Wiz Khalifa is headed to the big screen as he takes on the role of George Clinton in the upcoming film Spinning Gold. In 2019, Samuel L. Jackson initially landed the role, but the chart-topping rapper was ultimately recast as the lead. Since then, the opportunity became a major learning experience for the 35-year-old artist as he portrayed the legendary band leader.
“I don’t really feel like it was too challenging,” the “Medicated” rapper explained to VIBE in a group Zoom call as the Parliament-Funkadelic leader listened and smiled.
“I wanted to make sure I did it the right way. [When] justspeaking with the producers and the writers, they let me know what they expected from me and just knew what I wanted to bring to the table as well. Then, after me and George’s grandkids [met] and them actually giving me pointers and telling me what he would like or how he is in real life, I’m like, ‘All right, cool.’ It just made me much more comfortable and gave me, I think, an advantage that a lot of other people might not have even had.”
During the production process, Clinton and Khalifa not only learned more about the story of Casablanca Records and music executive Neil Bogart, but also each other. The Hip-Hop and funk musicians also realized that although they are from different musical styles, geographical locations, and generations, their talent and creative expression are parallel.
“I’ve definitely found out, that we were more similar,” revealed the 81-year-old legend. “The branding of not just the music, but the lifestyle, the way you live and all the people around you. I learned that definitely he was aware of that. I thought we were one of the few groups that did that early, from 1970 on. The way we wrote Funkadelic and Parliament, we made that the brand. I saw that with his other products and his merch and all that. That was definitely something I wasn’t expecting. I knew it was more than just rapping, that there was a lifestyle that was around him, a brand.”
“I think that the main similarity is the fact that we know who we are, where we come from, and what we want to give to people. And we don’t mind expressing that,” added Wiz. “I already knew he cares, but he just don’t give a sh*t what anybody thinks. He’s going to do what he wants to do and you guys are going to love it. And I feel like that too about my craft. I love that.”
Billed as “the greatest music story never told,” Spinning Gold’s writer-director Timothy Scott Bogart—son of the aforementioned music industry legend—and his brothers, executive music producer Evan Bogart and producer Brad Bogart, teamed up to bring their father’s story to the big screen. One approach in capturing the essence of each musician involved in Casablanca Records’ legacy was to have the artists portrayed in the film by talent who are also artists themselves.
Clinton admitted he learned new information about not only Casablanca Records but the stories of his peers, through the filming process, despite living through the era.
“What’s surprising for me [is] that period happened so fast with us. I really never had a chance to actually learn Kiss’s movement,” he told VIBE.
“I knew everybody. We were all really close in the company, but all of us was going in such different directions. You really didn’t have the chance to actually analyze each other because we were [in] different genres. I learned a lot about Kiss that I never knew about how it really worked. And I saw that their marketing thing was actually their gift to the game.”
Through the dramatically portrayed narratives and the memories and stories passed down to Bogart, Spinning Gold takes a first-person approach to share music history with the world.
Aside from the Pittsburgh rapper stepping into the shoes of the Prime Minister of Funk, the film also stars Tayla Parx stars as Donna Summer, Jason Derulo as Ronald Isley of The Isley Brothers, Pink Sweat$ as Bill Withers, and Ledisi as Gladys Knight. The rock band KISS will include musicians/actors Sam Harris as Paul Stanley, Casey Likes as Gene Simmons, and Alex Gaskarth as Peter Criss.
Spinning Gold debuts in select theaters on March 31.