21 under 21

21 Under 21: Khalid On His Nonstop Year and Making Time To Recharge

Austin Hargrave

Khalid photographed on May 20, 2018 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Khalid, 20, earned his 14th Hot 100 hits and second top 10 this year with the Normani-assisted "Love Lies,” peaking at No. 9. He only dropped his debut album, American Teen, in 2017, but already the R&B star has become one of music’s hottest commodities as a collaborator, releasing songs with 21 Under 21 peers like Shawn Mendes and Billie Eilish. Outside of music, he’s become a brand ambassador as well, working with Forever 21 and Hollister and partnering with Champion for a line of exclusive merch. “I do get tired,” the El Paso, Tex. native admits, “but I always want to give my best.”

How do you balance public and private life?
I’m really just myself. Everything you see on social media or on stage is no different than what you’d see if you saw me walking down the street. Accepting who you are and your individuality is so important and I want to be sending that message to my fans. I handle my own Twitter and Instagram, I want to always make sure that I am being authentic.

Why are you so active on those platforms?
Social media is such a big part of people’s lives in general, especially in my generation. It’s the best way we can communicate. I want to have a personal relationship with my fans, I want to know what they are thinking, what they are doing, and it’s important that I make sure they know I am seeing them when they reach out to me.

Austin Hargrave
Khalid photographed on May 20, 2018 at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

This year you've become a go-to collaborator.
Vibing with other artists and creating is always fun. I never go in thinking about making a hit record, I just go into the studio with people I love and respect and see what happens. It’s more about getting to know my peers and putting our heart and soul into the music, and hopefully [the result] is something that we’re both proud of.

You've been going nonstop, how do you keep from feeling burnt out?
Keeping my friends around keeps me grounded. Even though I’m working, we laugh, joke, and have fun in the process. I’m really fortunate to be where I am and not losing sight of that keeps me from burning out. I do definitely need to carve out time to rest and recharge in order to keep my creativity up.

What was your first big splurge on?
I bought a house!

If you’ve thought this far ahead, what do you plan to do for your 21st birthday?
It’s hard to think that far ahead -- I can barely think to next week! I’m not sure what I’ll do but I know I’ll spend it with close friends and family.

This article originally appeared in the Oct. 13 issue of Billboard.