Khaliyah X performs on the afternoon of Friday, September 8, at Taste of Chicago. Credit: Marcus Scott

Khaliyah X has had a big year. The local R&B singer-songwriter has performed at Navy Pier and a Chicago Sky game, earned a spot in the spring-summer “Chicago Artists to Watch” list compiled by local digital publication These Days, and made a cameo in a Wilson Basketball commercial. This weekend she’ll join scenemates such as Kaina and Ausar on the Goose Island Stage at Taste of Chicago.

In an August interview with Vocalo, X recalled performing at the Apollo Theater in New York when she was a child. She also described how devoting years of mental focus to her music has helped her reach another level and bring her artistic dreams to reality. “I’ve always been into discipline and hard work and self-improvement, since I was a kid,” she told morning host Bekoe. “This is the first time in my life that I’ve just been putting 2,000 percent effort towards my music career.”

That effort has given X a commanding confidence that comes through in her songs. On her recent single “What’s My Name,” X spells out her bona fides and boundaries, calling out her male counterparts who lack ambition and lag behind in personal development. “I’m always stuck with the men who got potential / Do I look like Brenda Build-a-Nigga?” she raps in a flowery, staccato flow. “Put ’em together, they leave me broken / So I ain’t going.” 

The single’s beat, by producer Ehll Evans, samples Alicia Keys’s “You Don’t Know My Name,” cleverly integrating its famous chord progression into the refrain. Keys’s song is an ode to pursuing a crush from afar, but Khaliyah X flips it into an incitement to seize the day. “‘What’s My Name’ is like the ‘X’ side of me,” she told Vocalo. “I’m stepping into myself; I’m being bold. I just wanted to say what I wanted to say and have fun.” 

The track is Khaliyah X’s first release since the August 2022 EP Just for the Summer, and it’s a perfect reintroduction to her bubbling talent. These days, she’s going full steam ahead, and as the stars continue to align for her, you’d best remember her name.

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Khaliyah X Fri 9/8. Khaliyah X performs at 2:20 PM on the Goose Island Stage on day one of Taste of Chicago, which continues on Sat 9/9 and Sun 9/10. From 11 AM-8:45 PM, the lineup on the Goose Island Stage (in set order) is Fingy, Dew From 2001, Khaliyah X, OK Cool, Ausar, Kaina, and DJ Simmy. From 5-8 PM, the lineup on the Main Stage (with DJ Selah Say) is Mamii & Slique Jay Adams, Meagan McNeal, and Masters of the Mic: Hip-Hop 50 featuring Doug E. Fresh, EPMD, KRS-One, and Slick Rick. Grant Park, 331 E. Randolph. Free. All ages.

Update Thu 9/7: This story has been amended to correct the name of the producer on “What’s My Name.”