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- Posted on Mar 12th 2010 8:21PM by Troy Thompson
Born in North Dakota to military parents, the "Wiz Kid" was exposed to a molding variety of streets in Germany, England, and Japan while growing up. His diversity of styles and smoothly adept rhymes brought early praise from Rolling Stone in 2006. He signed a record deal with music giant Warner Bros. in 2007 before negotiating his release from that label (two years and one hit single later) to pursue his own beats in the business world as well. Those beats are helping to create a new business model in the music industry.
His first post-Warner Bros. release, Deal of No Deal, quickly supplanted heavyweights Jay-Z and 50 Cent on the iTunes charts. Streaming a constant flow of new material on the internet has also brought Khalifa a staggering amount of Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace fans and followers. He is hands on and involved with everything in his career. Spinner caught up to the tireless grinder ahead of his SXSW appearance and asked him about his music, his choices, and his advice.
Describe your sound.
It's real diverse...definitely a worldwide sound. It's not just any one thing.
What's the significance behind your name?
Khalifa is Arabic for successor, or leader. Wiz is because everyone always called me young Wiz 'cause I was good at everything I did. Whatever I did, I could just do it. So it comes from that.
What are your musical influences?
I like a lot of old-school R&B, soul, and classic rock. I also listen to a lot of stuff from people I work with all the time. They definitely help me out a lot.
When did you decide you wanted to rap?
When I was eight.
You're known as a hard worker, and someone that's wiser than your years would indicate. Where do those qualities come from?
I was born with that I guess. I worked hard and was good at whatever I did and I guess people take notice when you do that.
Your songs cover a lot of musical territory. Where does that diversity come from?
Growing up in Pittsburgh, but my parents moved around a lot and I was exposed to a lot of different stuff. I enjoy a lot of different things because of that. It was pretty cool.
You made the decision to leave Warner Bros. amicably and pursue your own independent route. Are you happy with that decision at this point?
I think it was definitely the right decision. Warner Brothers was a good experience, but for me to reach my full potential I had to separate myself from that and keep doing what I was doing rather than slow down to put stuff out.
You've had a lot of success in promoting your work on the internet. Do you think the music industry is changing in that direction?
I'm definitely using the internet more. It's the way to get the music out there. There's a lot of artists that do their own thing and for me, the internet really works.
Any advice for young rappers just starting out?
Definitely keep working hard. Always work hard. And always put yourself into whatever it is that you're doing. Keep putting material out there and let people know what you're doing. Let them hear you...and keep working hard. Always work hard.
Troy Thompson is a contributor from Seed.com. Learn how you can contribute here.