Having begun 2016 partnering with true global superstar Beyoncé collaborating on his track ‘Runnin’ (Lose It All)’, Naughty ends it by going back to his roots; bringing through new talent, which is what he did to staggering effect on ‘Hotel Cabana’ – his debut album that helped propel Emeli Sandé, Sam Smith, Ella Eyre to stardom.
The dizzyingly infectious dancehall vibes of ‘Should’ve Been Me’ features vocals from British singer songwriter Kyla. The Brit vocalist has been everywhere this year – with her captivating vocals appearing on Drake’s chart-dominating ‘One Dance’, which spent 15 weeks at No.1 in the UK. Since that songs release she’d stepped away from the music industry, partly to concentrate on raising a family. But Naughty Boy tracked her down and couldn’t get enough of her or her voice.
That knack for alchemising talent into songcraft gold is clearly as strong as ever. It’s a point underlined by ‘Should’ve Been Me’s’ other feature, Popcaan, the Jamaican singer/DJ who’s collaborated with the likes of Drake, Jamie XX and AlunaGeorge.
After working with the biggest singer in the world, Naughty Boy could have continued in that vein. And indeed, he admits that he did try out a handful of other Big Name Vocalists for ‘Should’ve Been Me’. But in the end, Kyla was the only woman for the job.
Those impulses also find form in the other projects and ventures that have kept Naughty Boy busy over the last year. He was a judge on the recent Mercury Music Prize, and is rightly proud of the part he played in the award’s recognition, finally, of British urban music with the victory of Skepta. He’s an ambassador for The Prince’s Trust, and an ambassador for the British Asian Trust.
The man born Shahid Khan and raised in a working class household in Watford, who started making music in a shed in the garden, wants to encourage and enable young people, of any and every ethnicity, in whatever their field of dreams.
His work behind the scenes continues via his record label, Naughty Records. One of his artists is Ava Lily is currently working with an amazing new writer called Emily Warren who’s done a lot for The Chainsmokers. His co-producers on the single, meanwhile, are Mojam – the production/writing duo who are signed to his publishing company, Naughty Words.
In fact, Naughty Words has its own success story in 2016: it’s been responsible for some of the most notable tracks of this year, including ‘Pillow Talk’ by Zayn Malik, Sam Smith’s Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning James Bond theme ‘Writing’s On The Wall’ and Emeli Sandé’s comeback single ‘Hurts’.
Naughty Boy himself has four tracks on the Scotswoman’s critically acclaimed second album. The artist who was his career cornerstone collaborator, and the third key female collaborator in his life this year, has roared back with ‘Long Live The Angels’. Push him to pick a favourite and Naughty Boy plumps for ‘Shakes’, a titanic piano ballad.
Then, somehow, alongside all that, this year Naughty Boy has also found time to travel, tour Eastern Europe, and spend time in the studio with artists including Mike Posner, DNCE, Janet Jackson, Missy Elliot and John Newman.
As we might expect of this ever imaginative, ever innovative – not to mention ever mischievous – artist/producer/writer/publisher, Naughty Boy does have a vision for the follow-up to his groundbreaking debut. Watch this naughty space!