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THE SLEEPER HIT OF 2021
Tragicstar: Vol. I, the debut album of veteran producer and session musician Krystal Khali, is a euphorically disorienting mix of masochistic, Weeknd-style pop, slick power ballads, and genre-defining trap metal. Ten years in the making, the payoff is well worth it: the album is like a private carnival ride through the wonderfully salacious mind of a sonically fearless female master of sound.
Krystal Khali is like a walking Rubik’s Cube: she is at once confusing, frustrating to pinpoint, but at the core addictively intriguing. Khali is most recognized as the rhythm guitarist for blues hall of fame legend Guitar Shorty, whom she has been touring with for the past 5 years. Through gracing big stages with the man whom Jimi Hendrix credited as his mentor, Khali has built up an enviable fanbase in blues. So, for her to pivot and release a sadistic alt-hip hop-gone-pop album on the heels of what could be a lifelong blues career is shocking for some, and just plain stupid in the opinion of others.
“No one understands what I’m trying to do, but I know now that the album is out, my work will speak for itself,” she says.
Khali not only played most of the instruments on the album; including live guitars, piano, bass, and percussion, but also tracked beats, wrote the lyrics, the melodies, and sang. Khali is a one-woman show in every sense of the word, something she at once prides herself on and hates.
Khali confides: “I gave up trying to work with producers because I kept running into problems with sexual harassment. I couldn’t get anything finished without whatever producer trying to hit on me and then becoming frustrated when I didn’t reciprocate. I became a hermit and started learning everything myself A to Z through books and tutorial videos. Now I know enough to be able to track everything and send the finished product to be mastered. It’s a blessing.”
On yet another flip side of the cube is the fact that during the day, Khali recently became a medical student and is now turning somewhat away from the industry she worked so hard to woo at the exact moment of the release of what could be a breakthrough album.
Khali confides, “I’ve worked so hard for music for so long. Going to music school, practicing until my fingers would bleed, the whole nine….but I have too many nightmare stories. Now, I just want to work in a professional environment with an HR department. I want to be respected. I want to use my high bandwidth to help people, and just produce when I come home. I think my days of touring and stressing about the industry might be over. But then again maybe I’ll just not sleep and do both. What can I say? I’m going to school to be a doctor and have a tattoo on my face. I’m the definition of an iconoclast.”