Bad boy, 15, turns businessman thanks to Camden Council's youth service
PUBLISHED: 11:01 04 January 2016 | UPDATED: 11:01 04 January 2016
Khalil Matthews already speaks like a musical superstar, despite being just 15 years old.
He has amassed legions of fans on social media, with more than 6,000 followers on Instagram alone, and has just launched his own clothing brand, Uprising, to tie in with his popular rap and hip hop tunes.
But while Khalil is celebrating a successful end to 2015 with a Camden Youth Award for Young Entrepreneur of the Year under his belt, this past year hasn’t all been smooth sailing for the Regent High School pupil.
Just a few months ago, the south Camden teenager found himself in with the wrong crowd and on the wrong side of the law. For legal reasons, the Ham&High cannot reveal what he did.
“I made a one-off mistake,” Khalil explains. “It’s not happened before and I’m never going to let it happen again because I don’t want it to affect my music and my clothing line. I’ve got things I want to focus on and there’s no point in making those kind of mistakes again.”
He was referred to the Detached Project, Camden Council’s youth service, and there he began his journey from bad boy to businessman and music star.
Khalil says: “My youth worker and I discussed why it happened and how to prevent it. But it developed into what I could put all my work into, and something that could motivate me to stay out of trouble. It’s done that.”
Together with his youth worker, Khalil came up with the idea of expanding his music project into a clothing line and designed a logo for his brand.
He launched an initial range of T-shirts a few weeks ago, and within the first hour, he had already received more than 30 orders.
Explaining the inspiration for the name of his clothing line, Uprising, Khalil says: “My clothing brand’s message is the struggle that I went through to rise up.”
Khalil, whose stage name is Kayy, dreams of making it big and signing a record deal one day. But for now, he’s focusing on expanding his clothing line to create other items including T-shirts for women and to experiment with bigger, bolder designs.
He is also committed to being a positive role model through his music for his peers and other teenagers, who like him, want to break free from a path to prison.
In one of his tracks, Patience, he raps about the struggle to stay out of trouble and advises teens to have patience while things work themselves out.
Speaking directly to young people, he says: “Anything can happen if you put to your mind to it. I put my mind to it and it’s coming up to 2016 and I’ve got my own clothing line, music, manager, music videos, and everything seems to be working out.
“If you asked me at the end of last year the same question, I would have just said it’s just music.
“But now I’m trying to stay relevant and start something big, not just for myself but for my fans. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for my fans right now.”
His fans are certainly devoted, leaving dozens of comments underneath his tracks on Youtube and his photographs of performances on Instagram.
Many teens have messaged him to tell him how his music has helped through tough times.
In his track See You Again – which samples the No 1 hit of the same name by Wiz Khalifa – his rap pays tribute to the mother he lost at just nine days old, as well as tragic Islington teenager Henry Hicks, who was killed in December last year in a moped crash while being chased by police.
He says: “When I started out, I promised myself I wouldn’t talk about guns, because that’s not what I do.
“If I talk about what I do, people seem to love it a lot more and you get a better reaction from people for talking the truth and being yourself.”
He adds: “Music has always been an outlet for me to be able to reveal my feelings. Everyone seems to understand and care, and it’s nice to be able to reveal your feelings and not just talk about it.
“When I’m upset or angry about something, I’ll write about it. I always write about life and that’s back to being truthful to myself. I would never write about anything that’s not me, or that’s not happened to me.”
Listen to Khalil’s music at youtube.com/user/RealLilKayy.