Twenty-five-year-old rapper Khaliente only started making music full-time in September of 2018, but he’s been writing—and hooping—his whole life.
He played high school ball at Thurgood Marshall Academy in Harlem, NY, and then in college at SUNY-Canton in upstate New York. After graduating, he worked at downtown apparel boutique AllSaints in SoHo and then as an elementary school program coordinator, before turning his attention full-time to music earlier this year.
That decision coincided, perhaps serendipitously, with another decision: that of LeBron James’ free agency.
“I’ve always been a huge LeBron James fan,” Khaliente says. “So when he signed with the Lakers, my block and my friends were like, ‘Oh you gonna be a Lakers fan now,’ and I jokingly said I’ve always been a Lakers fan. I ran with it and started calling myself ‘Big Laker.’”
Washington—the most prominent face of the JellyFam movement and now a sophomore point guard at the University of Minnesota—and Khaliente (whose real name is Khalid) have known each other since the latter was 15 years old, and collaborated to curate the 2018 Jelly Day event in Harlem over the summer.
Wes, meanwhile, is another young artist from Harlem who himself rode the wave of an NBA-inspired song (“Mo Bamba”) to newfound fame in 2018. Khaliente says they’ve been friends for three years now, and lists Wes among the artists who inspire him most, along with Drake, Tupac and YG.
In fact, the inspiration for “Big Laker” the song, produced by Fly Melodies, was sparked one night backstage at a Sheck Wes concert. “Sheck is a huge Kevin Durant fan,” Khaliente explains. “He was trying to argue that Kevin Durant is better than LeBron. Him and Ballo (Sheck’s childhood friend and current assistant) both started double-teaming me, so then I told them that I’mma make a Laker song and put they names in it. I wrote it that night.”
The track itself is an all-out LakeShow anthem. If nothing else, this song deserves to ring out at Staples Center for as long as the Lakers’ season lasts in 2019. At one point, he raps: “Like Javale McGee, I go stupid on this beat. And like I’m Ron Artest, how I gave the World Peace.”
Khaliente goes on to shout out not only current Lakers like Rajon Rondo, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley and (of course) LeBron James, but also a handful of Laker legends, including Lamar Odom, Phil Jackson, Wilt Chamberlain, Magic Johnson and Shaquille O’Neal—with the familiar “I been ballin’ like a Big Laker” refrain throughout. That the song is centered around one of the most legendary franchises in NBA history is no accident. Khaliente holds himself to the same gold standard when it comes to his music.
“I want to be one of the greats when it’s all said and done,” insists Khaliente, who promises that a full mixtape is coming Spring 2019, with more singles on the way even sooner. “But what’s most important to me is being able to give back to my community and inspire the youth.”