For Khalid Doesn't Believe in Forcing Creativity

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We spoke with the R&B superstar at 2019’s JBL Fest.
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November 8, 2019

We spoke with the R&B superstar at 2019’s JBL Fest.


At just 21, Khalid has become the face of the new wave of R&B, harnessing the globe around his nostalgia-infused tunes that reenvision the ‘80s and ‘90s sounds he grew up with. In 2017, the then-19-year-old released his American Teen album, which explored the ecstasy and agony of teenage life in America. The record was later nominated at the Grammys for Best Urban Contemporary Album as well as Best R&B song for the album’s lead single “Location.”

Just two years later, Khalid followed the effort with his sophomore project Free Spirit, which similarly used growing pains and teenage angst as inspiration and went on to debut at the No.1 spot on the Billboard 200. He has since been on a world tour, becoming the most globally streamed artist on Spotify, further releasing a variety of pop-centric hits such as last week’s “Trigger” with Major Lazer for the forthcoming game, Death Stranding.

Earlier this month, the contemporary R&B star took his eclectic sound to Las Vegas for 2019’s JBL Fest. Despite suffering from what he jokingly described as “sleep paralysis” caused by his first world tour, Khalid nonetheless delivered an energetic performance. HYPEBEAST sat down with the artist to discuss his inspirations, his love of nostalgic R&B and more.

I allow myself to realize that when it comes, it comes. I don’t think I’ll ever force creativity. What’s creative about forcing yourself to write about something?


What inspires you and drives you creatively?

In terms of music, I feel like I’m super inspired by folk music. I love Fleetwood Mac, they definitely are a form of inspiration that I tie back into when I’m writing and when I’m making melodies. I love ‘90s R&B music, I love Aaliyah. I’m a big fan of Frank Ocean, I grew up on Frank. I can’t say my inspiration stems from just one artist alone, day-to-day I’m just listening to new things and always kind of refreshing my palette for music from what I hear. Recently I’ve been inspired by an acoustic, like doom artist named Chelsea Wolfe. She’s super cool, her chords are very dark and I’m very into that right now.

How about people close to you, like family and friends?

My mom has always been a huge inspiration to me, she sings as well so growing up and listening to her in my household, a voice like hers was very beneficial because it allowed me to realize at a young age that I wanted to pursue music, something I wanted to be involved within no matter what aspect for a career.

How do those influences reinforce your sound?

I love synths, they bring the perfect sense of nostalgia from the ‘80s and ‘90s, which I classify as the some of the best times to be alive musically, kind of the peak of music individuality. From melodies to expressing oneself, I feel like the ‘80s just had the best music about living. The most influential songs for me definitely stem from the ‘80s, and the ‘90s was similar, it was just so cool. Even today I feel like there are so many artists trying to tap back into that sound or that influence that the ‘90s brought. I feel like “Talk” is the perfect centerpiece for that and for those inspirations. It’s the perfect love song for me, and to me that’s what the ‘90s were about, making love and being in love, which is what I’m very into.



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