Photographed by Mikael Jansson
Interviewed by Matt Diehl
DIEHL: You got your stage name tattooed on your 17th birthday. What was the significance of that event?
KHALIFA: That name was given to me by my granddad. In the Muslim religion, khalifa means “spread the word.” It’s about the word, the message, and the impact that I’m having on people’s lives.
DIEHL: Do you see yourself as a rebel?
KHALIFA: You could say that, but there are connotations that come with that word, rebel. When you think about a rebel, you think about people who are going against things. I don’t really go against anything; I just do exactly whatever the fuck I want to do. I just do what’s natural, and go for it, and deal with it later.
DIEHL: A lot of hip-hop artists used to seem afraid of the Internet, but with the way you’ve used it, I feel like I know where you are all the time, that I’m in your world. How do you think it has impacted your career?
KHALIFA: [coughs] Well, anybody who cannot embrace the power of Internet is just limiting themselves. I just had to make it work for me. Before my album came out, when I was releasing the whole mixtape project online, I would just do songs or concepts and put them out there to the point where people eventually got to know me, or know what to expect from me and my personality. They know that I smoke weed and like a laugh and have fun and jump around and make up words and stuff. People can get all that about you now, whereas, back in the day, they just got the album, and videos, and then you might see some behind-the-scenes footage if you were lucky, but that was it. So the Internet did let me bring people into my world—and for free, so that when it came time to support what I’m doing and pay for it, they wanted to. They’re not being forced to support it; they want to support it. The main thing is keeping it all in your hands. I’m as involved now in everything I do as I’ve been since day one. I mean, I used to make all these videos on my own, and I don’t make them by myself anymore but I’m sitting here right now with my camera guy, who is making a day-to-day thing of me on tour that we’re gonna put up at night. So, you know, you gotta keep it movin’.