At age 11, Amahl Abdul-Khaliq mimicked Thelonious Monk's "Blue Monk" on trumpet. A few years later, after moving to Louisiana, the Los Angeles-born musician was asked to join his school marching band. He turned it down.
"I just wanted to play jazz standards," he says, laughing.
Under his electronic music moniker AF THE NAYSAYER, Adbul-Khaliq blends washed out synth and liquid funk bass sounds with soft focus '80s R&B. His latest is The Autodidact Instrumentals Vol. 1, released on his Self-Educated Vinyl imprint on Birmingham, Alabama-based experimental label Step Pepper Records. He also recently released an official remix for Taiwanese rap group Juzzy Orange, and this month he appears on Philadelphia nerdcore rapper Mega Ran's RNDM.
"Even when I was playing trumpet, I wanted to compose. I just never had the resources or the time and I was never encouraged by anyone. When I got older and realized I could do this myself, it just clicked," he says. "Music is an extension of your personality. I'm naturally calm, relaxed, some people might say I'm boring. Lush pads, jazzy block chords, certain phrasing — I just picture this idea of floating."
He builds around "super grown and sexy" 2-step-influenced electronic music, or "something my mom could dance to," then experiments around with his compositions. "I like to have soul, some kind of feel-good vibe to a lot of things I put together," he says.
Growing up in Woodland Hills in California's San Fernando Valley, his parents played N.W.A., "then Red Hot Chili Peppers, then Roy Ayers," he says. "Every week they went to Tower Records."
He also wanted to start a Washington D.C.-influenced hardcore punk band — where he got the idea for his name THE NAYSAYER. "The group of kids I was hanging out with in middle and high school I remember some girl was like, 'You're a bunch of ragtag misfits.' I looked up some other words," he says. "The connotation of the word to me was someone willing to speak up for their rights no matter the consequence."