By Paul de Revere
There’s the old saying: “You are the company you keep.” It’s a bit of oversimplified pop philosophy sourced and adapted from the New Testament. In the case of Justin Bieber and his recent troubles — drunk driving, drag-racing, resisting arrest and driving with an expired license charges — in Miami Beach, maybe the inverse is true. R&B singer Khalil was arrested alongside Bieber for a suspected DUI.
All eyes on Bieber, and by extension the company he keeps, isn’t anything new. He’s one of the biggest pop stars of the last five years, and his posse is known among Beliebers, particularly on social media. But with today’s arrest and last week’s drug raid at chez Biebs, media attention on Bieber’s crew has taken on a witch-hunt vibe. While Bieber was admonished for egging a neighbor’s house, the search warrant that resulted from such juvenile hi-jinks resulted in a coke possession arrest for Bieber’s alleged housemate, rapper Lil Za.
This sort of thing isn’t relegated to just the last week, though. There’s Lil Za’s brother, Lil Twist, who was arrested for a DUI while driving one of Bieber’s cars last July.
Others, too, have taken non-criminal falls for Bieber publicly, like Odd Future leader Tyler, the Creator. Almost tragically, Khalil and Lil Za have only become recently newsworthy names because of alleged Bieber foolishness, while Twist and Tyler have been known entities in the hip-hop world for a minute.
Many have asked why in regard to Bieber’s outrageous behavior. But there’s a not-insignificant, less-asked question about these recent troubles: Why do these significantly-less-famous, young, black artists — Khalil, Lil Za and Lil Twist — keep getting jailed up in Bieber’s wake? Is it the company Bieber keeps? Or is it the company they keep? And just who are these guys, anyway?
Here’s some insight into this close posse of artists, both independently and in the context of the Bieberverse.
Real name/age: Khalil Amir Sharieff, 19
Who is he? Per his Island/Def Jam bio, Sharieff was born in California and moved to North Carolina as a teenager. Like Bieber, he was a YouTube discovery brought to Atlanta to record under the auspices of star-making producer L.A. Reid. Sharieff was signed by Island/Def Jam in 2008, but broke ties with the label as recently as 2011 or 2012.
What about his music? His latest song “Stars,” released this past June, is a serious club banger. The video and song recall Chris Brown when it seemed like he was a sweet, talented teenager who could dance, sing and do no wrong. His 2011 collaboration with Lil Twist, “Hey Lil’ Mama,” is innocent enough for airtime on the Disney Channel.
Who is he to Justin Bieber? Sharieff was arrested alongside Bieber as the two raced through Miami Beach early Thursday morning. Per Khalil’s Instagram, here’s a driver’s seat view of the red Ferrari he drove. Not to mention a side-profile shot of Bieber in the passenger seat of his yellow Lamborghini. The two have known each other for at least a year.
Real name/age: Xavier Dominique Smith, 19
Who is he? Lil Twist’s younger brother. Za and Twist are from Texas. There’s some evidence that Lil Za is an aspiring rapper.
What about his music? Za has one video on YouTube called “Gangsta S**t,” posted in 2012 — in which he goes pretty hard, actually. Beyond that, there’s no evidence Lil Za is a musician, at least not professionally.
Who is he to Justin Bieber? He was present during the infamous egg-throwing vandalism earlier this month. Upon a search of the premises, drugs turned up and Lil Za was arrested for cocaine possession. Upon Bieber’s arrest, Za posted a “Free Bizzle” graffiti work on his Instagram, referring to Bieber’s incarnation. Za later added a “Free Kalfanzo” graffiti work on Instagram, presumably referring to Khalil, who was arrested with Bieber. “It’s not a game,” Za said on Instagram. “We don’t take it as a joke.” Za and Bieber have known each other for at least a year.
Real name/age: Christopher Lynn Moore, 21
Who is he? A Young Money/Cash Money rapper from Texas who was featured in XXL‘s 2011 Freshman Class, a serious boost toward the big time in the rap game. Since then, he’s had a few singles with major guest features (Bieber, Miley Cyrus, 2 Chainz), as well as a 2012 mixtape with Khalil (3 Weeks in Miami).
What about his music? “Do What I Want” with perennial featured-verse guest 2 Chainz is a serious ride-out jam. Twist’s vocal quality resembles that of Lil Wayne, but his lyrics and swag stand up to Chainz. “Twerk” is about as annoying as you think a song called “Twerk” is likely to sound.
Who is he to Justin Bieber? Twist was arrested for a suspected DUI last July while driving a car owned by Bieber and has collaborated with him on “Twerk,” “Wind It” and other tracks. The two have known each other for at least a year. If trashy tabloids are to be trusted, Twist and Lil Za have resided with Bieber in his Calabasas, California home.