With a talent for merging emo-trap and Afropop, Nigerian singer-songwriter Khaid (real name: Sulaimon Shekoni Solomon) has all the makings of a star. His melodic TikTok freestyles earned him considerable traction and have made him the marquee artist at Lagos-based Neville Records (founded by comedian Sydney Talker) at just 17 years old. “Freestyling provides me with the opportunity to create flows and good lines,” Khaid tells Apple Music, “so when I want to write a song, I might take a freestyle and put lyrics to it.” DIVERSITY is the result of an 18-month-long artist development scheme—during which Khaid progressed as a songwriter, live performer, and fine art enthusiast. “The EP shows how I lived in the past while diversifying into different genres of music,” says Khaid. “Each of us is made up of many parts—discover them all and enjoy the diversity.” Over six tracks, he blends the freedom of trap with local influences, and straddles the booming bass and heaving drums of amapiano as he reflects on his streetwise upbringing. By turns self-aware, confident, and full of flair, Khaid is setting himself up to be the new wonderboy of Afropop—a goal he asserts across DIVERSITY with the recurring mantra “shleet,” a term he created to signify “a young, fresh blood doing something new.” Here, Khaid discusses the EP, track by track. “WITH YOU” “One of my friends had a girlfriend, and they had issues. At times, he would say he’s going to trust her no more, and other times you’d actually see him [smiling] on a call with [her]. I used to tease him: ‘Yo, you just want to be with this girl.’ It’s not a heartbreak song; it’s a more happy vibe—though it’s kind of mixed because [I’m not] feeling heartbroken, and [I’m not feeling] too happy about a relationship that I don’t have. The phrase ‘GPS on my sound’ means I have a sound that you can locate. The lyrics came from me and Sydney Talker, my boss and manager. I wrote the song on an entirely different beat. When I was done recording, we had the vocals sent to [producer] Ozedikus. I was actually looking for a beat that would differentiate my sound—a beat that has a balance of Afro and a little bit of trap in it.” “SKI” “We had the producer Mage come down to Lagos because it’s an emo-trap song, and it was important that we sit down and watch the beat-making process. The word ‘ski’ makes for a melodic hook. It could also mean, ‘OK, I’m trapping and I’m happy that I’m trapping,’ just to express how I feel—as if to say, ‘Let me be, bro.’ The lyric ‘I’m just 17, but I got voices like Adele’ is me sending a message. You can hear Adele utilizing her voice [as an instrument] in almost all her songs, so I think I had a little inspiration from her. The lyric ‘I was skipping all the classes in school/Because I spent my school fees’ is true because, when I was 14 or 15, I really didn’t like school. At one time, my dad had given me [money for my] school fees and said, ‘OK, you’ve got to pay.’ But because I was already not going to school, I just used the money to enjoy myself at that time. As for the mention of Adderall, that’s not my life; I don’t live like that.” “AKPAKO” “To be ‘akpako’ means to come from the streets. I have guys in the streets that are just ready to fight for me. I [experienced] living in the streets. I decided to write lyrics about the type of life I was living before. I had another beat I wrote ‘Akpako’ on, and we had the vocals sent to Ozedikus, who added this spiritual feel to it. He makes the difference in everything that he does.” “BLESSED” “I see [fewer] people doing things and actually putting God in it. So, I was just like, why not add this spiritual feeling to [the EP]? On this one, I was freestyling. I had the melodies in my head but not the lyrics yet. With ‘Blessed,’ I think I developed my confidence because that’s actually provided me the opportunity to be who I want to be, say things I feel like I want to say. Where I came from, doing this type of trap song, people will actually look at you like, ‘Bro, what are you doing?’ because you’re from the streets. I think I really want change. Success, to me, is when the trap sound is fully accepted. Not just the hip-hop sound, but that different types of sound are fully accepted.” “FIRE” “We needed a party jam to make people dance. I was just basically freestyling. This song was something I did in order to grow musically, to just write and keep on writing. We actually recorded the vocals and sent it to Yung Willis, the producer, to give it this vibe that you want to groove to. Amapiano has this bass that actually hits you. I think that’s why people love the South African sound so much.” “BAD MAN” “The ‘Bad Man’ is actually just the type of guys I used to be around within the streets. There’s no ‘good boy’ in anything we did. The lyric ‘I don’t want to die with my dreadlocks’ is because [I would] just be kidding around, saying, ‘You go to hell if you die with long hair.’ My particular hairstyle is actually just a completion of the type of look we want to give the audience. I don’t see myself as a leader of a new generation. I see myself as just one amongst many because I can’t really stand out. I just let the fans see me the type of way they want to see me. But actually, I think above the crowd. I still have a lot of work to do to put myself out there—to stand up.”

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