Wiz Khalifa & Danny McBride: Burn After Reading [Complex Cover Story]

So what if Danny McBride and Wiz Khalifa werent expected to succeed? Theyre still blazing a trail. More fire, more fire, more fire!

Historically speaking, Pittsburgh is to hip-hop what North Carolina is to filmmaking: somewhere between an anomaly and a footnote. Or at least that was the case before the world was introduced to Wiz Khalifa and Danny McBride. Over the past five years, both men have created an indelible image in the minds of their fans—one as a laid-back cat with quiet charisma to spare, the other as an outsize presence with outsize appetites who would outright steal any scene you were unfortunate enough to be acting alongside him in. And both of their careers seemingly hit critical mass last year. 2010 brought Wiz a monstrous mixtape in Kush & Orange Juice, a new label in Atlantic, and a new fanbase in the Pittsburgh Steelers, who made his No. 1 hit, “Black and Yellow,” the teams anthem during the NFL playoffs. For Danny, last year meant a second season as Kenny Powers on the hugely popular HBO show Eastbound & Down.

Despite the recent milestones, though, its only now that both are introducing themselves to the public at large for the first time. Dannys first starring role in a big-budget movie comes courtesy of Your Highness, a fittingly McBride-esque take (he co-wrote it, after all) on the swords-and-sorcery fantasy movies of the 1980s. Meanwhile, Wiz is going all in with his major-label debut, Rolling Papers. Cult followings are well and good, but no one wants to see their career go up in a puff of smoke. Only time will tell how the mainstream embraces two men who came out of nowhere and built movements on their own terms. In the meantime, well be waiting to exhale.

So whos the bigger hero on college campuses?

D: Im gonna give it up to Wiz.

W: Nah, Im gonna give it up to Danny, big time.

When was the last time you were on a college campus?

D: Actually, a few days ago—my younger sisters in college.

Was it pandemonium?

D: Yeah, it was nuts. Then the uprising in Egypt started. Im not gonna say it was connected, but sometimes you have to shut off the Internet and squash those rumors.

W: This dude is way more of a fuckin big man on campus than me. I just show up to rap, you know what Im sayin?

Yeah, but it wont be long until youre being asked to give the graduation speech. What would you say to a group of college kids?

W: Like, to motivate them? Honestly, I would tell them that weed isnt as bad as everyone tries to make it seem.

Dont you think thats kinda changing, though? Its legal in 15 states—

W: Yeah, its medicinal in places and shit. But, I just want em to know its not that bad, cause theres a lot of kids that smoke in college. Dont feel bad. Hide it. Dont get in trouble. Find the places to hide it. Thats important—hiding it. Thats part of the game.

Whats the good stash spot people dont know about?

W: Shit, you got any good stash spots?

D: I kinda do it old-school—I just keep it stuffed up my asshole a lot of times. Even if Im not traveling, just when Im alone in my house, Ill act like Im coming outta Panama.

Anything else in there? Spare keys?

D: Nope. I save it for the chronic, thats it.

Is there a type of weed that fits more snugly in the anal cavity?

D: Oh no, they all fit in equally.

W: The less stems, the better.

D: Yeah, we dont like that seedy shit.

Both of you have built either a character or an image based on indulgence, whether its weed, or other vices. Do people make assumptions of who the real Danny is as a person? Or the real Cameron Thomaz as a person?

W: Damn, You know my name! Thats cool. Nah, Im really just high all the time, so like… yeah. What about you?

D: I get offered a lot of shots, a lot of joints. Its a good thing. When you roll into a town and you dont have money to buy alcohol, you know that you can always go to a high school or a college campus and somebodys down to hook you up. [Laughs.]

W: Yeah, they really do want to hook you up for free.

D: Thats the benefit of celebrity. Thats really what its all about.

W: Being a celebrity that people know what you like, that shits cool. People throw joints at me all the time.

D: I get a lot of chicken wings thrown at me.

In anger?

D: No, they just know I like chicken.

Lets talk about Your Highness. People assumed itd just be a stoner movie, but you guys took 80s fantasy movies—Clash of the Titans, Labyrinth—and made a ridiculous comedy out of ‘em.

D: As a kid, this was the shit that I always gravitated towards: Conan, Beastmaster. Its the stuff that got me into movies in the first place, and so theres definitely a deep love for the genre. There are things that dont age well [too], but there was room to find humor without just blasting the genre.

The way you guys work and the way Judd Apatow and his crew work, improvising and ad-libbing has changed the way comedy movies get made. Has it changed the writing process for you guys to the point where you might just leave dialogue a little looser and figure the real jewels are going to come on set?

D: Oh, we definitely do. David [Gordon Green] and Jody [Hill]—these guys I frequently collaborate with—in the writing process, we pay the most attention to the structures and the characters, and all that stuff adds up. If you can be confident that the story adds up to something at the end of the day, then I think it gives you the confidence to really be able to push the dialogue with improv. Its not like youre trying to compensate for shit in the improv—youre just trying to expand upon whats there.

Wiz, what are your movie tastes like?

W: [Laughs.] What do movies taste like?

[Laughs.] Nah, what are your movie tastes like?

W: Spicy.

D: Garlic, yeah. Tandoori chicken.

W: Room temperature. What type of movies do I like? Funny movies, of course, because I like to smoke, and when you smoke, things become less serious and you find the funny in things. So, even movies that arent funny, they end up turning into comedies to me.

So what makes a good stoner movie?

D: You gotta start with the basics. You probably need marijuana.

W: Probably would start there. Just to get it started.

In the creation of the movie or as a plot point?

D: Either/or. At some point there needs to be marijuana.

W: Whether its a reference or its actually shown, you just have to know it’s marijuana. I like movies where people smoke joints. Gotta have joints and doobs. I dont smoke blunts.

D: Somebody always needs to cough at least once—

W: I was just about to say that.

D: Like the kind that [makes retching noise] almost turns into vomit.

W: Thats what I was about to say! Itd be tight if somebody just puked off weed one time.

D: That does happen.

W: I make it happen a lot. Chicks pass out; guys barf. Coughing, spitting, the whole thing.

Whats your morning routine like?

W: My morning routine? Literally the first thing I do is smoke. Thats not even to sound cool or anything, I just have to be high first thing in the morning. So, I wake up. I smoke. I get on the Internet. I check all the rumors and shit.

Rumors about you?

W: About anything. Before there were any rumors about me I always checked everything. I look at all that crap, and then I get something to eat. Do regular stuff. Feed my dog.

D: I like to play it easy in the mornings. I usually start the day off with a 10, 12-mile run. I like to write sonnets every day, thats just something weird about me. Knock two of those out after the run. Eat a steak. Start a charity.

What are the downsides of becoming a more visible person and being successful?

D: It’s flattering whenever you meet people that like what youre doing. Thats always a cool feeling. But youre not always in the mood to have to meet people. You just wanna go out and be low-profile, and then you end up with some dude that looks like me whos trying to take a picture of you.

Do you ever resent having to turn it on?

D: I always turn it on by being respectful to people and being nice to em, but I wont slip into a character or anything.

W: Theres not really a downside, it just comes with the game. Like you said, you could be pumping your gas and somebody runs up on you and wants a picture or an autograph. And you might not feel like doing it at that point, but you know you gotta turn it on—and if you dont, youre an asshole.

Danny, you just got married last year. How is it balancing a long-term relationship with newfound fame? Especially now that youre able to do a lot of the projects youve always wanted to do. Thats the kind of thing that takes you away from home for long periods of time.

D: You just gotta make the most of when you have downtime. Once we finished Eastbound last year, I got married and split, and Ive been hiding out and hibernating in Virginia for the last two months.

No paparazzi came to Virginia looking for you?

D: No, just mobsters.

W: That dude that you owe money to for that fuckin coke.

D: Frank? Yeah, I owe him 10 bucks for coke. He just wont let it go.

W: They came to see me about him.

D: Thats when it gets kinda awkward—but Wiz, you didnt rat me out. Which is cool.

W: Nah, I didnt snitch. Im definitely not a snitch.

D: And, if I do get caught by him, I will definitely not tell him that you knew where I was.

W: Well, Franks got a threat out on my knees.

D: He does not respect the knees at all.

W: Thats what he specializes in. He told me when he came to see me. Dont get coke from Frank.

D: Yeah, hes kind of a little bitch to deal with.

Coke debts aside, you guys both seem very laid-back—when was the last time you got really upset?

D: Like, as a grown-up?

W: I got upset because we didnt have the cereal that I wanted in my house. I wanted some Capn Crunch but there was only Cinnamon Toast Crunch and Fruity Pebbles and I didnt like the choices. I had to have the Capn and it wasnt there. Thats the last time I got pissed.

D: Ive killed a man for Capn. I dont like to talk about it.

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