If Lil Yachty is the King of Teens, Khalid is Gen Z Pied Piper — the 19 year-old breakout star's charismatic (and highly accurate) depiction of the teen experience has built him a loyal following. The "Location" singer's dulcet tones and relatable lyrics have seen his debut album a mainstay on the Billboard Hot 200 for most of 2017, and the 19 year-old won't rest until he's considered one of the greats. We asked the PAPER beautiful person and ultimate American Teen why he's ready to grow up.
When (and where) are you most creative?
At night in my bedroom.
How did you get your start?
When I wrote my first song "Saved" when I moved from New York to Texas.
What are you working on right now? Can you describe any current projects or activities?
Right now, I'm touring—having the time of my life with my best friends. Currently, I'm not working on any projects in particular, but hopefully will be soon.
What is success to you?
Success is happiness.
Do critics matter?
Sometimes, but only when it's positive. I've taught myself to ignore the negative critics and focus on the positive. Positivity is key.
Obviously you've seen success in your career but can you tell us about a time you failed?
When I auditioned for this thing called "Broadway Idol" in Northern New York and they picked three winners, but I wasn't one of them.
Do you think about legacy?
Yes, because I hope my legacy lives on and long.
What advice do you have for someone looking to break into your industry?
Persistence is key, and never give up even if all odds are pointed against you.
Did you ever give up (or want to give up)? What were the circumstances?
I've never given up and I've never wanted to give up ever in my life.
What trends in your field do you find most exciting / are you most optimistic about? What about your field is frustrating? What would you like to see change?
The trend in my field I find most exciting is collaborations. It's a pretty big thing right now to collaborate with other artists. A lot of people aren't really doing solo stuff anymore and the best and most popular songs right now come from collaborations. The thing about my field that is frustrating is how my privacy is very limited and I don't get to go out with my friends as much as I want to, but luckily, I get to bring my best friends with me where I go and on tour so we kind of go through everything I'm going through together.
How do you plan to build on your success so far? Is there anything you fear will set you back?
I'm going to keep working, writing, singing and growing. The only thing that can set me back is myself.
What was the first moment you knew you were going to be able to do this as a job – not necessarily your first big break or success, but the first time you thought, "This is it, this is my career"? The moment I wrote "Saved" and saw the reaction of my community was the moment that I realized this is what I am going to do with most of my life, but music will be a part of my life forever.
What's been the biggest choice you've had to make in your career so far?
What to name my album.
What is your morning routine like?
I wake up, then I wake my best friend Carlos up (he's my roommate). We talk about eating, but usually that doesn't happen until later in the day, then we usually play some video games. I don't really drink coffee, but I do love Sprite.
What are you most excited about for the future? (Can be about your career, your personal life, the world - anything.)
I'm most excited about my growth. I feel like I'm growing at a rapid rate and even though it's overwhelming, I can't wait to see where I'm at in a couple of years.
What are you most worried about for the future?
I'm most worried about losing the mentality that I have right now.
Are you good at giving advice? What is the best advice you've ever given?
I am good at giving advice. The best advice I've ever given is that you can't make everyone else happy in life all the time. The main person you should focus on creating happiness for is yourself because you sleep with yourself, you wake up with yourself, you have to live with yourself, and you are the one person that should matter the most.
Are you good at receiving advice? What is the best advice you've ever received?
I'm definitely good at receiving advice. The best advice I've ever received is to never give up on yourself.
What makes a person beautiful? What makes you beautiful?
Confidence makes a person beautiful. I think my positivity makes me beautiful and the fact that I smile a lot. Oh, and my hair ?
What are you most proud of?
I'm most proud of the fact that American Teen is 6 months in and still in the Top 10 on the Billboard 200.
Check out the rest of our Beautiful People here.
Photography by Kacie Tomita