He’s going from deadlines to headlines. 28 year old Shahid Khan, is the tall, big built, chubby cheeked, infectiously excitable new #TEAMUK music star that goes by the stage name Naughty Boy.
In a quiet ground floor studio in the leafy suburb of Ealing, a young Asian man is making music history, and breaking cultural stereotypes simultaneously.
In a world where the biggest celebrities have always had big talent, coupled with a big personality- Naughty Boy is about to join the ranks of those grand players on the list.
The talent of frank Sinatra, Richard Branson, Kanye West and their ilk cannot be denied, but what takes them to transcend their specialist boundaries into household name forte, are their larger than life personalities. NB is very enthusiastic, likable and has a huge personality for a relative newcomer to the music industry.
He’s young, understatedly dressed and grounded but already showing serious signs, of Roc A Fella legend boss, Dame Dash style opulence that threatens to sweep him off his feet.
One of the first things that happen, as I am welcomed into the music-making den, is an ‘extremely important telephone call that NB has to take’ from his sister. He politely explains ‘’excuse me-this could be god news. I lost my diamond ring earlier today, at my mums in her bidet in the toilet, so my sister said she’d search for it’’
Ten seconds later he breathes a sigh of relief and reveals ‘‘that’s amazing, she found it, that’s saved me 10k’’. As I stare open mouthed, he attempts an explanation that still gob smacks me, ‘’I can’t wear gold so I waited until I could afford diamonds’’. That’s cleared that up then.
NAUGHTY BOY MAKING THOSE HITS!
During the 10k diamond ring call, I take it all in. his Ealing film studio based lair, a tiny all black studio, dark walls, sofas, totally cluttered with creativity. A multitude of sights hit you all simultaneously. A large colourful fish tank where previous piranha fish have been overfed leaving just goldfish, a fluffy tiger print cat called Bob, who chills out sedate, whilst all around him the buzzing bee colony works, a lone Emeli Sande plaque for a million sales on one wall, a table over flowing with favourite water to the stars- Figi water, piles of Musicweek magazines which mention NB and his worldwide chart positions (‘’ I’m No 1 in Poland and top 5 in 20 countries!), a remote control helicopter (has rapper DMX been here? That’s a different story!), a piano, numerous computers, flickering screens at various stages of ‘download complete’, left over take away food and a cross trainer right behind the producers chair ‘’I like to hop on for 20 minutes daily to keep myself healthy and give myself a break’’.
NB’S STAIRMASTER AND FISH AQUARIUM.
Stacked up all alongside one wall ,are boxes piled high of Nike sneakers, which also trail along the studios exterior wall. It’s the sponsorship freeness that comes with success.
As he welcomes me to look around, and gestures for me to take a seat, NB proudly states ‘’look! I’m posh, eating bread and olive oil’’. A statement that tells us a million things in eight words.
NAUGHTY BOYS STUDIO TABLE, CHAOS!
It’s clear that whilst he still lives at home with his parents in Watford, this studio space is his first home. Bottles of moisturizer, body wash and scented candles are piled onto the sound desk, muddled with notes about his work with his now colleagues and friends including Alesha Dixon, JLS, Lily Allen, Alexandra Burke Jennifer Hudson. Professor Green, Cheryl Cole, Tinie Tempah and more.
Just a few days earlier, taking my place on the same sofa were American singer Britney Spears, as well as her new albums producer William Orbit ,who NB says he’s always been a fan of ‘’ I’m a fan of Ray of Light which he did for Madonna, so was very excited to have him here at the studios’’. These should be dizzying heights for the new boy on the scene, but he’s taken to it like a fish to water.
Noticing me smiling at the Figi water bottles, he states ‘’oh I like Fiji water because when I went to see Simon Cowell, who said I was a music genius, he had lots. It’s now on my rider along with Grey goose vodka. Oh, and chicken wings’’.
However on the subject of his chicken wings, he’s quick to chortle ‘‘Emeli and me rejected a black card from Nandos (which celebs get free meals with), because you practically have to sell your soul to get one, and then you have to promote it all day long. I personally believe, that once you make a success of yourself, you can pay for your own chicken, and don’t need to pimp yourself out for a free dinner’’. Very admirable. A young star with strict morals, clearly in the game for longevity, as opposed to selling his brand cheaply to anyone who wants a part of him.
NAUGHTY BOYS PARTNER IN RHYME-EMELI SANDE SITS PROUD ON HIS STUDIO WALL.
The ‘’Emeli’’ he refers to is the one and only songstress Emeli Sande.
NB is the mad wizard character behind Brit success story Emili Sande. Whilst Emile seemed to fly constantly into our reality around the Olympics, appearing on every live show and TV set, NB was quietly rubbing his hands with glee at their success. I myself was one of the cynical journo’s that was sick over being bombarded by Emeli during that time- until I met NB and heard their story. Now, I’m respectful of their tenacious journey.
The story of how NB met Emeli, and bought her down from her hometown of Glasgow, to record in his little Ealing studio, is now legendary in music circles.
Both were young and struggling. Emile had plans on becoming a doctor, whilst NB had dropped out of a marketing degree, was working as a pizza delivery guy and at his nearby Watford Hospital as well as at the Townhouse Studios as an apprentice, where he would learn to use the equipment when he wasn’t making Elton John and others cups of tea.
After dropping out of uni in 2005, he did two things that both bore fruit. He applied for a Princes Trust grant that funded him £5000 for equipment. Speaking to the Watford Observer in 2009 about the opportunity at the time, NB said “The Prince’s Trust has a scheme where they want to help people who they feel can set up their own business. I wanted to make music but I didn’t have any equipment. They said they wanted to help me’’. He also applied to appear on Noel Edmonds Deal or no deal, where he won a mind blowing £44,000.
With these funds he was well on the way to building his Ealing based music studio, to replicate his mum and dads shed where he usually worked, and spotted Emile singing at industry showcase event ILUVLIVE and from here they gelled. NB put her up in a nearby hotel whilst they made music. The first set that made it successfully to the publics ears, were hits for Chipmunk ‘’Diamond rings’’ and Wileys ‘Never be your woman’, both featuring, a then unknown, Emeli Sande.
Thereafter they continued to make music together, resulting in Emeli getting a record deal with Virgin Records, and subsequently NB song writing and producing the majority of her debut album, Our Version of Events.
With Emeli’s star rising ever higher, record labels wanted the money maker behind her too, and so In 2012, NB signed a three-year publishing deal with Sony ATV, as well as a recording contract to release one album on Virgin. That album ‘Hotel Cabana’ is released August 26th 2013. ‘’Hotels intrigue me cos they’re bad places. I love the idea of what goes on at luxury hotels. Affairs, the fact that they’re designed for sex. Sexually themed. That’s what inspired me. I’m fascinated by it. My album is one man’s journey into Hotel cabana, a fantasy world’’
NB’s debut album features a stellar line up of UK music names. Of course his muse Emeli features, as well as chart topper Tinie Tempah who introduces the album playing the Justin Timberlake role to Jay Z’s Magna Carter. Ed Sheeran also takes part AND NB exclaims incredulously ‘’I’m bringing back Gabrielle!’’ (She of ‘Dreams can come true’’ nineties fame). Everything about NB is different. Even his music marketing. The album already has a trailer hosted by future star George the Poet. Like Jigga famously said recently ‘’New Rules’’
During our chat, NB isn’t alone. I’ve walked in at the end of an all day session he’s having with two young, Caucasian men, Moos and James, who go by the producer duo moniker Mojam. I nod a perfunctory greeting, as NB reveals Mojam are now signed to him, but used to be a part of the huge rabble of young, chart topping boys from Chingford, Essex called Blazing Squad. Suddenly I’m more intrigued! Both seem much more grown up and wizened since their hip hop boy band days, and are clearly a good duo for NB to bounce off daily in the studio, as they banter amicably together throughout our chat.
Whilst there is laughter, whoops and shrieks as well as regular booming music from the speakers, Bob the cat is unusually chilled. NB laughs and tells me Bobs used to it ‘’ Bob is my and Emeli’s cat, we got her as a kitten to keep us company in the early days. He’s the most pampered cat alive. We regularly take Bob to Harrods animal spa where he has blueberry facials. He has many personas. Sometimes he’s Bobby Brown, other times he’s Bob Marley and on occasion Michael ‘’Bob’’ le!’’. With that last statement NB is clearly made for this business and already tiptoeing into Mariah Carey pet decadence areas. (It may amuse you to know that, in disbelief I googled blueberry facials for pets at Harrods and they do exist!). He continues “I welcome and embrace the good life, why not?,I grew up on a council estate. My dad’s a taxi driver’’.
NB clearly wants the best for his cat and himself. Defending his decision to pay exorbitant rent in a location as coveted as Ealing Film Studios he justifies ‘’ it is expensive rent but what’s money compared to such an inspiring location? I see them filming Downtown Abbey here, Madonna shoots videos here , I walk past Rowan Atkinson often- it gives me bigger ambition’’
When I probe as to whether he see’s himself as a new producer turned artist like Timberland, Scott Storch and Kanye West before him, he shakes his head violently ‘’Me and Emeli signed to Virgin at same time. I always saw myself as a producer, not producer/ artist. I had an idea for a hotel inspired concept album. So I made it’’.
He loves the music rock and roll lifestyle, but doesn’t like his face to be too prominent, preferring to remain slightly mysterious. Whilst I’m with him, he plays me the then as yet unreleased video for his latest single ‘’lifted’’ featuring Emeli. Neither appears in the video except for a cameo in a picture frame. He is familiar with the concept of over saturation in the media already. ‘’ I’m not rushing in and rushing out of this game. I want longevity. I wanna bring something diff to this generation, I want people to connect to my name. I love art; I could be the Banksy of the music world. I’m excited about art and Banksy. Banksy excites people, I wanna excite people’’.
With this statement, the verbal peddling just rolls faster and faster down the mountain with all of NB’s enthusiasm for life spiraling out ‘’ I also have an alter ego… not a messiah but a naughty boy. I’m cheeky but not bad, I’m mischievous! I couldn’t believe when I did a phoner interviewer this week for an Australian radio show and they swore and said pussy on air!, I’m saving to move my family out to Dubai!. I also want a property in Kensington!. I’m No 1 in the UAE! I’ve gotta get in with the Qatari Prince, that would be a good look!’’
Clearly NB knows who to connect with and who the next new stars will be, months before we do. I ask him to name some. He champions ‘’ a new singer called Charlie- she’s really good, a band called Chasing Grace and a rapper called Mic Righteous’’
NB WITH HIS CAT-THE INFAMOUS ”BOB”
Guts, sweat and years of hard work and skills, have poured the cement, for Naughty Boy to forever stand tall in the walk of fame. He has a firm grasp on what’s new, and more importantly; what’s next. According to the diary on his studio wall, where August 26th is a circled reminder for his albums release to the public- he is!
Next it was off to see my old mate Giggs who had invited me to a screening of his brand new video for his Mark Ronson single ”Is it gangsta-yes yes yes”
Directed by Amy Winehouse’ one time boyfriend-the actor and director Reg Travis- the video was like a mini movie and really showed a great new side to Giggs…the actor!
The short film was shot very well, in a classic Only Fools and Horses style where Giggs is seen as an intense, broody character at a card game that gets caught up in a beef but ends up slipping onstage to join his band at a big live performance just in the nick of time. The ending is classic comedy gold!
In the house for the very special east end cinema screening were influential faces like CHOICEFM’s Manny Norte, actor Femi, music manager Trenton, a very suave looking Reg Travis and more.
Giggs and his business partner Buck were both very professional suited and booted slickly,they welcomed us all, thanked us for coming and introduced the film to us very eloquently.
SN1 presented a film and asked ”is it gangsta?”. It most certainly was!
I ended the week at the Grand Connought Rooms in Holborn, for the annual MOBO nominations panel. this is my 18th year- yes -i’ve been at every one!. This year it was opened up to a lot more taste makers and music industry peeps. invited alongside me were music managers, record label staff, dj’s, bloggers, writers, music fans and PR company heads.
THE MOBO NOMINEE PANEL 2013!
The debates and banter about who should and shouldn’t make this years shortlist was heated and intense-the way it should be- especially when it came to Best hip hop and Best African categories. Can’t wait to hear the finalists? Make sure you’re at the MOBO nominee party next week!
Meanwhile, KK presented me with a MOBO- for best posing since 1996!