Khalisol is living his dream, but there is still work to be done.
The New Mexico-based hip-hop artist, born Zachary Chicoine, represented the state last year on NBC’s “American Song Contest,” performing his song “Drop.”
Before that, in 2019, he co-wrote “Jopping” for K-pop group SuperM, which became a No. 1 hit on Billboard’s U.S. World Digital Songs chart.
“It opened up a lot of doors, opened up my eyes to how the industry works,” Khalisol said. “It put a lot of seriousness behind my family and everybody seeing what I’m doing, so now they understand. This happened to someone from New Mexico; it’s just like, yeah, it’s possible.”
Khalisol pulls some of his inspiration from his upbringing. He watched as his parents went through struggles and experienced his own obstacles as a youth, as well.
“I do channel a lot of that. I feel like it’s necessary; you got to tell your story,” he said.
Khalisol’s success is attributed to his devotion to not only his craft, but regional progression in the industry. He partnered with Rakim Alnur to help develop their label Scutty Records, and spends a lot of time in California playing and organizing shows to grow the brand.
Though hip-hop is an overlooked genre in New Mexico for the most part, he wants to bring it back and strengthen the genre not only in the state, but the entire Southwest.
“Every region has had its artists,” he said. “I feel like the Southwest is that next region. In order for us to succeed, somebody has to go out there and learn how to catch fish and bring big things back … to this community.”
When it comes to writing, Khalisol doesn’t necessarily have a signature sound. He bases his beats off how he feels. The creativity begins to flow, and then he pairs the composition with fitting words.
“I lean off my emotions,” he said. “I might make something a little faster if I’m feeling down, which kind of brings me up. If I’m happy, I might make something more mellow that makes me think. … It kind of depends on what I’ve gone through.”
Khalisol has been putting out albums, singles and EPs since 2018. He released his third album last year, “As The Sky Falls.” Like his previous two full-length releases, he adds a thematic touch to the track listing.
There are differences in tempo to each album. “As The Sky Falls” seems slower than his 2020 release “Who Cares The World Is Ending …,” for example. He said that he actually wrote “As The Sky Falls” first, but the timing and design of each project is incorporated into his releases.
“It’s more of like a set tone,” he said about the latest album. “I wanted to curate it to more of an emotional base. … It’s super introspective of what’s going on.”
No matter the tempo, the themes remain the same throughout Khalisol’s collection. Among the detailed and structured rhythms, he speaks of love, life and respect.
“I rap from the perspective of how I’m living or how I see someone else living,” he said. “As a hip-hop rap artist, I believe I’m a journalist of the streets.”
Due to the lyrical content, there is sometimes a misconception around rap and hip-hop and what the genre represents. Though some consider the surface themes to be inappropriate, the words stem from an artist’s environment. And though the lyrics may come off as aggressive at times, they serve as a release and a plea for respect. They’re a representation of a larger, more significant cultural picture.
“I think a lot of people misinterpret the lyrical aspect; it’s people’s self-expression,” Khalisol said about rap and hip-hop music. “What they’re painting is a picture of their environment and the world as they see it.”
Khalisol envisions a goal for not only himself and Scutty Records, but for undiscovered talent from an underrepresented region. A goal he is already achieving and has the confidence to continue advancing.