it ended up not being cleared because of business deals at the time.
Do you think it’s easier for artists to break through nowadays compared to when you were coming up?
Nah, I don’t think it’s easier. I think it’s a little bit more difficult, because the way the algorithm is set up. It’s hard to organically go viral. It’s hard to recreate moments as well. So if you have a dope moment, it’s hard to spin off that and create a brand off that moment, because everything is based off advertising. It doesn’t really lean toward building up their own platform, it really just builds up the platforms they’re performing on. Which is cool, but that’s not what I’m into. I’ve never been into making somebody else’s money.
The way I see it is: You just use it for business and as much promotion as possible. It’s hard because it’s in reverse — the more following you have, the less interaction you’re gonna get, because corporations don’t want you to be stronger than them. As long as they’re able to influence based off of you, it’s cool. I didn’t come up like that — I came up where I found a glitch in the system where I was able to reach people more effectively than the people that are supposed to reach people effectively. It’s very difficult these days to get relevant and stay relevant. There’s a lot of content being made.