At 19, R&B singer Khalid makes the music you might expect of someone his age. His stellar debut, American Teen, is very much what the title suggests: a journal of teenage life in 2017. On his chart-topping “Location,” he pleads for a GPS pin drop, singing “I don’t want to fall in love off of subtweets.” On “Young, Dumb & Broke,” he sings with the frankness of a high school senior with a full-ride college scholarship: “What’s fun about commitment, when we have our life to live?”
What sets the Texas teen’s music apart from his contemporaries is presentation. While modern R&B favors trapped-out beats and druggy sex fantasies, Khalid’s music has a timeless glow that’s part shimmery pop and part soulful self-awareness. He’s a voice of the youth, but not exclusively for the youth. Even if you were 19 years ago, Khalid’s matter-of-fact ruminations will make you feel nostalgic for that summer of 19__, fitting in just as perfectly on a John Hughes soundtrack as they do in today’s clubs. That might be why he’s so swiftly risen to the top, snagging collaborations with artists like Kendrick Lamar, Lil Wayne and Calvin Harris—and why his July 22 show at Brooklyn Bowl sold out in a matter of days.
Yet, despite the teen’s success, people still aren’t sure how to pronounce his name. That might be due to the ubiquity of DJ Khaled, a beloved, oft-parodied social-media celebrity who makes damn well certain everyone knows his name by shouting it on every one of his songs. In fact, in an April interview with New York’s Power 105.1 FM, Khalid (pronounced kuh-leed) said he gets called kha-led at least five times a day. “It’s something I’ve been called all my life on accident. I guess I just accepted it. When I was younger I would try to correct people, but I’m like, they’ll find out on their own,” he told host Angie Martinez. “If I keep working the way that I’m working now, there will be a separation and people will be like, ‘That is Khalid.’”
Pronunciation aside, there are quite a few differences between the two media darlings. Here are the distinguishing factors.
|Is:||Singer-songwriter.||We’re not entirely sure what he does, aside from coming up with catchphrases, getting a bunch of rappers together for his albums and Snapchatting more than a 41-year-old should.|
|Best known for:||“Location,” which peaked at 16 on the Billboard Hot 100. It later got blessed with a remix featuring verses from Lil Wayne and Kehlani.||“I’m On One,” a 2011 cut that features Drake, Rick Ross and Lil Wayne and was produced by Drizzy’s Toronto team. Khaled’s only contribution is shouting “DJ Khaled” on the song.|
|Social-media luck:||Got a big break when Kylie Jenner sang along to “Location” on Snapchat.||Once got stranded at night on his Jet Ski, documenting it on Snapchat. “Please never try to drive” Jet Skis at night, he tweeted.|
|Musical family:||Khalid’s mother was a singer. “It was almost like she had to let go of her dream … to take care of me, and now she’s living her dream vicariously through me,” he told radio host
|His 4-month-old son Asadh executive-produced his recent album, Grateful. He told Jimmy Kimmel that Asadh’s reactions to songs indicated how good they were. “Believe it or not, the poops and the throw-ups are super blessings. Those are actually the real good ones,” he said.|
|Looks like:||A teddy bear with a high-top afro.||A husky version of Vegas Seven digital director Zoneil Maharaj.|