Contributing writers: Tauhid Chappell, Mehka King, and Tree Coleman
In the ever-expanding multi-billion dollar industry that is the cannabis industry, it seems like artists from all backgrounds continue to jump in to participate in the growing green rush – from Whoopi Goldberg to members of the Wu-Tang Clan. Some celebs have dipped their toes in to test the strength, resilience, and marketability of their brand to carry new products to market - banking on their fame and popularity to attract curious consumers and long-time fans of the plant.
Then there are wizards like Wiz Khalifa, who seemingly have been born from the plant itself, brought to this Earth in 1987 to instill to us mortals the understanding of what it means to truly find oneness at the intersection of Black and cannabis liberation – freedom for all to truly enjoy the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of cannabis without reproach, retribution or negative retaliation – just good times, good vibes and a whole lot of bud to go around.
Does the man ever sleep? Or does weed keep Wiz going 24/7?
Honeysuckle sat down with the shaman of shish to learn more about his ongoing projects, collaborations, and new deals that seem to be blossoming left and right. Though we learned he likes to move fast, Wiz slowed down just enough to show us the introspective passion and far-reaching vision that has made him a legend. The fun opportunity with the legendary cannabis aficionado allowed us to learn all things cannabis beyond: from his business expansion and new surprise album to his reflections on his growing legacy amid the backdrop of melancholy losses of some of the rap game’s finest and legends in their own respects.
Wiz has always been a cannabis lover, entertainer, and entrepreneur – using the plant to power himself and his art in crafting more than a dozen unique mixtapes, records, and collabs which all keep his mind and focus grounded in his love of kush. And beyond the typical consumption and influential production of stoney beats with infectious laughs and metaphorical lyricism that gives an ode to all things cannabis, Khalifa has continued to hone his craft as a business person intending to expand and spread the love and joy of green beyond the earphones and into the hands of the people.
With the burgeoning cannabis market, in which a combined total of $10.4 billion in tax revenue was generated in all legal adult-use according to the Marijuana Policy Project, Khalifa has stepped into the arena to channel his energy in ushering his own Khalifa-based brand to California’s cannabis market, and it’s no short of amazing to see how his 2022 is quite a busy one.
Wiz Khalifa's Cannabis Brand- Khalifa Kush
Khalifa Kush, a strain that exists in Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, recently expanded to California and Oregon. On top of making his presence known in the legal cannabis space, Khalifa has also inked a new collaborative product and cultivation partnership with cannabis mega and multi-state cannabis operator Cresco Labs, which will help distribute Khalifa Kush goods all across the Golden State.
And if things didn’t seem busy enough for the rapper, he’s hustled in a new surprise album Wiz Got Wings, which music buffs will cherish as an album that hearkens back to his heydays of Kush & Orange Juice times.
The surprise drop got all the hype it needed with favorable reviews from sites like Hot New Hip Hop, which gave it 4.5 stars and a “VERY HOT” editors rating. “I felt like that’s what people needed,” Khalifa said. “I was stoned the whole time while making it… If you smoke, you will enjoy it. That’s how it’s supposed to be listened to.”
But beyond the smoke, rap, and business game of life, Khalifa remains in tune with the ongoing movement within the cannabis space to make it more equitable. While the multi-billion dollar cannabis market seems ripe for anyone and everyone to get involved, the sad fact is there’s not a whole lot of Black representation in the legal market due to the high cost and capital-intensive needs to get through bureaucratic policies, lengthy applications, and expensive licenses.
Indeed the cannabis market is looking for opportunities. Since 2021 the legal industry supports more than 300,000 jobs and is growing. At the end of 2021, Marijuana Business Daily projected that there could likely be between 545,000 to 600,000 full-time positions within both corporate cannabis and ancillary businesses across the country by 2025.
Opportunities are out there, but the call for equity, access, and reconciliation for the failed war on drugs continues to ring the alarm, as it should.
We also delved into Khalifa’s personal work in advocacy and taking on the banner of being a source of happiness and peace following the ongoing heartbreaks the music industry has continued to see with the deaths of rappers like Drakeo The Ruler and Young Dolph. Wiz also touched upon his legacy as a person and artist, and what he wants to continue to be remembered as while he continues to position himself as the music industry’s cannabis aficionado and cosmopolitan. In a rare pause, we got Wiz’s insights into the roles that entrepreneurs of color play in the cannabis industry, the links between creativity and the plant, and so much more.
Spending the day with Wiz was an absolute inspiration. The man has wings, and he definitely took us on the flight of a lifetime.
The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
HONEYSUCKLE MAGAZINE: Your surprise album Wiz Got Wings is being compared to your signature mixtape Kush and Orange Juice. What about that earlier sound is inspiring to you now, and how did you update it for Wiz Got Wings?
WIZ KHALIFA: I was inspired because the fans loved Kush & Orange Juice … For this one, I updated it by making the subject matter more relevant to my life today.
What brought you to reunite with producers Cardo and Sledgren for Wiz Got Wings? The album also features multiple guests, including Curren$y, Chevy Woods, and Larry June; how did this combination of artistic talents shape your vision for the album?
Cardo and I had talked about it, about a year ago, and then it became a passion project with our inner squad to bring it to life.
What advice can you give to those wanting to learn from you regarding ongoing success in the cannabis space? Specifically for those with difficulty due to lack of capital, or technical assistance, etc?
There's always something to learn, and learn as much as possible… if it isn't directly touching the plant, there is still branding, marketing, and different ways to contribute and get your foot in the door.
Why is raising awareness about cannabis and working to end prohibition important to you?
Raising awareness is important because there are people locked up for no reason and there are lots of opportunities for financial gain. The world is changing and we need to help push the narrative.
Across the country, thousands of cannabis advocates are fighting for reparations, abolition, equity, and access to cannabis as the market continues to cut out Black and brown owners and bar formerly incarcerated people from participating. What do reparations and social equity mean to you regarding mass incarceration, The War on Drugs, and the lack of diversity in leadership positions?
It’s good to be able to take a stand and move forward on negative things from the past to make the future better. We have the opportunity to break down the barriers and give everyone a chance to benefit from these new opportunities.
Recently you were featured as a guest on HBO's street fashion show The Hype and you were very vocal about a contestant's cultural appropriation. Do you see a similar appropriation happening within cannabis culture?
I don’t see a similar appropriation – I see it working financially, so not as scary as other areas.
What are your opinions on Black cannabis entrepreneurs like Al Harrington, Raekwon the Chef, and Jay-Z pushing to invest in Black and brown cannabis businesses to increase the level of representation? Is it something you have considered for yourself?
I’m a huge supporter and love it. It is definitely something I actively work on and think about.
In Raekwon's memoir The Story of Raekwon, he mentioned the importance of honoring the legacies of former and older rappers. Can you describe the legacies that other rappers have created (dead or alive) which continue to inspire you to create and produce? How do you personally reflect and honor the elders of rap?
Some of the pioneers in the space that I look to for inspiration are the Wu-Tang Clan, Bone Thugs, Nas, and of course Snoop Dogg. I think they helped push the thinking back then to where it has grown to today.
Who are some of your biggest inspirations in the cannabis industry?
Snoop, Berner, and B Real.
You're in the prime of building your legacy and expanding your brand across industries beyond rap and cannabis. As you reflect about your accomplishments, how do you want to be viewed by your peers and colleagues who are in this space with you?
I want folks to remember me as somebody who took cannabis seriously and took it to the next level with the other greats that are making strides in the space.
What are your personal go-to strains to seek inspiration?
My go-to strain has always been and will always be Khalifa Kush.
When it comes to leaving your mark as an established artist, especially in your hometown of Pittsburgh, how would you like the city to remember you? What would you like the current youth to think when they listen to your music or read about you?
I hope to leave everyone to know how passionate, loving, and caring I am… I hope to continue to build and sign more talent from PGH, as well as change the dynamic of how people think and are raised within the city.
In this age where we are seeing a lot of depressing deaths, both from the coronavirus and sudden murders of rappers, how does the fragility of life right now make you think about the impact you want to be making right now in the midst of this chaos?
The current world pushes me to want to make sure people are happy and appreciate the blessing of being alive. My hope is that when people leave, from hanging or being around me, they become a better person.
Your recent tweet following the death of Drakeo called for peace and asked people to treat each other better. Dream a bit here: What would you personally like to see the rap industry look like in 20 years?
For me, I hope to still be in it and there’s really no telling what the landscape will look like. 20 years ago was the early 2000s and things were drastically different; I don’t have a prediction of what it will look like, but it's going to be fun to watch.
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A version of this article first appeared in Honeysuckle's Black History Month print edition, featuring Wiz Khalifa on the cover! Buy your copy now and stay tuned for our 420 issue featuring Lil Wayne and Young Money.