WizTheMC on What It’s Like to Blow Up in a Pandemic (And Why You Should Stop Complaining on Twitter)

WizTheMC is a busy man.

He released a full record, Growing Teeth, at the end of January this year and followed it up with a seven track EP, What About Now?, that has been the catalyst for the beginnings of a potential meteoric rise to mainstream success. WizTheMC is a young man. At 19, the South African/German turned Torontonian moved to Drake’s hometown from Lüneburg, Germany and began planting seeds that would end up bearing fruit during the artistic nuclear winter of 2020. Most small artists have been especially cooked by the current state of affairs. WizTheMC has not been cooked, on the contrary, he’s been baked. He’s been stoned and intensely motivated to make new music and develop his sound. With each release since his arrival in Toronto he has honed in on his sound, stripping away elements that weren’t working for him and accentuating those that are. 

“I started out just rapping to youtube beats… Then I started to write and put it out on Soundcloud” Wiz says, thoughtfully. He’s sitting in a well lit room with a view of Toronto. He Points me out the window so I can see the weather for myself. It’s a beautiful fall day, the kind unique to the North East. He’s recently relocated to Toronto for the foreseeable future. He went there for the first time in 2018 a few days after his high school graduation. A two week trip turned into a 6 months stay. He found himself in a relationship and hopped back over to Germany until he could get a work visa and move in with his partner. He came back, went through a break-up, made a bunch of music, and hasn’t managed to leave since. He moved into his own place for the first time in November, “I’ll officially start my Canadian life” he laughs.

Back in 2018 Wiz was releasing rap records. Backin Toronto and Blessings in Disguise were moody, minimally produced records playing into many of the modern rap tropes we’ve grown accustomed to. Wiz is a talented rapper. His older stuff is in the vein of Mick Jenkins with some BROCKHAMPTON influence; it worked well for his range, but the moments that shine on those old recordings are the hooks. Out of a moody rap song would come a beautifully sung pop hook that was well worthy of its own track. His songs began to change when he started producing for himself.

“I felt bored with just rapping and having a rap hook. The first song that threw me off was ‘Do What I Want’” He says this like it’s the first time he’s really thinking about it. Nothing about Wiz feels rehearsed or scripted. This interview was one of many he had done recently, but he was full of energy, seeming to be genuinely interested. He’s notably positive, spinning around and bouncing in his chair, gesticulating vigorously as he speaks into his computer. “[“Do What I Want”] was kinda a joke to me because it was such a fun song… I was so intrigued in finding that sound…That summer of 2019 I met Hugo in Berlin and he came from a pop background… We got together then merged the sound and that’s what you hear on Growing Teeth and now.”

Fast forwarding to now, 2020, What About Now? Is the culmination of the past few years of stylistic refinement. “It’s been, like, half a decade leading up to this,” he says. This being his most artistically sound release, and the immediate success that followed it. 

It’s like Wiz has been throwing darts, getting closer and closer to the bullseye with each release.

All artists are playing a similar game. Making and releasing music, gauging feedback, gauging themselves, then releasing more music. It’s a game that people play for years without success. Success being artistic fulfillment, critical acclaim, mainstream recognition or any combination thereof. Wiz has managed to get pretty close to the bullseye in just a few tosses. His latest shot rewarded him with immediate success in recognition and plays.

For a Minute’s release as a video single this summer earned him 60 thousand plays in the first few days. By the time we chatted in the fall, it was up to 11 million. Now, a month later it has 14 million. 

“10 million is a number I just can’t wrap my head around.” He shakes his head smiling like the success of For a Minute is still soaking in. For a young artist to start achieving a marked level of success in this climate must be exceptionally strange. Those plays exist in a vacuum. Without shows and world tours success is just a number on a screen and (if you’re incredibly lucky) a criminally small paycheck courtesy of Spotify. No parties where everyone wants to talk to you, no adoring fans screaming your name, no limelight outside of your phone screen. But that’s not why WizTheMC makes the music he does.   

“I loved melodies before I knew that melodies would be the key to pop music. I just love that feeling of moving sound, where it’s just like ear candy. I can’t describe it, but I just love that feeling…”

He stumbled into making pop music, writing melodies, seemingly by accident. Experimenting with guitar loops, doing vocal warmups and then meeting Hugo, his producer, in Berlin. But once he found it, it seemed he had been doing it all his life. “I was a huge fan, when I was like eight or nine, of Queen and AC/DC. Now it makes so much sense why I love to make this type of music. They were all so fucking good at bringing this energy across, just like lively timeless music.”

“Thats my aim now. Now to forever. I want to make music where the vibe stays for the next 1 or 200 years, it doesn’t matter what I talk about. I just want to make crazy ass music, and those are the best examples of what blueprint i’m trying to follow musically” 

His latest video, “All My Friends Are Stoned” represents exactly that. An irreverent anthem about getting stoned with your friends and dreaming of what’s to come, with a visual that portrays exactly that. Wiz and his friends stoned all on the couch, dreaming of how they’re going to party when they make it. The video highlights how quarantine has changed our thinking, emerging organically in our art and media. What probably would have been a house party video, is instead  a group of less than 10 friends smoking weed and bugging out in the house. It’s all the better for it.

There’s an unmistakable kindness in everything Wiz does.

A kindness and compassion rooted in an informed understanding of reality. Growing up between Germany and South Africa, traveling around the world as a child and young adult, to eventually land in Canada; he knows how good he has it, even now deep in quarantine. “The average 20 year old now has time to spend eight hours a day online and still manage to eat and not be homeless. That is the highest level of luxury any human can imagine.” “To know there are people in Cuba working 70 hours for like 50 bucks a month. That would be a dream! To wake not having to do something and have enough food in the fridge!”

“It is such a high level of luxury that we have the time to deal with our feelings. I think people should take this time to get cheap therapy and get to know themselves better, instead of being reactive and waking up after an evening of drinking and going on Twitter and complaining!”

As we started to wrap up our conversation I asked him the standard the 2020 interview question, “What’s next for you after the pandemic? What’s your first move once it’s all over?” I jokingly mention off hand, “Are you going to link up with Drake?” In full seriousness he responds, “If I want Drake to link up with me, I see other guys asking for a day with Drake, but I’m only going to come for an invite.”

“Are you going to try and link up with Drake?”

“Only If I want Drake to link up with me!”

That attitude is what carried Wiz through a pandemic to where he is now. From 10,000 monthly listeners to 1.3 million in the span of a few months. He knows what he’s worth, but he knows he has to work hard to get there. He has an old school European perspective in that regard. An intense sense of pride coupled with a realism that is often replaced with ego in young American artists who ‘blow up’ on the internet. He sees where this can take him, and he’s going to get there no matter what.

“For me that’s always been the business plan. I build brick by brick until the wall is solid… I want to give everyone a reason to tell their friends and it’s only a matter of time before the snowball is… as big as the world”

If you enjoyed this, check out our editors thoughts on listening to Phoebe Bridgers for the first time here!