It’s easier to look behind you than ahead. When I think back to my years as a teen, I have vivid and fond memories. However, there is no way I could look ahead and imagine anything about my life at fifty years old while in my teens. That’s how life is. I have the ability to tell my story about my teen years, but it would be from the view of a fifty year old man. It might be interesting, but only to an older audience. If the teen could tell his own story, it would be of interest to his peers, and maybe even some older folks. This is the case with singer Khalid Robinson’s new album American Teen. It’s the story of a nineteen year old, told by way of music. Not just an ordinary teen, but one with great musical talent. How is he able to create such a marvelous collection of songs? Let’s take a look at his life leading up to the point of American Teen.
Khalid Robinson was born on February 11, 1998, in Fort Stewart, Georgia. He spent his childhood in various locations including Fort Campbell in Kentucky, Fort Drum in Watertown, New York, and six years in Heidelberg, Germany because of his mother Linda Wolfe’s career in the military. Wolfe worked as a supply technician for over 10 years and eventually earned an opportunity to sing in the US Army Band. His mother sacrificed opportunities to pursue her own artistic dreams in order to raise him. In high school he studied singing and musical theater. During his senior year of high school, the family moved to El Paso, Texas, and Khalid graduated from Americas High School in 2016.
During my school years I met a lot of children of active military parents. Every once in a while I became friends with them before they suddenly had to move on to another place. I really didn’t think about how it felt to move around so much. Khalid did not have much opportunity to establish long running friendships. However, Khalid did have his mother. The sacrifices she made for him did not stop her from encouraging him to find his own musical voice. Khalid has said his mother is his biggest musical inspiration, and I can understand him well. When one of your parents is a musician, the encouragement is just…..different. I recently was talking with a friend and told him of a time while in high school I was contemplating quitting the marching band. I had grown tired of marching and wanted to play in a different setting. When told there was no alternative I went to my father and explained that I wanted to stop playing in the band. He encouraged me not to quit, and I stayed until graduation, and then to college. Without my dad, I might have stopped playing music at that point.
I’m not sure if Khalid faced any musical forks in the road like I did. If so, I’m sure his mother would have offered proper encouragement to steer him down the right road. The big difference between Khalid and other high school kids is that most of us were preparing for college, Khalid was preparing to release his album American Teen.
Remember, Khalid graduated in the spring of 2016. He reached No. 2 on the Billboard Twitter Emerging Artists chart in July 2016, his single “Location” began charting, while Khalid began appearing on many publications’ “Artists you need to know” lists, including Billboard, Yahoo, Buzzfeed, and Rolling Stone. “Location” finished the year 2016 at No. 20 on the Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart and reached the Top 10 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart on January 21, 2017. While talking about the song in an interview with Pigeons & Planes, Khalid expressed his passion of the song’s beat: “Location is a song that came to me out of no where. From the first time I heard the beat play, the words flew out. Hearing the chords instantly took me the first stage of a relationship. Young love, man. It’s a crazy thing. I started making music in the winter of 2015 so this is one of my most developed songs so far.” The story of an American teen was beginning to be told.
Khalid sold out every venue on his 21-city January–February 2017 US “Location Tour”, including the 1,500-capacity Tricky Falls in El Paso, and the tour continued in Europe. His début studio album American Teen, was released on March 3, 2017.
Before I started to listen to American Teen, I must admit I didn’t know what to expect. I have heard a lot of good music from young artists, but nothing that actually told the story of youth – from the young person’s perspective. About four or five songs in I understood I was listening to something special. Khalid possesses a mature singing voice defying his nineteen years, but the songs accurately tell his teen story. DJBooth discusses the album further: “American Teen is an appropriate title for a début album that touches on the cornerstones of the teenage experience―love, heartbreak, adventure, drugs and the acceptance of being young and naïve. Khalid truly lives in the moment, he isn’t nostalgic for the past or looking forward to the unknown future. American Teen is an artist capturing the soaring emotions of a boy meeting the world.”
Usually when I hear a young artist breaking out right out of high school, I am a little sceptical. However, Khalid’s début offering just feels like the beginning of so much more. Get ready folks, this American Teen has a long time to grow.