Scenic Drive (The Tape)
Since Khalid first debuted in 2017, he's been an emblem of the ever blurry line between pop and R&B, naturally resulting in some fans leaning more towards one version of him than the other. Scenic Drive is proudly for the latter group. The first songs, “Present” and “Backseat,” are solo outings, with the singer displaying a savvy proficiency in both the nostalgic past and the fluid present. But it's when he calls on some heavy-hitter peers for the remaining tracks that we're really reminded of his bona fides. “Retrograde” is a wounded fame-is-hard-but-love-is-harder jam that features Lucky Daye and 6LACK—with whom he's had a magnetic artistic chemistry since 2018's “OTW”—and duets with QUIN (“Brand New”) and Kiana Ledé (“Voicemail”) are tender in their intertwined melodies. On “Open,” he's joined by Majid Jordan for a sensual slow-burner, while “All I Feel Is Rain,” with JID, and “Scenic Drive,” with Smino and Ari Lennox, provide still soulful injections of hip-hop. Khalid's collaborators all have starpower on their own, but he's never outshined here; instead, he uses the unique qualities of his voice to highlight those of his guests to striking effect. For an artist who introduced himself as an “American teen,” Scenic Drive is silky smooth maturation.