Khairi Tahir is the 16-year-old prodigy from Philadelphia that I’ve had my eye on for quite some time. Khairi was chosen as my “fave” for the month of October because he exemplifies genuine, raw talent that makes me remember why I fell in love with contemporary R&B growing up. Although we’ve never met in person, I was first put on to Khairi when he was about 14 years old, and I knew that I would be enamored with him a little later down the line and the kid didn’t let me down once! Without the use of exhausted vocal manipulation or distortion, Khairi‘s smooth voice just flows effortlessly over a wide range of beat selections, blowing some mainstream “faves” out of the water.

We got a chance to spotlight Khairi Tahir, where he let us know that he’s got way more up his sleeve in the future. Listen to my two favorite singles, “Ready” and “Count Up” featuring King Benji below.


DTS MEDIA: Why do you think your parents let you pursue music so heavily at 16 years old? Did they ever have special rules for you to practice music?
Khairi Tahir (KT): My passion for music is so strong that my parents have no choice but to support it. I recorded my first song at my dad’s house when I was only 12 years old. The first time I ever went to a studio, my mom paid for studio time. My parents have always believed in me. Ever so often my mom fantasies of me “making it” one day and us living lavishly. I know that most parents would probably look at music as just a hobby, but my parents look at it as a career.

My mom always stuff like, “Khairi you need to drop more music, you can’t be waiting every other leap year to drop a new song!” And every time my dad calls me I’m bound to hear something like, “yo Khairi, that last jawn you dropped was hot, but you need to put a few more bars in the verse next time.” My parents don’t really have any rules for me to practice music, as long as I keep everything age appropriate. As much as I’d like to get in my R. Kelly – 12 Play bag sometimes, my mom definitely is not having that. I haven’t ran into that problem yet though.

DTS MEDIA: Talk to us about some of your recent accomplishments/performances/awards. What are some of your goals?
KT: It’s kind of funny thinking about the accomplishments I’ve made since I started really taking music seriously, which was when I was like 14 years old. I have performed at many shows; and I even got paid for a show I did last year. One of my biggest accomplishments was when I won first place in the Omega Psi Phi talent hunt competition. One of my short term goals is I want to get one of my records on Power 99. I remember when I heard my friend Shay Amour getting one of her songs played on the radio like five times one night, me and my mom were dumb hype! I couldn’t even even imagine how I’d be if it was one of my songs playing on there.

If you were to ask me what was one of my long term goals a few years ago, I’d probably say, “I want to be the next Michael Jackson,” or something like that. But honestly that’s not really the ultimate goal for me. All I know is I want to make great timeless music that people will enjoy. And I want to be somebody that my mom will be proud of like ‘Yeah you know Khairi Tahir, that’s my son.’ God willing, I’ll make real money off of what I love to do, so me and my family can live that lavish lifestyle that my mom fantasizes about.

DTS MEDIA: Who is Khairi Tahir? For fans that don’t know you, introduce yourself.
KT: I’m a 16 year old singer-songwriter from Philadelphia, PA. I have been singing for as long as I can remember. I believe that I got my talent from my dad, who raps and produces music himself. I started developing my musicality when I attended G.A.M.P. in middle school. As I mentioned earlier, the first song I ever recorded was a rap I wrote to “Bag of Money,” by Rick Ross, Meek Mill, and Wale, when I was 12. I remember I heard my dad playing the instrumental in the basement, and he was writing something. I came downstairs and I guess he asked if I wanted to do something to it, so I wrote a quick 16, something light. It actually came out pretty nice, I still have it. So I’ve been doing music for a long time. I listen to a variety of artists, it really depends on what mood I’m in. Like one minute I might be listening to some Teddy Pendergrass, and then next minute I’m listening to Kur, one of my favorite rappers.

As far as influences, I’d say Michael Jackson is definitely a big inspiration to me for sure. Honestly, right now I’d say that my favorite R&B artist is definitely R. Kelly…I listen to a lot of today’s R&B artists like Usher, Chris Brown, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Bryson Tiller, Tory, Jhene Aiko, Frank Ocean, Miguel…but I think R. Kelly is the only R&B artist who has dropped albums in the last five years that I’ve listened to cover to cover. Outside of music, I don’t really do much. An average day for me really only consists of doing homework (if I feel like it), watching Boondocks on Netflix, watching a lecture from Dr. Umar Johnson, and of course working on music. On another note, I’m definitely planning on going to college after high school. I really want to go to a HBCU like Howard University.

DTS MEDIA: Do you have a particular message/movement or brand that goes along with your music?
KT: I don’t really have a particular message really, but I’m definitely into the Black nationalist movement. My pop pop Naim is really the one who got me into that, because he’s super pro Black, unapologetically Afrikan, all that. He’s in the Nation of Islam, so that just tells you what type time he’s on with it. I’m really into that,but right now I’d say I’m in the learning stage. I’ve been reading a lot of books lately just trying to get as much knowledge as possible. I’m currently reading a book called “Afrikan People and European Holidays: A Mental Genocide,” by Ishakamusa Barashango. It’s crazy because all this stuff I’ve been learning in the past few years, I never even heard of before. Actually the other day I mentioned the Black Wall Street to my American History teacher the other day, and he never even heard of it before!

DTS MEDIA: What is it like for you to balance high school, a job, friends and music?
KT: It’s not really hard balancing friends, high school, a job, and music. First because I don’t really have friends. I mean I have a lot of people I’m cool with, but I don’t have too many friends. One thing about me is I’m introverted. I will say that it is hard being an introvert while trying make a name for myself at the same time you know? It is kinda hard balancing music school because even though music is my passion, school is my number one priority. Sometimes I spend hours just vibing to instrumentals, coming up with various melodies, even though I should be doing homework.

I started working at Wendy’s almost three months ago, and although I don’t really like working there like that, I like have money to invest in different stuff involving music. People always ask me, “Khairi why do you take so long to drop new music,” and honestly, it cost to go to the studio and things of that nature. I mean I could easily ask my mom for money for stuff like that, but I don’t like doing that, I’m too old for that. Now that I got a couple dollars, and can record and release music more frequently, along with doing visuals for my songs.

DTS MEDIA: What do you bring, or want to bring, to the table that the music industry is missing? Describe your songwriting process.
KT: I just want to bring good music. There’s no gimmicks to Khairi Tahir, it’s just me. I feel like that’s rare nowadays. These days, people will do anything to sell their albums. I mean men will put a dress on just so that media outlets will write articles about it, and give these people free promotion. With me however, my music will speak for itself. As far as my songwriting process, I usually listen to a beat and come up with a melody first. After I come up with the melody, I put words with it. The words that I choose to use depend on what mood the beat puts me in, If I can’t come up with a melody in like 30 minutes, I just come back to it at another time. You can’t force art.

DTS MEDIA: How do you feel about the difference between classic (let’s say, 90s) R&B, and current R&B?
KT: I love classic 90s R&B; and I also like today’s R&B too. Of course R&B from that era is totally different from mainstream R&B today, but everything’s different now. I think the biggest difference is that R&B from that time period is just timeless, I don’t know about now though. I mean often times I catch myself on the 18 bus listening to Tevin Campbell, SWV, Color Me Badd, Jodeci, Shai, you know people like that- artists with music that’ll last lifetimes. A lot of today’s stuff I couldn’t see people listening to five years from now. That doesn’t mean it’s not good, it’s just not classic.

DTS MEDIA: Do you see yourself working differently, or having more artistic freedoms at 18/21 years old? Are your parents pretty relaxed with the music you make?
KT: My mom pretty much sets the boundaries on what is appropriate and what is not. I can’t wait till I get older though, I’m definitely going to turn up! I’m actually planning on dropping a little mixtape called RAW when I’m 18, which will have all type of explicit content on there. Sike naw, I’m just planning. However, I definitely will have more artistic freedom when I’m like 18. I won’t go overboard or nothing like that though.

DTS MEDIA: How & when did you know you were ready to take music seriously? What do people in your school think of your music career? What else do you do?
KT: I was 14 when I decided that I wanted to take music seriously. As I briefly stated previously, I had started writing music and recording it at my dad’s house when I was 12 years old. When I was 14 I witnessed people my age recording music, and releasing it on Soundcloud, I was kinda amazed because I had never thought of letting people hear my music, other than my family. Once I learned how to go about booking studio time and upload music to Soundcloud, I took off. I released my first record in October of 2014. I remember people coming up to me in school, telling me that they loved the song. I remember walking past bathrooms hearing girls playing my music. I loved that feeling! That’s when I realized this is what I want to do. A lot of people love my music. Every time I drop something, I get a bunch of messages like “I love that song Khairi.”

The only thing I think is weird is that people will send me a bunch of messages saying how much they love my music and want to see me win, but they won’t help promote the song that they “love” so much on their social media for me. I have noticed that nine times out of ten people will openly promote my music on social media, only if they see other people doing it first. That’s why every time I get a positive review on one of my songs, or someone posts something about it on Instagram or twitter, I screenshot it and put it on my Instagram. Then all of a sudden 15+ people are promoting it on Instagram. I think that people just like feeling like they’re apart of something…I don’t really know. All I know is, regardless if people support me or not, I will continue creating great music that will touch people.

Khairi Tahir ~ Ready [Prod.808louie] (Official Visual) from Khairi Tahir on Vimeo.