Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1101

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Naughty Boy: Naughty By Nature

Naughty Boy
Naughty Boy

Having produced and co-written the bulk of Britain’s best-selling album of 2012 - Emeli Sande’s six-times-Platinum “Our Version Of Events” - and seen his own chart-topping, million-selling international smash “La La La” become 2013’s biggest-selling single by a British artist, Watford, UK-raised
musician/producer/songwriter Naughty Boy now aims for a hat-trick of record-breaking successes with this month’s release of his own debut album “Hotel Cabana”, currently pioneered by the lavish strings and trip-hop beats of its new offshoot single - the euphoric, Emeli Sande-featuring “Lifted”.

Indeed, featuring a stellar cast of guest vocalists ranging from the aforementioned triple-BRIT-winning Ms Sande and legendary fellow Brit-soul diva Gabrielle to UK male rappers Tinie Tempah, Professor Green and Wretch 32, “Hotel Cabana” - a cinematically-ambitious concept album whose story follows the characters who inhabit a make-believe luxury hotel - additionally brings on board British pop/folk superstar Ed Sheeran, UK alt-rockers Bastille plus US hip hop maestro Wiz Khalifa - alongside a host of fresh UK talent including excellent upcoming soul man Sam Smith, chart-topping Rudimental teen songstress Ella Eyre, and new boy/girl duo Chasing Grace.

Meanwhile, its musical moods - interspersed by the poetic genius of narrator George The Poet - range from the finger-snapping piano-soul of the set’s (2012-released) first Top 10 offshoot single “Wonder” and shuffling funk of “Think About It” to the cinematic strings and upbeat stomp of the wistful “Hollywood” and the acoustic-guitar-strummed dramatic final goodbye of “Top Floor”.
Born Shahid Khan on New Years Day 1985, Naughty Boy’s first foray into a music career began in 2005 - the year in which he was not only awarded a grant of £5000 by The Princes Trust to help start up his business, but also won a whopping £44000 after appearing on Channel 4’s daytime TV game-show “Deal Or No Deal”! All of which would in turn enable him - after dropping out of studying at London’s Guildhall University - to purchase the necessary equipment to begin recording.

Following which Khan’s first hit as a producer and co-writer would indeed come along in 2009 with teenage rapper Chipmunk’s UK Top 10 hit “Diamond Rings” featuring the vocals of a then-unknown Emeli Sande. Who in turn would also guest - alongside East London grime rhymesmith Wiley - on Naughty Boy’s own first Top 10 hit “Never Be Your Woman”. Which, hitting Number Eight in the UK in 2010, would next lead to production work later the same year on hit albums for London rappers Tinie Tempah (the chart-topping “Disc-Overy”), Professor Green (the Top Three “Alive Till I’m Dead”) and Devlin (the Top 25 “Bud, Sweat And Beers”).

.. Cue a chatty Naughty Boy on the line to “Blues & Soul” Assistant Editor (and fellow Watford resident!) Pete Lewis for an interesting introductory chat around his aforementioned new debut LP plus his ongoing relationship with now-globally-successful Scottish soul diva Ms. Sande.

The background to the concept behind “Hotel Cabana”, which has been described as “cinematically ambitious”

“Well, I’ve always had a bit of a weird obsession with luxury hotels. I mean, I used to work in one called The Grove in Watford as a waiter - and basically the whole experience of going into like five-star hotels and observing the kind of people who go there has always kind of FASCINATED me. I always found it a bit glamorous, a bit sleazy… And so just like (The Eagles’) song “Hotel California” kind of tells the story of one particular place, I basically just wanted to bring that whole idea into a full ALBUM. You know, as a producer it’s important to me that if I’m making an album it has some kind of RELEVANCE, and that it’s not just a bunch of songs that have been randomly put TOGETHER... And for me the hotel theme just kind of fitted that whole idea of exploring fame and the rise-and-fall that comes with it - which were basically the kind of subjects that I wanted to explore through the SONGS.”

What Shahid wanted to achieve musically and lyrically with the album

“Well, with me having been strongly influenced as a child by the big, epic, dramatic vibe of Bollywood music, first and foremost I wanted to ENTERTAIN. But while yeah, it IS entertainment and it IS lavish and grand and reflecting all the things I want to bring into my music, at the same time you have like George The Poet narrating with the “Act I” and the “Act II” - which between them help you to see what the actual STORY is about. But then having said that, it’s not that SPECIFIC, in that each song can stand ALONE... So yeah, while I suppose my main mission is to entertain, at the same time I’m also wanting the music to affect you in terms of maybe making you think about your LIFE. You know, to me it’s like a healthy COMBINATION of the two. Because the moral of the story - while I don’t wanna give the ending away - is based around this guy that has everything in terms of fame and money, and the difference between what he really WANTED out of it all and what he actually GOT at this HOTEL. Which is why the record does get a bit darker towards the end”

Shahid’s relationship with the artist who’s been most instrumental in his rise to success, multi-million-selling 2013 BRITS Queen Emeli Sande

“Well, we first met in 2009 and to be honest it was all very NATURAL. She was about to go back to Glasgow, I saw her perform, and I genuinely felt like she was singing directly to ME. And then when I spoke to her after the show, we both immediately just got this feeling that we should WORK together. I mean, I hadn’t worked with a singer before and she hadn’t really worked with a PRODUCER. So it was a great time for us to start VIBING. And I do feel the trust that we have today when it comes to making music does come from the way we started OUT, and the fact that we did it without any PRESSURE. Like one of the first songs we wrote was “CLOWN”. I mean, at the time I’d started running out of money. So for me to write a song like “Clown” I think just shows you how like different moments give you different SONGS. Because if we hadn’t been broke and we’d had a studio and were being offered record-deals, I don’t think we’d have WRITTEN it. You know, we wouldn’t compose a song like “Clown” now because success gives you DIFFERENT songs. .. So yeah, it’s definitely like a relationship that I cherish, and I’m sure she feels the SAME. You know, something just magical happens when we’re in the same ROOM together.”

The album “Hotel Cabana” is out now through Virgin Records.

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