Ray Bans and ropechains may be excessive accessories for an 18-year-old, but they're the style staples for North Carolina's up-and-coming spitta, Krushai.
The two fashion pieces eventually inspired the name of his latest mixtape, "Ray Bans and Ropechains," which was voted high on Datpiff with more than 90,000 downloads after its June 24 release. After signing with Biltmore Music Group, the buzz worthy debut allowed him to drop his breakout single "Legal" on radio stations nationwide.
Rewind to his earlier years and Krushai, real name Khalid Amir Ahmad-Bey, was simply a rapping toddler at three. "I started with basic rhymes like 'knick knack patty whack," Krushai recalls. "It was just something I was doing for fun." He eventually remixed his government name with the word 'crucial' to form his rapper moniker.
Growing up in a Snoop Dogg-filled household and reared by family members in the music biz (including rapper uncles and a reggae-singing mother), Krushai decided he would take on a rap career by 13.
"[My friends and I] had groups and i would be the writer for everybody," he said, revealing that he was often unselfish with his self-made masterpieces. "My problem was I would make everyone sound better than I was." Though he flip-flopped between bands (some named the Young Ones and the Crucial Squad), Krushai always opted for the solo route.
Though the 5'11' lyricist cites KiD CuDi, Frank Ocean, Drake and 50 Cent as his biggest influences, Khalid hopes to be the standout star of hip-hop's newest and youngest generation.
"I wanna be looked at as the new hip-hop: clean cut, no curse words, no tattoos, (I have one though its's not noticeable) just a brand new start of an idea of what it's like to be different than everybody else."
While abstaining from vulgar language is not common for most mainstream artists, Krushai said his mother is responsible for the censored decision.
"I grew up with a belt. *laughs* I cursed my tail off [in high school] and my mom sorta knew 'cause I would talk in my sleep," he said. "My mom in the morning was like, 'You cuss in school?' and I was like momma know everything! She was like, 'Oh I know, and you gon' stop. From then on, i got it in my head that I didn't wanna cuss when I'm rapping."
Whether it's revamping Kendrick Lamar's "Rigamortus" (see "He Mad") or reveling in his youth (hear "Perfect World"), the Charlotte native keeps his laid-back attitude in check. "I think it's an advantage to me being young," he said. "As long as I stay humble and don't get ahead of myself, I'll always make a point in my career to develop the bridge between old and new generations."
Krushai recently flew to NYC for a private listening session, where he had attendees rate his singles for his premiere opus, 'Dream Catcher.' The social media generation has cultivated a space for many rising artists to receive instant feedback on their work and Krushai recognized the importance of constructive criticism.
"I want people to look at me as if I have to earn this, not just I can do this and that," he said. "That's ok for 50 Cent but I have to create my own lane."
Krushai's nonfictional tales of teenage struggle have allowed him to maintain the right balance in his music - light enough for high school-and-younger listeners to party to but emotionally intriguing so that even mature audiences can appreciate it. While he can relate to the age group that Diggy Simmons caters to, Khalid prefers keeping serious business matters on the "outside" and letting his own experiences, whether with girls or swagger, attract ears.
"I wanna be a drug but a good thing," Krushai said. "I want them to say, 'I need this, this is something great."
Sample three of his tracks over at krushai.com and check a teaser of his "Legal" video below.