When was the last time you were listening to a song and you heard a verse that made you immediately rewind the track to hear it again? To quote a Rakim lyric, “it’s been a long time.” Khaled, an emcee who hails from Libya, Africa, but grew up in Lexington, Kentucky, is looking to do something about this. “I’m really trying to get people excited about lyrics again,” he explains, “I’m trying to take it back to the days when rhyming actually mattered.” In an era where dance moves and ringtone sales give an artist more clout than actual talent, Khaled is able to combine his craftiness with genuine song writing ability to appease both hip hop purists and casual fans alike. Khaled’s goal may sound like an uphill battle to some, but he’s not worried, fighting uphill battles is in his blood. In Khaled’s case he gets it from his father, Fathi, who was part of a revolutionary movement in Libya.
Imprisoned for his role in a student protest against the government, Fathi was facing a shortened life in jail that would end with his execution. After five years of brutal, dehumanizing torture, Fathi amazingly managed to escape incarceration. Khaled spent the first few years of his life on the run, moving from city to city, as his father avoided spies and attempts on his life. Fathi and his family finally landed in Lexington, Kentucky, the former American home base for the National Front for the Salvation of Libya. "I remember going to the pool with my father as a child and all the kids staring at his back," Khaled explains. "It was scarred up from the daily whippings he got in jail. Things like that seemed so normal to me as a child...we were born into the struggle." Finally able to grow some roots of his own, Khaled began school and by the time he had reached the sixth grade he was already involved in Hip-Hop.
Fathi was a brilliant poet who undoubtedly passed the gene on to his son. Unfortunately, Fathi would never get to hear his son rhyme as he passed away when Khaled was only nine years old. As the years passed Khaled became more proficient and during high school he would become the king of the lunchroom with his witty battle lines that defeated all comers. After high school came college, and ghostwriting.
Khaled’s ghostwriting resume encompasses a variety of acts including up-and-coming rappers, veterans trying to re-establish themselves, and even R&B songstresses. He says most of his ghostwriting work was for album tracks rather than singles, but he did pen one Top 40 hit. His route to ghostwriting was aided by a chance encounter with Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's manager Steve Lopel. Lopel invited Khaled to go on tour with them, and while no record deal was ever agreed upon, Khaled used the opportunity to open networking avenues that he would soon be milking.
After years in the ghostwriting game, Khaled is ready to pick up the mic and make his impact on a rap industry that is in desperate need of new blood to carry the torch. "There are only a few new rappers that have the ability to really spit but also make songs that hook the listener," Khaled explains. "Not to mention content has been limited to strippers, jewelry, clubs, and drugs...is that really all there is to experience in life?" Khaled aims to make music that people can relate to but reaches farther than the same monotonous themes replayed on the radio.
With the rare combination of a quick wit, substance, and lyrical ability, there's no question Khaled’s time is now.