LOGO NAUGHTY WHITE

The astonishing success of Shahid ‘Naughty Boy’ Khan shows no signs of slowing down any time soon. Over the last few years, the Watford born producer and songwriter has had a UK No.1 single with ‘La La La’, featuring a then unknown Sam Smith and three top 10 hits with ‘Wonder’ and ‘Lifted’ both featuring Emeli Sandé, then latest smash ‘Runnin’ (Lose it all)’ which features Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin. ‘Hotel Cabana’, his debut album featuring Sandé, Ed Sheeran, Tinie Tempah and Ella Eyre reached #2 in the UK album charts.  The video for ‘La La La’ has had over 670 million views to date, has been No.1 on iTunes in 43 countries and Top 10 on iTunes in 83 countries. ‘La La La’ won two MOBOs for ‘Best Song’ and ‘Best Video’ while Naughty Boy won a UKMVA for ‘Vevo Best New Act’. ‘La La La’ was also nominated for ‘British Video’ and ‘British Single’ at 2014’s BRIT awards.In 2015 Naughty Boy pulled off a startling coup with Beyoncé joining him to feature on ‘Runnin’ (Lose It All)’, singing alongside the up-and-coming South London singer Arrow Benjamin (who proves that Naughty Boy has lost none of his skill for finding exciting new talent). Already certified gold in the UK, the track is an emotional piece of modern dance music which hit #4 in the UK charts, spent 6 weeks in the top 10 and went to #1 on iTunes in 31 countries.  The incredible video has so far racked up 150 Million Youtube views and was nominated for a 2016 Brit Award plus three UKMVAs (including Best Pop Video & Best Cinematography) and the Vevo Vision Award.

Unusually, Khan only began making music eight years ago. Before that, he merely dabbled distractedly with music, teaching himself to play on the school piano during lunchtime or unconsciously creating compositions in his head. “I didn’t have any tuition, I just seemed to know how to play, which is weird,” he notes. “I thought that was totally normal, to be able to play piano or to hear in my head how the piano should sound, the drums, an idea for a top-line. I didn’t realise most people don’t spend all day composing in their head.”

Naughty’s musical diet at home was Pakistani films and music, in particular the works of Yash Chopra. Bollywood isn’t necessarily musically an influence, but the emotions, grandeur and drama that it inhabits has been a big reference point. “Because that music is so epic, that’s why I do such anthemic stuff I think. Bollywood is all about love and destiny and rich and poor and I constantly heard that throughout my life. I applied that idea to making English music rather than Indian music or British Indian music.” While he was aware of Western sounds at school, it wasn’t until after he left that it really made its impact. In later years, Timbaland and Aaliyah’s ‘Try Again’, which he heard at the age of 17, became his impetus to really consider a career in music. “I remember hearing ‘Try Again’ and that was when I became amazed by music and its possibilities,” he says. “It took four years before I sat down on a computer, but that day is when I really started thinking about how I wanted to make music.”

Bought up on an estate in Watford by his homemaker mum and taxi driver dad, Khan simply didn’t consider a career in music would be viable. “It was nothing I would have dared to have thought to do seriously; I just assumed I shouldn’t go into it.” After doing A’Levels, he embarked on a serious of temporary jobs, including a shop, a hotel (where he spotted Dizzee in the spa wearing a cap) and at Watford General Hospital doing data. “They never lasted long; I either left or got fired,” he laughs. In 2005, he decided to try university, but the theoretical Music Tech course only held his attention for a few weeks; he left and successfully applied for a grant from the Prince’s Trust. With the £5000, he bought a copy of Reason and an Apple Mac and persuaded his parents to let him use their shed as a studio. He came into more money soon after; a friend’s mum persuaded him to enter Deal Or No Deal, and after spending three weeks in Bristol, he walked away with £44,000 from Noel Edmond’s mysterious dealer!

Calling a friend who knew a friend who knew a friend who knew someone who knew the rapper Bashy, he persuaded the north London MC, at the time himself a bus driver, to travel to Watford where they recorded the seminal track ‘Black Boys’. One of the first UK urban tracks to be playlisted on MTV Base with a video paid for by Naughty, and used to promote Black History Month, the remix featured future chart-toppers Chipmunk, Tinie Tempah and Wretch 32. Since its 2007 release, Naughty Boy has risen rapidly through the ranks from novice beat-maker to in-demand drum programmer. After creating further hits for Wiley and Chipmunk, Naughty signed a publishing deal with Sony in 2009, followed by an artist deal with Virgin Records last year.

Another chance meeting with an upcoming Scottish singer called Emeli Sandé, who was in London to perform at industry showcase I Luv Live, became an incredibly productive pairing. On their very first session together, the pair wrote the No. 2 charting ‘Heaven’ and the No. 3 charting ‘Never Be Your Woman’. In the next session they created the top 10 hit ‘Diamond Rings. Now their symbiotic sonics have gone on to sell millions. Most recently Naughty has released two singles from his album ‘Hotel Cabana’, the top 10 single Wonder and the No.1 smash La la la; the single was one of the biggest selling British singles of 2013 clocking up over 1.1 million sales..

Naughty Boy’s sound, despite always changing, retains a unique and profound Britishness. Completely uninterested in emulating the US, or trying to create a American bubble-gum pop style hit singles, his extravagant, epic soundscapes play to a completely different sensibility. “I grew up admiring the likes of Timaband, and I’m still inspired by him and Pharrell, as well as the Bollywood soundtracks,” he says. “However, I want to bring the sound back to the UK and prove that the US sound has become somewhat stale, the same sound is being recycled over and over again for the same acts. I want to show that in Britain we make vital, innovative sounds that are as, if not more, valid than the big American producers.”

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