The day of his high school graduation, in El Paso, Tex., Khalid Robinson got more than just a diploma; Kylie Jenner played his song “Location” in one of her Snapchats, and the rest is slowly becoming history.
“Minutes before I’m getting ready to walk, I’m checking Snapchat and I see she typed ‘Khalid,’ ‘Location’ in the box,” the 19 year-old recalls. “All throughout my life, it was always a whole bunch of people telling me that I can’t do something. All these people were like ‘Don’t reach for your dreams, reach for something that you can settle with’ — and I thought that that was bulls–t.”
Everything has changed in the last year for Robinson, who went from recording inside a friend’s garage to releasing a solo album, “American Teen” in March, to working with artists such as Calvin Harris and preparing to join Lorde on her 2018 European tour.
“If I’m being honest, it definitely does get overwhelming — I’m only 19 years old,” says Robinson, who played Terminal 5 in New York Sunday and Monday night. “I feel like the best part of my job and this fame is that I get to use my platform to spread positivity and messages that I love.”
His debut, “American Teen,” peaked at number nine on the Billboard 200 chart. Later this month, he faces off against SZA, Noah Cyrus, Kodak Black, Julia Michaels and Young M.A. for the MTV VMA best new artist award.
The songs on his debut are heavily inspired by his upbringing as an Army brat in a strict household.
“A lot of people who I used to surround myself with were very temporary. I always wanted to be rooted everywhere that I went, even if I had to be taken out of it. I don’t think that was necessarily healthy for me,” Robinson says. “The moment that they fell off, it gave me a lot of attention to focus on the people who do support me to this day. I wrote some of the songs as an ode to the friendships I had and to leave that negativity behind through music and concentrate on the positive. I get to see my friends in those songs every night.”
In those songs, he’s hoping others might find inspiration. “The reason that we feel like our dreams are unattainable is because we listen to so many people other than ourselves,” he says. “Persistence is key. Keep going, keep pushing, because if you give up, that next day could have been your day and you would have never even known it.”
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