Artist You Need to Know: Khalid

Khalid Robinson, a 19-year-old R&B artist, released his debut album "American Teen" a month ago. Khalid has become one of only two solo teenagers to chart in the top 10 of the “Billboard 200” in the last year, following popular pop artist Shawn Mendes. (Unsplash/Creative Commons)

Khalid Robinson, a 19-year-old R&B artist, released his debut album "American Teen" a month ago. Khalid has become one of only two solo teenagers to chart in the top 10 of the “Billboard 200” in the last year, following popular pop artist Shawn Mendes. (Unsplash/Creative Commons)

It has been a month since Khalid Robinson released his debut album “American Teen,” and not a day has passed in which I haven’t jammed to at least a few tracks, if not the entire album.

“American Teen” is a unique R&B album that encompasses a tale of a classic high school love story and the ecstasy of being young. From track to track, we experience the initial get together and rising action, the strong feeling of lust as if there is no other love in the world, the confusion of fighting, the devastation of breaking up and the hope that one day the flame will rekindle. Not only does Khalid make his story completely relatable to all relationships, but he also touches on the difficulty of modern relationships due to technology, mentioning topics in his lyrics such as subtweets and breakups via text. At just 19 years old, Khalid knows these themes and experiences all too well.

Since his birth, Khalid’s mother has been involved in a military career, forcing them to constantly move to new locations. From Kentucky, to New York and even Germany, the adjustment of being in new places brought the artist a lot of loneliness and change. In his senior year of high school, Khalid’s mother was stationed at Fort Bliss, and the two moved to El Paso, Texas. It was at this moment when Khalid was dealing with a breakup and a lack of friends, that he turned to his passion, music, to express himself and tell his story.

Thus, Khalid began recording his music to the best of his technological ability and uploading tracks to the audio platform “SoundCloud.” At the time, he was only 17 years old, doing something that a lot of aspiring high school rappers choose to try. However, from the same website where Chance the Rapper got his start, it wasn’t until Kylie Jenner posted a video on Snapchat of her and her friends singing hit single “Location” that Khalid really began to gain notice.

Now, a year since his high school graduation, Khalid’s debut album “American Teen” is turning the heads of many. So far, Khalid has become one of only two solo teenagers to chart in the top 10 of the “Billboard 200” in the last year, following popular pop artist Shawn Mendes. Additionally, he sold out every venue of his 21-city U.S. “Location Tour” this past January and February, and was also named Apple Music’s New Artist of the Week in early February before the debut of “American Teen.”

The album presents its own kind of sound, with some tracks such as “8TEEN” and “Keep Me” blending synth beats to take us back to the 80s while giving us a preview of the future, and others such as “Coaster,” “Angels” and “Shot Down” taking a slower pace and sometimes utilizing a soulful piano to channel in on Khalid’s strong voice. Also laced throughout the modern love story are tracks like “Young Dumb & Broke” that contain all the happy-go-lucky sounds and feelings of euphoria that come along with being young. This track in particular strikes everyone’s inner kid, and all young and old can relate to the feeling.

Outside of the jams that are the actual music, what truly makes the album a standout hit is the maturity of Khalid’s lyrics and voice. While the album is about being a careless high schooler, the raw emotions addressed about heartbreak are something that all young people can relate to, no matter the form of the devastation. Also, the stories told of drunken Uber rides and “all the stupid shit that young kids do” fill listeners’ minds with memories of bad decisions and great stories. The lyrical journey appears as the essence of being young, and figuring life out as you go.

The only thing more appealing than the story “American Teen” tells is the hearty voice of Khalid himself that performs it. Filled with passion and truth, Khalid’s voice is a beautiful hybrid of Bill Withers soul, Frank Ocean alternative and pure Drake emotion. Listening to his music without any background knowledge, you may mistakenly think that Khalid is a veteran to the game. In reality, he is just a 19-year-old kid beginning his rookie-of-the-year campaign.

There is no doubt about it: Khalid is the real deal. “American Teen” is not just another solid debut album, it is an album with true promise, and the content and structure is beyond its years. While this is only our first taste of Khalid, it will certainly not be the last. Do not be surprised when his name is amongst titles such as Best New Artist or Best R&B Album at the end of the year. But until then, be sure to enjoy this young masterpiece and its unreal, summer wind vibes.


Kendra Harter is a campus correspondent for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at kendra.harter@uconn.edu.