GU Jams: Rae Khalil Shares Everything To Know About Her New Album

The California singer and rapper’s music seamlessly blends a refreshing take on new age soul, R&B, and pop stylings

Music was always around in her household before Rae Khalil could even figure out if she liked music for herself. From The Whispers to Luther Vandross, her family embedded different elements of sound that shaped her personal relationship with music. Throughout the years, Rae Khalil has consistently elevated her artistic eye and became familiar to us when we saw her on the big screen in the Netflix competition Rhythm + Flow in 2019. “I am so grateful to have been on that show; it opened so many doors for me,” Khalil tells GU.

Since the show, she’s continued to advance her sound and feels ready for a new chapter after taking a four-year pause since her last album. “I’m stepping more into what I want to say and what feels right for me as an artist,” she says. “The biggest way that I’ve grown has been [asking] how can I push myself?”

Through her lyrical content, she’s found the key to her unique point in her writing process: giving herself space to let moments come to her naturally. In this new era, she labels the major theme as the beginning and expresses excitement for her career in 10 years. To kick off her new chapter, the 27-year-old recently signed to Anderson .Paak‘s label APESHIT, under Def Jam in 2023. Her blooming mentorship with .Paak continues to grow and even landed her a Grammy win in 2021 for her songwriting and vocals “Lockdown” before signing to his label.

“I was so fortunate and lucky to be able to build a friendship first with him,” she says. “It clicked because it felt so natural and fluid and seemed like the right thing to do. I am so grateful to have a mentor like Anderson because he pushes me, and it feels like a cheat code.”

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Now she’s entering a new chapter with the single “Is It Worth It,” a nostalgic teaser for her upcoming album, CRYBABY. The single was recorded late one night in New York with .Paak and musician-producer Alissia Benveniste. “I’ve been putting me first,” Khalil sings. “Is it worth my time?” The song channels smooth vocals, retro vibes, and movie soundtrack-like production to create a backdrop to a theme of empowerment.

“At the time I was feeling very tired [laughs], and I felt like there’s so much more work to be done when I thought I had songs ready to go,” she says. “Being in New York feels so different than being in Los Angeles with all the industry parties, and being there, I was like, ‘Is It even worth it?’ going to these parties and networking with people who don’t have my best interest?”

Through that moment of reflection, she realized she wanted pure intention behind the creation of this album’s music. “It was an amazing night. I think we felt something special happening, but Anderson was like, this should be the first single,” she says.

While intentionally starting the era with “Is It Worth It?” the single represents the thesis for her album CRYBABY. By putting action behind the lyric “I’ve been putting me first,” she continues to follow her intuition by making the music she wants and is passionate about. Throughout the album, she continues to be introspective about her career, time with loved ones and what she wants for herself.

“It was actually originally called Supernova, but there was a song that stood the test of time called ‘Crybaby,’ that was the most personal song, and it’s a hip-hop and R&B song that ties things together,” she says.

Sonically, fans will hear how Rae Khalil remains persistent in elevating her music through her technique and intentional choices. With CRYBABY, Khalil is extending her process of introspection and looking increasingly inward. She’s granting herself space to be more honest and vulnerable by sharing her journey, challenges and growth to foster a deeper relationship with her fans.

“I’m excited about what the world will be like when I drop, the response when the project is out, and, lastly, touring,” she says. “I just want to ride that wave of excellence, and excellence doesn’t mean everything has to be perfect; I just want to make this a fun experience and make people want to come out and see the songs live.”

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About the Author: Kenyatta Victoria is the lead writer for Essence GU, working on all things pop culture, politics, entertainment and business. Throughout her time at GU, she’s garnered devoted readers and specializes in the Zillennial point of view.

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