If you haven’t heard of them already, we’d like to introduce you to khildLike — a hip-hop and R&B group that has recently gone viral online for its hit song, “Reparations”. Since its release, the track has been recognized by several highly regarded names in the music industry, such as American rappers Jim Jones and Master P. And although the track made its original debut in late 2020, the artists behind the hip hop duo have been working toward their dreams in music for over a decade.
Orlando “Khosen” Major, from San Fernando Valley, California, is the lead singer of the hip hop duo. While growing up as the eldest of six, Major was identified as the family ‘superstar’, known for busting out in singing and dancing around the house and at family events. Over the years, he was also heavily involved in his school’s choir and his church’s mass ensemble. But it wasn’t until he led the choir during his senior year of high school that he received an overwhelming response of support which would change his life forever. “After that day, I started having this recurring dream at night. I’d see myself rising to fame and making it big in the music industry,” Khosen said. “It inspired me to go full force. I did all kinds of shows and put in the extra work to try and get discovered, but it was always a letdown. No one else could see the vision I had of myself in that dream. But even while getting ‘no’s’, the dream kept coming back. It hasn’t left me alone in the last twelve years, even when I’ve tried to do literally anything else,” he added. So, naturally, Khosen persisted. He continued to sing covers of songs and upload them to the internet in hopes that, one day, someone would offer him a deal that would jumpstart the musical career he had so longly awaited for. But in the midst of it all, he met Life.
Jerell “Life” Ray was exposed to music through his older brothers, who happened to be rappers and producers within the industry. He grew up in Compton, listening to over a dozen up-and-coming rappers at his brothers’ studio “rapping and feeling the mix” on a day-to-day basis. Needless to say, it was enough for Ray to fall in love with music and the process of creating it, hoping to someday follow in the footsteps of the artists he was lucky to witness. Following the loss of his mother at just 12-years-old, Ray used songwriting as a therapeutic outlet to cope with his grief. Eventually, with the help of his brothers, he learned to properly create tracks from beginning to end by the time he was 13, including the processes of songwriting, producing, and engineering. He recorded his own music and proceeded to use the popular “gorilla style technique” to get people to listen. In other words, he’d create flyers and CDs to promote his music and hand it out locally on nearby streets in his neighborhood. Once he was 18, Ray began to break away from his brothers’ paths and instead started creating his own in hopes to begin pursuing a full-time career in the music industry as a rapper. In 2011, Khosen and Life met through a mutual friend. After learning about one another’s backgrounds in music, they ultimately decided to collaborate on each other’s future tracks. Once they got into the studio and began to create as a unit rather than as solo artists, they realized their talents had the potential to break through the barriers each of them had difficulty overcoming alone. As a result, they decided they’d continue their journey together, and khildLike was born.
The two have been working together endlessly over the last few years in hopes to strike the right deal for their music. Thankfully, it’s beginning to pay off. Just last year, the duo joined other artists in a music-writing workshop named Mic Session, led by Tupac’s old manager, Leila Steinberg. At the seminar, the attendees were assigned to create a song with lyrics based on social injustice. Major and Ray came up with a song named “Reparations”, which would later prove to be the song that would start a remarkable journey for khildLike.
Not long after the track’s release, American rapper and record executive Jim Jones asked the pair to audition for a spot on the mixtape album he was in the process of recording. Thankfully, they managed to impress the renowned rapper and land a collaboration on the album, which releases in May 2021. The humble artists have said that this project has been their biggest one to date, despite having opened up shows for well-known artists like Nipsey Hustle and Eric Bellinger in recent years.
“Now that we’re getting a little exposure and [getting our music] into the ears and eyes of people, it’s been crazy to see the positive response not only on our recent track but on the ones we wrote and recorded years ago,” Khosen shared. “It’s been a long journey to get to where we are, but it’s been worth it. This is only the beginning.”
You can find khildLike’s music on Soundcloud, and you can also find their social profiles on Instagram and Clubhouse. In 2021, they hope to continue creating inspirational music not only for black communities, but for hip hop and R&B listeners on a global scale.
Tarek Tohme’s Enticing Courage & Novelty in Hollywood
Originating in 19th century Europe, films have long been considered a medium of transformative entertainment. Beginning with Louis Le Prince’s Roundhay Garden Scene in 1888, people expected to see something extraordinary that catapulted them away from their dreary reality, even if only for a fleeting moment. Initially, films were rather short and contained no synchronized dialogue. However, with the establishment of the American film industry in 1914, films became substantially longer, propelled by advancements in technology and storytelling. As the filmic medium came into fruition, it attracted a wide array of talented artists—the first wave of filmmakers and auteurs. These rising artists experimented with various themes unique to their own lives and communities, and—whether knowingly or not—they showed that the medium of film had an ability to truly touch the soul. As moving image content became increasingly popular, the Hollywood Studio System emerged, transforming a once infantile medium of entertainment into one of the world’s most bonafide commercial enterprises. And while the film industry today continues to be dominated by these major studios—Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros., Walt Disney, and Sony—one aspect of the film industry that has been a key player since the medium’s inception is that of independent film—and the artists who fight to tell unique stories. Driven by the minds and creativity of artists outside of the established, multi-billion-dollar entertainment conglomerate that is Hollywood, independent films often stress reality and focus the lens on stories specific to the independent filmmaker’s unique perspective and life experience. Today, independent films have gained significant traction among cinephiles and continue to attract bright minds to tell stories much different than the franchises, remakes, and comic book adaptations that dominate today’s box office. One such artist working his way up in the independent film sector is Tarek Tohme.
A Burning Desire for Filmmaking
On August 28, 1989, Tarek was born in Santa Monica, California, to a Lebanese immigrant father and American mother. His father exposed Tarek to the entertainment industry at a relative young age; however, his father’s work was in the music industry rather than film—he served as pop icon Michael Jackson’s manager. Tarek completed his early education at Harvard-Westlake High School in 2008. From a very early age, he harbored a passion for storytelling, first beginning to tell stories in a video art class that was offered in ninth grade. Tarek’s passion for the medium drove him to attend the University of South California’s School of Cinematic Arts, where he obtained a degree in film in 2013. Owing to his stellar academic background, he also became the university’s prestigious, full-ride, Trustee Scholarship recipient. Upon graduation, Tarek decided to venture into the filmmaking world as a producer. To his credit, some of his feature films include Don Quixote: The Ingenious Gentleman of La Mancha and In Dubious Battle. But these projects were only the beginning of Tarek’s gradual rise as an artist.
Tarek had found the independent film world to be quite fascinating—it was a sector of the industry that enabled artists to create works of art not limited by budget, cast, or executive opinion. It was the lone space in the film industry where an artist could truly tell the story he or she desired to, while simultaneously providing opportunities for artists and production personnel that the established Hollywood system might not see as lucrative due to their unproven monetization power. After producing several feature films, Tarek went on to test the directorial waters. While he had directed several short films and a segment of the feature anthology The Labyrinth, his first full-length feature film as a director was Hold On, starring Luis Guzman, Maurice Benard, Flavor Flav, Beth Grant, Micayla De Ette, and himself. The film entered production in 2016 and was first released to American audiences on December 6, 2019. Hold On portrays the life of an overlooked singing prodigy who develops an unlikely creative bond with the son of a famed music manager. The film was Tarek’s attempt to cathartically transform the traumatic personal and professional experiences of he and his real-life best friend Micayla De Ette into a work of art that could shed a light on De Ette’s incredible music talent, while also serving to inspire others who are struggling with the loss of loved ones or unrealized dreams.
The years prior to the film’s conception were a challenge for Tarek; he was grappling with the loss of a mentor to cancer and the recent disappearance of a dear friend. His best friend Micayla De Ette (the star of the film) was also struggling with her own grief. She had just lost her sister and was losing a hold of her once undeniable musical dreams. In De Ette’s words, “[losing my sister] rocked my life. It rocked my faith. My family is still recovering.” While both Tarek and De Ette were in the midst of their respective struggles, in each other they found something beautiful—they found unparalleled friendship, support, and a reason to make a meaningful change in the world.
Tarek and De Ette’s collaboration conceived a special work of art that continues to be loved and supported by many individuals. In 2017, Tarek joined forces with De Ette in laying the foundation for a music production company, “De Ette Dream Productions,” with De Ette as the company’s primary creative force and Tarek as her partner.
“We are going to get this to a point where we can make it successful and then hopefully bring on other people who have similarly been overlooked and not had the chance.”
In conjunction with Tarek’s film production company, Stone Canyon Pictures, Tarek and De Ette hope to provide a gateway for people to realize their true potential in the film and music industries.
And while he is ambitious and will go to great lengths to bring real, inspirational stories to the big screen, Tarek is not one to boast. “We are not doctors or heroes saving lives. We are not changing the world in some profound way. But if the films or music we create can positively impact just one person’s life—if we can inspire one person to keep hanging on—then we’ve done our job.”
And despite his humble claims, Tarek’s work carries a magical quality. It not only inspires those who are struggling, but instills a sense of hope in aspiring filmmakers and artists who might not have the courage to put their art out to the world. Tarek’s rise in the industry is proof that it sometimes pays off to take the road less traveled in Hollywood. Through this inspiring journey alone, one could argue that Tarek Tohme is, in fact, changing the world. But just like the young auteurs of the 19th century, he may not realize it yet.
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