After months of built-up anticipation, as well as frustration from diehard Taylors, Wiz Khalifa’s O.N.I.F.C. album has finally arrived. Anchored by two singles, The Weeknd–blessed “Remember Me” and the certified-gold “Word Hard, Play Hard,” Wiz’s sophomore release finds the Pittsburgh rhymer collaborating with a few familiar faces, including fellow Steel City natives ID Labs. Comprised of E Dan, Big Jerm and new member Sayez, the trio, also known for their work with Mac Miller, have been Wiz’s go-to producers for some time now. They were responsible for six out of the 14 tracks on the rapper’s 2011 debut (Rolling Papers) and now seven on this new album.
Speaking to XXL from their Pittsburgh-based studio, Dan, Jerm and Sayez all speak on working with Wiz for O.N.I.F.C. and break down each of the tracks they contributed for the album. —Ralph Bristout (@RalphieBlackmon)
XXL: After all those pushbacks, how does it feel to finally have this album out?
E Dan: We’re excited about it. We did a ton of work on it, both stuff that we produced solely and co-produced and mixing work, so we’re excited to see it come out and see everyone’s reaction to it.
What was your reaction to the album’s recent leak?
E Dan: I don’t think any of us are fans of leaks. It’s tough for producers I think, because we’re only tied into record sales, plus I think it takes a little bit of the anticipation away when you got this release date that everyone’s gearing up for, and all of a sudden four, five days before it, it just trickles out on the Internet. I just feel like, at least for us, it takes away from the moment a little bit. As to whether it affects sales, who knows.
It’s always something that artists and producers dread.
E Dan: Right. I always end up in a debate where some kid thinks that music is supposed to be free, you know what I mean?
Big Jerm: I do think at this point, it’s inevitable that it’s going to leak. I’m happy it didn’t leak earlier.
On a more positive note, you guys produced seven cuts on this album. What was different about the sessions for O.N.I.F.C. compared to Rolling Papers?
E Dan: Well, with Rolling Papers, I definitely think we spent more time in the studio making stuff from scratch with Wiz. I think that was kind of where he was in his creative stage, where he wanted to work that way. With this album, he kind of had set in mind where he wanted to go with it. So it was definitely more of us sending him tracks or giving him tracks that we had started or completed, [and then] him picking out of those what he was after.
So when you guys heard he was working on this new album, did you immediately start crafting new beats or were there some left over from the Rolling Papers sessions?
E Dan: We definitely went into overdrive once he started recording for this one.
Sayez: Before that, we were actually doing joints to possibly get on the Mac and Devin project he was doing [with Snoop Dogg]. I think that’s really right around the time we just started just going super-hard trying to touch that old Wiz feel, just trying to guess what type of stuff that he would want to rap on, and it went from there.
What kind of space was he in for this album compared to the last one?
E Dan: I felt like he was in a better place, where it was like less pressure for him. Rolling Papers being his major label debut, I think with this one, he really knew where he wanted to go. Part of where he wanted to go was to do what came naturally to him. I think he purposely took that pressure off himself pretty early on and was in a pretty good place [in that] he recorded a lot of music for this. The album is probably a third of what he had. I think he was and still is just in a really creative [mindset]. I think a lot of the stuff will end up being Taylor Gang stuff or things he uses for other projects. He’s been really banging music out the past year.
I know you mentioned sending him beats for this album. How often were you guys in the studio with him?
Some records, but not all of them. There was some stuff he did while he was on tour and stuff he did in Europe—so definitely some of the songs it was us in the studio with him picking out music and some of it was just sending him stuff while he was on tour, recording in whatever city he was in.
When in the studio with Wiz, what are some of the essential things he needs in order to work?
Sayez: Weed. [Laughs]
Big Jerm: A jar of weed.
Dan: A big-ass jar of weed and a few oversized bottles of gin.
Dan: I don’t know that he eats that often. There’ll be a bag of Starbursts but he’s not much of an eater.
FOR ID LABS’ TRACK-BY TRACK BREAKDOWN OF O.N.I.F.C., GO TO THE NEXT PAGE