Naughty Boy – Hotel Cabana


by Andrew

Who the fuck is Naughty Boy I hear you ask? And it’s a pretty legit question as Hotel Cabana is his debut release for a dude who has been in the production business for quite a few years. Shahid Khan is a 28 year old producer from the UK who goes by the moniker Naughty Boy and has had a hand in several UK hits over the past ten years ranging from Tinie Tempah, Wiley and the gorgeous and groundshaking voice of Emelie Sande. In fact, his production of Emelie Sande’s 2012 debut is pretty much the solid base from which Hotel Cabana comes about. And boy is it a pleasant pop surprise.

Ranging quite effortlessly through RnB, DnB, Hip-hop, Garage and just straight breaks – Hotel Cabana is a well-produced and quite magical album which will probably never make it to many people’s collections and for that; it’s a shame. It starts out with a theme which may turn some people off from the beginning. The theme or concept of a hotel where famous stars come for a holiday and nobody leaves. It’s not surprising he cites the Eagles a an influence because the album theme is like a modernised tracklisting directly related to a celebrity Hotel California. But don’t let that comparison turn you off. It really does work; from the opening ‘Act I feat George the Poet’ right through to the depths of brilliance of ‘Pluto feat Emelie Sande’ and the also melodious ‘Think About It feat Wiz Khalifah and Elle Eyre.

And speaking of guests, this release has many. Some of them unusual and some of them downright perfect. Its hard not to compare this album to some released earlier this year including Rudimental’s ‘Home’ and Disclosure’s ‘Settle’. The comparisons to ‘Home’ and ‘Settle’ are plentiful from the sound of UK DnB and Garage right through to the choices in guests. Both albums share Sande and Elle Eyre and share male vocalist Sam Smith from ‘Settle.’ But beyond that, ‘Hotel Cabana’ carries quite a few other unusual additions on the guest vocals. Tinie Tempah makes an appearance, although brief, as does a limited edition inclusion of Wiley. But the two really big rap additions come through US rapper Wiz Khalifa and Mic Righteous. Always good individually, but with a producer as adept as Naughty Boy, these two really shine. It’s quite hard to pick one outstanding track from so many, but Think About It feat Khalifa and Eyre is one a chosen few that really stand out on the album.

I think its also important with this album to understand who Khan is and the influence he has had in the UK music scene in just a few years. He was responsible for co-writing and producing Emelie Sande, Leona Lewis and several other UK pop stars that actually have some credibility. Although Lewis was a Pop Idol creation, Emelie Sande is the writing behind Lewis and the reason she is who she is today. Well Khan is the man behind Sande and has had influence across many UK rappers as well. He is considered one of the most influential UK producer in the scene today and although his name is new, his style is not.

The theme is interesting as a subject. You know, this hotel where famous people come and never leave – much like a techno Hotel California. But that’s where the theme really ends. It loses it momentum by about half way through the album and to be brutally honest; its dodgy as a concept anyway. It really didn’t need a theme to carry it through its length and something as conceptual as this is very likely to wane in interest at any rate. It still doesn’t detract from the strength of the tracks. It has some amazing collabs which show the level of influence being a producer for many can be before making your own debut. Khan has kept all the best tracks to himself, but having such a great and conducive working relationship with someone as good as Emelie Sande has made Hotel Cabana as exceptional release.

As far as criticisms go there are not many. The theme drags a bit, that’s a down point. The overuse of Emelie Sande (I never thought I would say that) is evident, but not surprising as she features on 7 of the 20 tracks on the deluxe edition. I think one of the released tracks ‘La La La feat Sam Smith’ is a bit of a let down. I love Smith’s vocals, but its David Guetta style composition and delivery really detracts from an otherwise soul-filled extravaganza. And the Ed Sheeran track ‘Top Floor’ feels like it was meant for another album.

But for a debut album for someone who has been around in the scene for quite a while and still only 28, ‘Hotel Cabana’ is a real triumph and could be the start of a very promising career for Khan and his cheeky moniker Naughty Boy.


8/10 Emelie Sande’s {Abrasive Andy}

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