If you want to feel like a badass, cry your eyes out, or just vibe, Kehlani is the artist for you. This R&B singer creates music for every mood, and is known for her hit songs “Nights Like This,” “Gangsta” from the Suicide Squad (2016) soundtrack and “CRZY.” She’s also multitalented― she’s a dancer, writes her own music, and has even directed her latest music videos.
Born on April 24, 1995 in Oakland, California, Kehlani Ashley Parrish entered the music scene during her teenage years. I first saw her in 2011, on season 6 of America’s Got Talent, where she was part of a band called Poplyfe and already showed tons of potential.
After the show, she left the band and became homeless, but this didn’t stop her from continuing to make music. Around 2013, Kehlani released her first solo track on SoundCloud, called “ANTISUMMERLUV,” which she made from her phone using voice memos. Nick Cannon, an American rapper and comedian, called her back after hearing the song, believing in her talent, and they struck a deal― Kehlani would finish high school, and he would buy her an apartment in LA and offer her time in the studio. She agreed, and her solo career officially began.
In 2014, she released her first mixtape, Cloud 19, followed by her second mixtape, You Should Be Here, in 2015. Kehlani eventually progressed to creating her first studio album, SweetSexySavage, in 2017. Her latest album, titled It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, was released earlier in 2020 and demonstrates her immense growth as an artist.
Her music reflects all of her multifaceted experiences. She used to channel 90s R&B, inspired by TLC and experimenting with modern beats. It Was Good Until It Wasn’t feels like the perfect musical fit for lockdown. In this album, she channels her pain from past relationships, mixing it in with the common quarantine moods of loneliness and horniness, and creates an elegant musical conversation to accompany you on your best, and worst, days.
Kehlani’s emotional vulnerability sets her apart from other artists. She has never shied away from using her platform to be vocal about current political matters, such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the #MeToo movement, and has opened up about her struggles with anxiety and depression. She doesn’t like to be labeled― neither with her sexuality (she identifies as a queer person!), nor with her music. She’s a free spirit in every sense of the word and her music is a reflection of that. Not only does her music inspire me, but she is someone I see myself in. Kehlani was able to overcome many of the obstacles in her path, despite having all of the odds against her, and turn these experiences into art for the world to enjoy and relate to. Listen to her music if you haven’t already, you won’t be disappointed!