Grade A Certified

“Ready For Tipoff” – Interview With Def Jam’s Khalil

Posted by J. Tinsley on October 26, 2010

Signed to the house Russell and Rick built, Def Jam’s newest talent Khalil is poised to deliver on the investment. His debut album Hot Like Summer, which is set to drop in early 2011 has already attracted the lines of Rico Love and Jim Jonsin while securing features from everyone like Young Money’s Lil Twist to the head Diplomat himself, Cam’ron.

While sitting in the office making changes to his office website, the 15-year-old West Coast born (California) and East Coast bred (North Carolina) singer opened up about how he became close friends with Diggy Simmons and Lil Twist, the recent “younger artist boom,” the one record he cannot wait for people to hear and if he could beat Cam’ron in basketball one-one-one.

You grew up with your aunt your entire life. How much of a say-so does she have in the music you release?

Definitely. A lot of records that I have recorded I’ve played for my aunt. She gives me a lot of insight on whether she likes it or not. I feel like I can always bring songs to her because she is honest with me. I know she’s going to tell me the truth. If she doesn’t like the record, she’s going to tell me ‘I don’t like this’ or ‘I don’t think you should play this.’ So yeah, I definitely bring records to her and get her feedback.

You sang “Lately” by Stevie Wonder for L.A. Reid. You also sang “Goody, Goody” by Frankie Lymon and “My Funny Valentine” (Frank Sinatra). Obviously, you have a feel for older, soulful records. Bringing it back to your aunt, does she ever try to say you need to sing ‘like this’ or give you the whole ‘back in my day’ speech?

Yeah, man. Definitely. She was always the type to play the old school music in the car, so I was definitely in with that. Plus, just being YouTube  fanatic I found a lot of songs that I liked – Donny Hathaway, Sam Cooke and a bunch of artists. I discovered artists on my own just listening to stuff on YouTube. I would just find songs and my aunt would tell me sing over it, so really it was all a team effort.

A lot of younger artists are making major moves in the industry – yourself, Twist, Justin Bieber, Diggy and even Willow Smith. How much of a blessing and a detriment do you think it is to have people your age making these same type of moves? You want to be taken seriously as an artist, but you also don’t want to be stereotyped as just apart of the “in thing” right now.

I think it’s definitely a beautiful situation. Despite all the talks of ‘he’s like this artist’ or anything like that, I feel it has to be a beautiful situation to have any other young artists doing their thing because I listen to music so I love hearing great music. If they’re dropping something that I like, then it’s a beautiful thing.

You’ve recorded with Diggy in the past and a single out right now with Twist. How did you cross paths with them and what type of insight on how to maneuver in the business since Diggy has been around it his entire life and Twist has been with the Young Money camp for years now.

Aw, man. We first met up – both of us – through a mutual friend. Actually, the same girl introduced me to both of them. She mentioned that she thought I needed to do a song with Diggy, so she talked to him about it and he was like yeah send him my number. We started talking about records we wanted to do and stuff like that. Once we got into the studio we came up with the first song “We Have A Problem” for his first mixtape [The First Flight] and it took off from there. It’s crazy just to be in a situation where I worked with Diggy and have a friendship with him too.

Really, me and Twist, we just started talking over iChat and one day we were both in New York. I told him to come through one of my studio sessions and we chopped it up saying that we needed to do a record. We ended up doing “Hey Lil Mama” and we’ve got a lot of stuff coming for his album.

I’m sure you’ve seen people achieve success at this age or even younger. Does it ever scare you that  may not have a “normal teenage experience” compared to others your age?

Not really. I’ve thought about it and I just told myself this is what I want I want to do. With the sacrifices I take, I don’t regret anything. I definitely feel like I am blessed to be here. So if I don’t get to do that, then this is the sacrifice I will take to do this.

The Def Jam debut is Hot Like Summer. We spoke about the record with Twist and you have one with Cam’ron as well. Just about the album, is there one song in particular you really want people to hear?

It’s a record called “Dedication.” That’s my favorite record and I did it with Jim Jonsin and Rico Love in Miami. It was super, super crazy. We just came up with the beat first and Rico came through and wrote something crazy to it. The song came out so, so, so out of this world and I can’t wait for the people to hear it. It’s like an upbeat dance song, so all the dancers are going to be going nuts to this song.

Your single now is “Girlfriend Ringtone.” I’m not sure if many people know, but that was actually a Sean Garrett track with a Lil Wayne feature. If you had your choice of any three artists to jump on the remix, who would you pick?

I have to say Drake. I have to say Wayne. I definitely have to say Nicki Minaj [laughs]. I didn’t really mean to pick all three Young Money artists, but that’s really the line up that I’m feeling right now.

It’s been some news about Nas’ letter to Def Jam and Shyne’s comments. In a gist, Nas is upset with the label because he doesn’t feel they have confidence in the album he wants to release. Shyne was basically saying the same thing in addition to claiming L.A. Reid doesn’t care about Hip-Hop. Have you learned any important lessons about the industry you may not have known before hand?

I would have to say don’t wait on anybody else. You need to get the work done yourself. I feel like when you try to let other people guide your career it doesn’t work because no one is as passionate about you as you are. If the work isn’t getting done the way it is supposed to be, then you have to take your career into your own hands. You just have to not wait for everybody else to catch up. You just have to go out and get it.

 That was definitely in general. No specific artists or anything.

You’re a big basketball fan. What are your predictions for this upcoming NBA season? What are the big stories you’re interested in following?

I’ve been hearing a lot of talks about the Miami Heat lately. I’ll clear all that up now – all that’s buffoonery. Kobe’s about to get another ring. That’s all I know. All the talk about LeBron, it’s not going down this year. Please believe, it is going down. The Lakers, man. The Lakers.

Music and basketball have always intertwined with each other. We spoke about Cam earlier. Have you ever seen him play and do you think you could take him one on one?

I’ve never seen Cam play, but I do know if I step on the court with them Hyper Dunks and long gym socks on, you never know. You really never know. I can’t tell you if I could beat him or not because I’d have to see him play. I am telling you that I definitely know I would give him a run for his money.

In all seriousness, Bieber is alright too.

Yeahhhh. Man, I’m telling you [laughs].

We’ll keep it at that. What type of lessons can you take from basketball and apply it to the music industry?

I would have to say the drive and how hard the workers work. When you see how hard Kobe works, that’s how hard you have to go when you’re doing this music. Determination, man. All of that.

To wrap it all up, what would you say has been your one “wow” moment that’s really taken your breath away?

Really, I would have to say being on 106 [& Park]. That’s the most breath-taking moment I’ve had because that’s a show I have been watching since I was a really young dude watching 50 Cent on there. So to be on the show for the longest has been my one “wow ” moment.

Be sure to follow Khalil on Twitter and visit his YouTube page.

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