"Set realistic goals and dream big. But if that’s too much work, just tell people you’re great."



Your Weekend Playlist, Courtesy of Khalil

Leading up to AFROPUNK’s After Dark events, we spoke to one of the guest deejays, Khalil Asmall. The founding member/DJ of both London’s Livin’ Proof and New York’s BackToLife parties continues to push his musical palette and creative direction that has proved pivotal in his ongoing success. 

In 2015, the native Londoner made his way to NYC to launch BackToLife with Pauli The PSM. In the beginning, their aim was to bring a slice of London’s famed nightlife to the Big Apple. Khalil and Pauli’s tracks are a nod to their London upbringing, referencing Hip-Hop, House, Grime, RnB, Garage, UK Funky, Afrobeats, BrokenBeat, Dancehall and more. 

Most notably, Khalil has played alongside artists like Kendrick Lamar, Anderson .Paak, A$AP Rocky, Massive Attack, Questlove and Sampha, with guest mixes for shows and publications from Boiler Room and NTS Radio, to Highsnobiety and iD Magazine. 

If you don’t make it to Baby’s All Right for Afropunk’s after-party this Saturday, you’re still in for a treat – Khalil blessed us with an eclectic mix that he’s currently enjoying, along with some jams you’d hear in the club BackToLife. 

What’s the mood of this playlist? Where do you imagine it being played?

It’s an eclectic mix of music that captures a few different sounds I’m enjoying, and think sits well next to each other. There are some new bits, classics, different genres, some purely instrumental tracks. It’s loosely themed around and feels rooted in London, the mix of cultures that live together and inspire each other.

What are your party tricks – how do you read a crowd and flip the mood?

Music is so powerful. A song or style of music can completely change our mood, take us to different places, connect us with other people. It’s the closest thing we have to time travel, in the way that it can transport us back to specific moments in our life. It can do all these things individually, but also collectively, and it’s so beautiful to see. Having an understanding of where and who you’re playing to (which can take time) allows you to almost control, or guide the energy in the room. In terms of party tricks, I often mix fast as a way to raise the energy and grab people’s attention. Once I have a crowd engaged, with me, and we’re on a similar page and understanding, it’s so much fun to play to the room and take people on a bit of a journey.

What do you miss about London? What do you love about New York?

I do miss friends, banter, and in general, the self-deprecating Britishness. But New York is really special, it’s a city of extremes, things could be going bad for a while, and then out of nowhere, you’re working with your heroes! It’s crazy! I still can’t really believe I live in New York…but the reality is, both are amazing cities, and places I consider home.

You’ve played alongside some huge heavy-hitters in the music world — can you describe some of those experiences?

It can be really nerve-wracking! The first few times I’d been booked to play opening sets for bigger artists, walking out into the middle of the stage to play an hour set to a few thousand people stood there waiting for the artist to come on can be pretty terrifying. You know no one’s come to see you play, and the crowd just wants you to hurry up and finish so they can see who they’ve come to see. The first 10 mins on stage can feel like a lifetime. But then your nerves calm, it starts to become really fun, then it’s over before you know it. You have to work hard, but it’s a great experience to have the crowd on your side. The feeling is very addictive and you just want to do it again. The Kendrick Lamar show was definitely one of my favorites in terms of playing opening sets, it was just before Good Kid, M.A.A.d City came out, just 1500 people, mostly die-hard fans, and the energy was insane. I had such an incredible time playing, his show was so good, and he was really cool to chat to after. It always feels like a challenge playing opening sets but an exciting one. Club shows or shows I’ve put together are usually very different, and really good fun. There are a few DJs where I’ve felt nervous to play before or after, but in general, it’s a different vibe and people have been really cool.

What should people expect from the AFROPUNK After Dark party?

A great night out. This will be the third BackToLife x Afropunk After Dark party. The last two were incredible. Such a good vibe, filled with friends, and surprise special guests. This year we’re joined by our good friends, Yellowtech & Mo Yasin of Good Faith, and I’m sure there’ll be a few guests passing through too. 

What’s your #1 piece of advice for people looking to follow a similar career path + passion?

Marketing and PR, lol. We live in a strange time where all you have to do is tell enough people you’re great at something, and you’ll convince them and yourself. Beyond that, being good helps. Practice, have fun, collaborate, hang out with like-minded people. Set realistic goals and dream big. But if that’s too much work, just tell people you’re great.

Album Cover Courtesy of Danielle Moalem

Stay tuned to Milk for more Weekend Playlists

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