How Wisdom, Weed and Wonder for What Lies Ahead Keeps Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa Connected
Connected for Life
A mutual appreciation for each other’s work has culminated in a more than 10-year, cross-generational friendship between Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J. Wisdom, weed and wonder for what lies ahead keeps them connected.
Interview: Robby Seabrook III
Images: Joyce Charat
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.
Now that hip-hop has existed for nearly 50 years, proof that the genre influences itself is crystal clear. There are few better examples of this than the decade-plus friendship between Wiz Khalifa, the Pittsburgh-raised, mid-2000’s rap blog mainstay-turned-rap star, and Juicy J, the rap and production legend of the famed 1990’s Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia.
While Wiz grew up a fan of Three 6 Mafia—a crew whose dark and dreary sound changed the landscape of hip-hop—what truly connects him and Juicy is a dedication to their craft. Juicy saw that in Wiz once the two met up on a tour bus in 2010, thanks to a Twitter exchange. Soon after, Juicy joined Wiz’s upstart label and crew, Taylor Gang, as a third owner and artist.
Nowadays, Wiz, 34, and Juicy J, 47, are close friends, labelmates and frequent collaborators. Their mutual respect shines brightly on their 13-track joint album, Stoner’s Night, released this past February. Packed with tales of money-making, weed-smoking, partying and everything else rich rappers do, plus features from Big30, Project Pat and Elle Varner, Stoner’s Night is an enjoyable romp. The rap tandem also has no plans to stop there, as there will be more music from Taylor Gang at large, and a possible Stoner’s Night movie.
Juicy and Wiz’s fun-loving demeanors have led to a long-lasting bond based on genuine love and appreciation. Wiz respects Juicy as a wise, veteran artist that he can trust, and Juicy looks to Wiz as a talented younger act who puts his all into the studio in addition to being the ultimate team player.
Just days after the release of Stoner’s Night, which follows their first collabo, 2016’s TGOD Mafia: Rude Awakening, Juicy J and Wiz Khalifa hopped on Zoom with XXL to discuss their friendship, what they see in each other’s artistry, their longevity in rap and the importance of family.
XXL: Thinking back to the early days, can you remember what your first experience with Juicy’s music was?
Wiz Khalifa: I grew up in Pittsburgh and we listened to a lot of different shit out there, but Three 6 Mafia always been popular, especially coming up in the 1990s. But this shit was underground at this time, so you could live in different states and not get that same tape. And I moved around a lot. So, certain people wouldn’t listen to Three 6, and I would have to put them on like, “Nigga, this is what we listen to back home.”
Juicy, what were the mid-to-late 2000s like? You were picking up a lot of college-aged fans, after all the work you put in during the 1990s and how big you were back then. You were doing it all over again, just 10 years later.
Juicy J: Man, it was fun. The way we made music back then it was just like, we didn’t think about it. We in the studio and created, and this came out just classic. I feel like back then, people loved it. But now it’s so in demand, more now than ever. We do shows, thousands and thousands of people. I feel like we were just way before our time.
Three 6 Mafia, like back in the ’90s, we was big. We wasn’t the No. 1 on Billboard. We just had underground hits and I still went gold and platinum, but it was all just word of mouth and our independent promotion. When I did the Verzuz battle, a lot of muthafuckas didn’t even know that I was in Three 6 Mafia.
Do you consider Stoner’s Night your first collab project together, considering you made TGOD Mafia: Rude Awakening with TM88 in 2016?
Wiz Khalifa: I feel like people is considering this one our first one. Because when we did TGOD Mafia, that was another idea that Juicy came with, which was really dope. But we did exclusive production with TM and it was more like a three-way type of thing.
On Stoner’s Night, I feel like me and Juicy been working on this album since we met. Some of the songs and verses, we had to go back like four, five, six, seven years, and reinvent them first. The ideas were good, but we had to make them new all over again. Juicy is a beast at putting everything together and producing, and I just write my ass off and pick out what I think sounds interesting just based off of me being a fan. Juicy, he’s not only an OG, he’s my OG. I wouldn’t be in the position that I’m in without Juicy.
Juicy, what spurs you to continue to work with newer acts?
Juicy J: A lot of people that come from my era, I run into a lot of OGs, they be like, “How you like that new music, man?” A lot don’t understand, but I understand. I get it because I never stopped. I don’t live in 1998. I live in 2022. I’m always moving forward. So, I listen to everything.
When I started, I was a DJ, producer, manager, A&R. I was finding talent, bringing talent to the label and stuff like that. I just had an ear for all kinds of music. I think that’s just what it is with me. I’m always listening to new artists, listening to new producers.
How did you become so skilled at working with others?
Juicy J: Being a producer, that’s kind of like what it is. I can hear the vocals. I know how to come up with the flows, the beats and a lot of stuff, too. A lot of things now, today, sounds like old Three 6 Mafia. I know what music looks like. In my mind, I can see what a rap look like. It just looked like scribbles. If I make a beat, a snare looks like a line and the kick looks like a circle. That’s how I come up with the beat, the way I see it in my brain.
Listening to Stoner’s Night, the both of you sound refreshed and engaged, like close friends enjoying the moment. Did you notice that within the music? Wasn’t that something you created?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, absolutely. From my experience and my perspective, it’s just because we really having fun when we in the studio. I love hanging around this nigga. We be joking the whole entire fucking time. We’re never sitting around racking our brain for ideas or nothing. All the bars come from our real-life conversations. We talk about shit because we’re homies. We got new families and shit like that. So, I think we have a lot to be excited about.
Juicy J: That’s how we do our music. We go with the flow with it. It ain’t no stress, man. Life is great, man. We smoking weed. We are evolving, and that’s what life is about.
As rap pioneers, Wiz has influenced so many modern rappers through his approach to music and style, and Juicy is a hip-hop legend who has withstood the test of time through rapping and production. You two can relate on this level. Have either of you noticed that?
Wiz Khalifa: Yeah, for sure. I think that energy, it just recycles itself because this respect, it’s out of love and that’s what we do it for. Juicy’s favorite artist who he look up to, they probably showed him the game. And, he was able to pass it down to me in a respectable manner where I look at him and I’m not afraid to say how much I love him, how much he inspires me every day. We still put the same love and energy into our music, so when people come up underneath us, they’re still able to feel that.
Juicy does an amazing job of always being a fucking superhero. I’m just the young homie. I’m putting it down. I’m picking up the game and I’m carrying it on the way that I’m supposed to so the young homies can do the same afterwards.
Juicy J: Wiz got that same energy, too. Like Wiz, he motivate me. When I first met Wiz, I was like, man, dude be working his ass off. He have a microphone right there on the tour bus, the puff bus, with the groupies on the bus, still recording verses. He definitely inspired me like a muthafucka, man. Love you too, man. We for life, dawg.
What newer artists are you guys into? Who do you like?
Juicy J: Man, I work with $not. He hard as fuck. Pi’erre Bourne is a dope-ass producer. His music, I fuck with everything he do. Playboi Carti. I mean, I can go for days and miss a lot of artists. Pooh Shiesty, Big30.
Yung Bleu. I was with Yung Bleu when he was with Columbia and I was telling Columbia, I was like, “Hey, man, this nigga right here is a superstar.” They didn’t see it. Look at him now. He huge. He producing No. 1 records, selling out tours. I can see the talent. I just see it, man.
Wiz Khalifa: I remember Juicy, you introduced me to Derrick Milano before he really even started getting placements and shit like that. And that’s another thing, Juicy is really good at working with people before they fucking blow up.
You guys are both huge musical successes and are true examples of longevity within the hip-hop world. Did either of you see any of this for yourselves?
Juicy J: I always felt that I was gon’ be somebody big in music. I just felt it like a vision. Not just about me, but like Three 6 Mafia as a whole. I always felt like the group was going to be bigger than life, a household name. I didn’t know when [or] how it was going to happen, I just always felt that. Even when Three 6 Mafia was dismantling, I still felt things wasn’t over for the group. I just kept going, believing that one day that things would just evolve back around and just be bigger than life. And I feel like it did.
I looked up to people like Michael Jackson and Prince, and I just looked at myself like that. The next Quincy Jones in rap, the next Prince in rap. I never was like, Oh, I’m cool. I’m OK. No, nigga. He Nas, Jay-Z. Juicy J is in that top five.
Wiz Khalifa: Just from being younger, I always knew I was going to be rich and famous. I was like, OK, that’s my plan, that’s my goal in life. But the older that you get, you start to develop new goals and shit. And, you kind of just want to be better at things and elevate your game. That’s pretty much where I’m at now, when you expand your company to a multimillion-dollar corporation, you really don’t just settle there.
You want to turn up and you want to make hundreds and then you want to make billions. I want to just be able to help as many people as I can with what I have based off of what I built it with. I’m 34. I see myself at 50 on a boat. That’s a good visual to be in the studio rapping with.
Fatherhood and raising families of your own is another thing you have in common. How has that changed your outlook on yourselves and your careers?
Wiz Khalifa: It helped me balance because I never had no home life. I was living on the road, just living out of a suitcase. And I just came straight from my teens into the rap stuff, so it really was no ever like, responsibilities or take care of this. It was just wild life, go to the club, buy some jewelry. So, having a family really structured me and grounded me, and taught me to have the same amount of passion and fire that I have for my career at home.
Juicy J: Hey, man, I’m the same way. I used to live out of the suitcase. Even though I had a crib in Memphis, but I was always in L.A. I was always moving around, Miami, here in New York.
I’m used to going to the studio all day. I should have had kids sooner because, man, I was a wild kid. I could have probably just been just a little gigolo running around here and not giving a fuck, but I’m glad I’m a dad now. I love my family. I feel like I won. You got to enjoy this and don’t take nothing for granted.
Watch Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J's XXL magazine interview.
Read the cover story with Playboi Carti and check out the other interviews in the magazine with Fivio Foreign, Latto, DaBaby, Hit-Boy, Denzel Curry, Joey Bada$$, RZA, Big K.R.I.T., Saba, Morray, Nardo Wick, Kali, Sleepy Hallow, SSGKobe, ATL Jacob, Pink Sweat$, Saucy Santana, Jason Lee, Angie Randisi and Colby Turner in the new issue of XXL magazine, which is on newsstands now and in XXL's online shop.