Singer Khari King Eyes the Stars With a Little Help from Friends

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Khari King

It only takes one person to believe in your dreams for them to come true: you. Luckily, Khari King, CSOM ’19, has many more believers than that as he dreams of a music career. After releasing his first song last April, an EP in December, a series of covers, and projects, King is determined to establish himself on campus, in Boston, and elsewhere as a creative force in R&B, hip hop, and rap.

King, an Atlanta, Ga. native and self-described family man, has been surrounded by those of leaders and creative, cultural minds. Among painters, to musicians, and an NAACP chapter leader, King has been enveloped in the artistic community from a young age. Though the influences were numerous, singing was never something King thought would interest him long term. His casual relationship with music was as ordinary as any other. But when he got to BC, those things changed.

After Sing It to The Heights in 2016, one of his fellow members on Sexual Chocolate, had told King his voice was something to be cultivated. It was then that he decided, it was time to hit record. Many would not know what to expect, walking into a professional recording studio for the first time. King was no different. Sitting isolated in the recording booth, singing with soul, may have seemed a daunting task. More daunting would be the exit, back into the world, out to listen to whatever came out of you.

Headphones on. Pursed lips. Play.

“And after I heard the song I thought ‘I love this,’” he said.

At this moment, Khari understood the real chance he had a chance making something great.

“When I got here, I didn’t even think about it or pursue it,” King said. “But if I can do this for a living, why not giving it a shot.”

This kind of discovery is emblematic of the ebb and flow King strives for as an musician. Organically, through his friends, the extent of his talents were discovered. In song and style, he also hopes to continue down natural avenues of progression. King wants to expand his roots in a mellow kind of R&B and soul, while foraying into the realms of rap and hip-hop. The wide swath of style may seem daunting to some, but this trans-genre movement is no accident, as it represents the dynamism King hopes to attain.

“I’m a big fan of the chameleon artist that can go into any sort of genre and make it their own,” he said.

This notion of fluidity and flow is something he employs in his process. Starting with percussive elements, King establishes a base before adding embellishments through piano, guitar strums, and vocal hits. King attempts to “feel out the process” of instrumental development, at which point he says most of the work is done. At this crucial juncture, King finds the right way to splice himself seamlessly into his creation.

“It’s sort of unorthodox, but I’ve seen some other people do it too, but I just get on the microphone and start humming and seeing if there is anything I like,” he said. “When I play it back I go “Okay, I like that and I’ll use that as a melody and so on.”

By employing basic vocal machinations and movements, King explores the best way to present himself in song. He puts impetus on the idea that he must tread carefully with each addition and think about how to elegantly gift ideas and personality to his listeners. Without such tactful balance, the message may be lost in a given song. This process allows King to place a cohesive lyric element, in content and style, in relation to the other sounds he has crafted. For King, the delivery is one of the primary driving forces that distinguishes what the content is about and where it’s supposed to go.

King says that he knows a song is right when he sings it. All the thoughts put into the song are forgotten as he loses himself in the finished work.

“When you’re really passionate about it when you are singing and you don’t realize you have gone through the entire song or take, that’s when you know you’ve really immersed or lost yourself in the entire project,” he said.

As a result of all this time spent on perfecting the process, King hopes to yield a strong connection to his audience. King makes a point to speak about things he knows others can relate to. Though this is fueled by events or feelings in his own life, he nonetheless is very cognizant of how others can take his words in.

“There is this culture surrounding music that is just meant to glorify experiences people haven’t experienced themselves,” King said. “As much as music is supposed to be about you, it is supposed to be for the people you are giving it to.”

In his music, King speaks about relationship, nervousness, friends, and life in general. Their impact allows for him to connect to his peers on issues which all can relate. Recently, he wrote a song having money, talking to a girl, getting her to hear him out, and the nervousness that is associated with all of that. For King, the beauty of music is that listeners can still put themselves into his songs with separate experiences, but can still connect to him.

“My ideal date is a burrito from Pelon and a beer, just hanging out,” he said. “I can’t give you something that I don’t know or I don’t have and that is something I hope people take away from my music, that I’m just like you.”

It is exactly the personal relatability that influenced the favorite line he has written. Back in December, during a project he produced and wrote himself called “Messy Painter,” King captured something simple yet profound.

“It starts off and it says ‘You say you don’t love me the way that you used to anymore’ and that—and it’s sort of a small thing—but it’s a relatable all encompassing sort of line that people can hear and be like ‘Yeah. I’ve been through that.’ or ‘I understand that,’” he said. “You can derive so many personal experience from other people just from that small part there.”

In a roundabout way, this line also connects King to his roots. He laughed and recalled the first person he sang the line to—his mother. Valuing his mother’s critique, who has seen him grow up musically since the age of six her input was of considerable importance.

“But she said the first line of that song really highlighted my vocal trajectory,” he said.

That trajectory can really go places and King knows it. As he prepares for the summer, which will see performances in his hometown and New York, King eyes even bigger dreams. Though he expressed that it was more important to connect with people then win validation, he hopes to be a Grammy-winning artist. Detractors would rightly label King as a dreamer, but even there, King is conditioned-well to combat pessimism.

“My mom would always tell me, and I would always hear from other people, ‘If people aren’t laughing at your dreams then you’re not dreaming hard enough,” he said.

As King looks to the future, strong and unfettered, his attitude sets him up for success. He recently released a cover of Chance the Rapper’s “Sunday Candy,” with more covers on the way, along with a summers worth of experience. King will likely return as a force on campus to watch out for.

King was brimming with confidence, but exuded an air of humility for where he came from. With a reverential eye to the past, he looks ardently toward the future. Much like his musical process, each moment is taken in with care. Poetically verbalizing universal sentiments, whether it be in the booths in studios or in Eagle’s Nest, is sure to make waves at BC and beyond.

Featured Image by Lizzy Barrett / Heights Editor

Caleb Griego

Caleb Griego is the arts & review editor of The Heights. He has put his earphones through the wash at least a dozen times and they still work. He still doesn't know who to thank, so he prays to all deities just to be safe.

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