Interview: Naughty Boy
Shahid Khan is a prime example of a talented success story. From humble beginnings in Watford, a natural talent and sheer determination led him to produce Emeli Sandé’s award winning debut and biggest selling album of 2012, ‘Our Version Of Events’. When deciding on the moniker of Naughty Boy, Shahid explains “I didn’t choose Naughty Boy, I think he chose me. It’s a super hero alter ego as when I started out, I was too scared to produce under my own name. Naughty Boy just felt right”. However, come Summer 2013 and his own album ‘Hotel Cabana’, had rocketed to number two on the charts.
Working with Emeli Sandé was the opportunity that gave him such confidence. “We just met randomly at some random underground showcase in London and started working together. When I had my first hit with Emeli in 2009 and it reached the Top 10, I felt something changing at that point as people started finding me. It was crazy success!”
Ultimately, it meant stepping into the limelight to further develop his artistry. “The renewed confidence from working with Emeli made me want to bring something new to the game but it needed to be a full album to truly show my abilities”.
‘Hotel Cabana’ certainly does just that. Based on Shahid’s experiences working as a waiter in 2005, the album brings all the exotic influences and imagination of his signature sound known with Emeli. He expands “I used to work as a waiter for 2 years and got to see the whole of the world. At first I envied the rich and famous people living their lives in the hotel but after a while thought they were quite lonely. In ‘Hotel Cabana’ I talk about various temptations, money, sex etc. that takes place in hotels.”
The success of the first track of the album ‘La La La’, came almost overnight and could be partly contributed to a unique video. The profound video references the childhood story The Wizard of Oz and acts as the backdrop for the album. “The kid featured is going to grow up and become me.” Shahid explains. “He too comes from nothing but is able to use his imagination to ignore the trials of everyday life”. Shot in Bolivia, “the child escapes his father’s alcoholism by realising that sometimes it’s okay not to listen to people around you. I think that’s why the video gets so much love”.
Tracks ‘Lifted’ and ‘Daddy’ on the album are similarly thought-provoking through their suggestive lyrics and experimental samples. “I want people to use their imagination to interpret my music”, but imagination doesn’t mean complexity. “The hardest track to write on the album was ‘Top Floor’ featuring Ed Sheeran. I didn’t know whether to keep it simple and acoustic or bring up the production but just because something is a demo, doesn’t mean you should add to it.”
Having dropped out of his Undergrad at the University of London to pursue his Music career, Shahid reflects on his short-lived University career. “I left because I realised that sound engineering wasn’t for me. My biggest advice to student producers would be to know the course you’re doing is the right one. I was doing sound engineering but being passionate about creating colours and music, I felt I made the right decision to put the plan in focus.” However he continues, “I wouldn’t rule out going back to University in the future. I’ve been doing some freshers gigs at Unis and regret that I never had that independent move from home. I want to experience the clichés!” … at Manchester perhaps?
Looking to the near future, Shahid has big visions. “My goal is world take over so I can afford to be more creative in the process. At the end of this year, I’ll be touring in America. Collaboration wise, I’d love to work with Adele. It’s always the best to work with and be respected by those you respect yourself”.