Breaking down the next pop superstar, Khalid Robinson
Not to be confused with DJ Khaled, Khalid (pronounced kuh-leed) is the next pop superstar. Don’t believe me? Check out what the 22 year old has already accomplished: back to back RIAA certified platinum albums, six Grammy nominations, six Billboard Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and one MTV Video Music Award (Time). Next, we look at how and why Mr. Robinson will be a bona fide superstar.
The American Teen
Despite being born in Georgia, Khalid lived multiple places in his early life as a result of his parents being in the military. However, in his senior year of high school, he moved to El Paso, Texas. It’s here that Khalid forever plants his roots that attribute to his music success. During this short stint in Texas, Robinson would begin to work on his hit single “Location”. The song would ultimately become his ride to the top of the Billboard charts and skyrocket his popularity. So much so, that he would go on to receive the key to the city of El Paso, Texas. Riding this momentum, in March of 2017, Khalid released his first studio album American Teen. Led by “Young, Dumb, and Broke” and “Location” (6 and 7 times RIAA certified platinum, respectively), the album would go on to receive 3x platinum honors.
What make this album so good? The first thing that comes to mind is how catchy almost every song is. The chorus to each song is easy to remember and is followed by (mostly) heart-wrenching and (sometimes) fun filled verses. Since this album was produced as such a young age, it became sort a teenage anthem. It captured all of the emotions that are a result of being an angsty teen. The arrival of love, loneliness, the departure from the safety of home aka freedom, and learning our place in the world are all present themes in this album.
This album has an, admittedly, odd quality. Just when it seems like it’s going to end, there are still a few more songs. I’m not sure if it’s the tempo of the songs or the length of the album (almost an hour) — regardless, the more the merrier (in my opinion). A platinum album with no features? Khalid is on his J. Cole vibes. As a result of this critically acclaimed album, Khalid has had the opportunity to feature with some of the biggest pop stars the game has to offer. These artist include: Normani, Billie Eilish, H.E.R., Halsey, and Summer Walker — among many more.
It may seem easy to replicate this artist sound, but it is unique.
A Free Spirit From Suncity
The release of the EP Suncity is symbolic in multiple ways. First, you can see evidence in Khalid’s maturation since the release of American Teen. He begins to question his initial love that he often wrote about in his debut album. He also poses existential questions while analyzing his life. The path of being self-aware often arises from asking these questions. Second, the EP is a transition from local hometown hero to worldwide phenom. The extended play begins with the track “9.13”, the date he was gifted the key to the city of El Paso (Genius). And the penultimate track, “Better” was one of the biggest songs in the world in 2018. This would, again, catapult Khalid’s popularity. In the last song, “Suncity”, the artist longs for home again, his heart, the place he feels most comfortable. This EP served as homage to his "hometown".
The introduction to Free Spirit is also the introduction of a new, different Khalid as hinted in Suncity. He speaks of a relationship, one that is on its last leg. However, unlike in American Teen, he is reluctantly willing to let this relationship go — he is able to recognize that it’s best to let go at this point. This album is less about relationships and more about growth as a person and as an artist. Khalid even cited this himself on Twitter. As a whole, Free Spirit is an introspection on how and why Khalid sees the world the way he does. He is more present on his expectations in relationships and how to live life. Life should be care-free and free-flowing despite all of the distractions. As mentioned in “Heaven”, we shouldn’t have to die in order to feel alive. At the same time, relationships should be two-sided and supportive. Welcome to the new, matured Khalid.
What’s next for Mr. Robinson? As hinted on Twitter, Khalid is in the process of producing a new album. If I has to guess a release date, it would be towards the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022. If the first two albums were any indication, the third will complete a perfect trifecta of platinum albums — thereby, solidifying Khalid as a superstar.