On Monday night (Mar. 30), Zayn Malik, who left One Direction less than a week ago, had his first stitch of solo material — a demo titled “I Won’t Mind” — unveiled to the world and feasted upon by Directioners. But Malik wasn’t the one to actually do the unveiling: that job belonged to Naughty Boy, the U.K. producer who was spotted in a recording studio with the 22-year-old ex-boy bander this weekend. There is nothing but love for what was left behind. thats why we don’t mind. 😉 #2016 #zaughty #zindabad,” Naughty Boy posted with the song on Soundcloud, hinting at an extensive collaboration with Malik that will likely be showcased in full next year.
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We know that Naughty Boy (real name: Shahid Khan) and Malik have worked together before, on material that was previously positioned for One Direction. We also know that 1D fans are not happy with Naughty Boy, who engaged in a Twitter standoff with the group’s Louis Tomlinson prior to Monday’s demo release. However, what else is known about the 30-year-old producer-songwriter currently shaping Malik’s first batch of solo music? Here’s a quick primer on the British music whiz for those previously unfamiliar:
1. He’s worked closely with Emeli Sandé. After first meeting the U.K. starlet when they were both unknown musicians in 2009, Naughty Boy became a key producer on her acclaimed 2012 debut, Our Version of Events. Naughty Boy co-wrote nine songs on the album, including the international hit single “Heaven,” while producing eight tracks and being featured on the song “Daddy.” Naughty Boy and Sandé also teamed up on Wiley’s single “Never Be Your Woman” and Chipmunk’s “Diamond Rings,” both of which were early U.K. hits for the producer and featured Sandé performing the hook.
2. His debut album has a lot of guest stars. After making his name as a producer in the first few years of the decade, Naughty Boy released an album as a lead artist, Hotel Cabana, in August 2013 (the full-length hit U.S. shores last May). Along with U.K. stars like Tinie Tempah, Ella Eyre and Wiley, the album also features artists that U.S. audiences are well aware of, including Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Wiz Khalifa and Bastille. The eclectic dance LP — which has sold 7,000 copies in the U.S. to date, according to Nielsen Music — was conceived as the audio equivalent of a hotel, with the producer checking in the listener and guiding them through a tour of his most interesting guests. Sandé appears on seven songs.
3. He has a Top 20 hit of his own. Speaking of Sam Smith, the shimmering dance-pop song “La La La” reached No. 19 on the Hot 100 chart last summer after being featured on Hotel Cabana and becoming a global hit (as in, a massive global hit, with over 500 million YouTube views). Along with Smith’s “Stay With Me” and the Disclosure collaboration “Latch,” “La La La” helped establish the singer as a pop music force in the States, and Smith usually performs a slowed-down version of the single during his headlining concerts.
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4. He almost worked with Britney Spears. Back in 2013, when “La La La” was slowly taking off overseas, Naughty Boy collaborated on music with William Orbit, who had been working on Spears’ Britney Jean LP. Sadly, Naughty Boy didn’t have time to fully commit to Britney’s most recent full-length: “It was more a thing where I wasn’t able to come to L.A. at the time… as I was promoting ‘La La La’ around the world,” the producer explained to Idolator in November 2013. “It’s not an issue. I’m sure next time!”
5. He built his first studio with his Deal Or No Deal winnings. After dropping out of college and working for a Domino’s Pizza, Naughty Boy landed on the game show Deal Or No Deal in 2005, and won enough money to set up his recording haven in his parents’ garden shed. “I just thought: ‘I have to think out of the box. If what I want to do is ridiculous, then to get there I’m going to have to do something equally ridiculous,'” he said in an interview last year. “And a game show was that. But I didn’t know I was gonna win £44,000!” And with that stroke of luck, Naughty Boy’s Domino’s days were over.