Words by Joana Silva
Let’s get one thing straight – Kehlani has nothing to prove as a vocalist. From collaborating with the likes of Chance the Rapper, BJ the Chicago Kid and fellow Oakland native G-Eazy, to Grammy nominations and feature film soundtracks: the songstress has made her mark in the R&B game.
Hailing from the Bay Area, a region renowned for its culturally-rich music scene, many forget that Kehlani’s early career moves were made as lead singer of PopLyfe, a group that finished fourth in the 2011 edition of America’s Got Talent. Straying from the reality-television roots that can often stifle and hinder young talent, Kehlani’s next two drops as a solo artist were well-received, earning shoutouts and salutes from the likes of Billboard, Complex and Rolling Stone.
So, why didn’t I latch on to her as one of contemporary R&B’s heavyweights? In truth, I once even gave up my Kehlani tickets for a different motive, stupidly having double-booked my plans. I can almost hear you screaming as you read this through your screen… I’ve been a consumer of R&B since childhood and, much like my annoyance with other current artists, I felt that I didn’t always connect with her projects as “unskippable” albums. I could always cherrypick a handful of songs that I deemed flawless but never respected the albums as cohesive, stand out collections of work. I always returned to the same one or two tracks.
Admittedly, I expected much of the same with her new drop “It Was Good Until It Wasn’t” until the artwork – gritty yet refreshing – was circulated on the socials. Released in early May, the album propelled to number 1 on the iTunes chart and me and my complacent self had anticipated an album that I could streamline into three or four hits. Boy, was I wrong. The album is, without a doubt, Kehlani’s most emotionally mature project: a flawless vocal delivery complemented by impressive collaborations with Tory Lanez, Lucky Daye, James Blake and Jhene Aiko. Masego also makes an appearance, adding a whole lot of sexy and soul to “Hate the Club”. The album is undoubtedly fuelled by rocky and life-altering events which have shaped her personal life; from motherhood to the untimely passing of close friends and a public breakup, Kehlani fuses badass with grown and sexy.
Get your drinks ready and hit the dimmer switch if you have one: Kehlani exudes sensuality in ‘Can I’ and ‘Serial Lover’ along with a whole lot of honesty in ‘Grieving’ and ‘Hate the Club’. I urge to you to sample this sensuous album during a late-night lockdown listening party of your own – the later, the better.