While some artists wait years before they receive critical acclaim, singer-songwriter Kehlani was greeted warmly upon her arrival in the music world, and things have only been getting brighter for the rising star. Her mixtape You Should Be Here, which was released before she was ready for a full-length album to drop, was nominated for a Grammy, and it established her as a name to watch.
In the years since, she’s worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, spoken up about issues that are important to her as a queer woman of color, and made some of the most interesting music that mixes genres and presents a style and a sound the world has never heard before.
Kehlani talks about her favorite collaborations, what she has coming next, and what the reaction to her announcement that she’s pregnant has been.
A lot of the music you’ve released recently has been collabs with artists like Eminem, Charlie Puth, and Cardi B. Is there something that you're particularly proud of that people have heard in the past year?
I think I'm really proud of the Cardi B record just because I'm proud of her in general. I remember I was doing an interview at Hot 97 with Nessa, maybe two years ago, and she was coming up and making Instagram videos, and I think she had a couple of songs out, and I've always been a fan from Instagram. They ended up bringing her into the studio, I mean into the interview to surprise me, and we had a really dope conversation about womanhood and being a woman in the industry and that was like maybe two years ago, two and a half years ago. To have this progression, and to have seen her get to where she is now, also having shot the video with her while she was five months pregnant, it is really dope to see a woman take charge of her career like this right at the beginning stages like that, and just go really far with it. That's awesome, so I think that was a proud moment for me because it was such a proud moment for her.
I was looking before this, and the song you did with her, it just went gold.
It went platinum!
Amazing! As a commercial artist who has had this success, do you concern yourself with chart numbers, sales, radio...is that of interest to you?
Not really. I feel like that is the number one way for...this is what happens when artists lose their mind a little bit. In no generation before this one did the fans really pay attention to things like that. I can't say as a fan of when I was younger, growing up in the early 2000s, did I ever care.
As long I can feed my family, as long as I can take care of myself, as long as I'm financially able to create freely and produce out ideas that I have, I'm happy. I'm not really worried about ranking,
What you do want people to take away when they listen to a Kehlani song?
I want them to find something that they identify with in the music, whether it's the story, whether it's the joy that the song brings or maybe the pain the song brings. I want them to feel like when they listen to it that, I guess, that I’m not this far-out person that doesn't go through the same things they do. You know? I want them to find some sense of similarity and comfort and I guess yeah, just identification.
What does the rest of this year bring for you and then what can fans expect next year?
The rest of this year I will just be working on my projects, I will hopefully be dropping one of them, and next year I will have my baby.
Hopefully, that gives you a break, some time to spend with your family?
Oh yeah, I'm fully supported. We will be able to be mobile, and supported all that I do by my family.
I was happy to see you speak openly as a queer woman about being pregnant. Some of the responses in the conversation have been interesting, and in some ways, this has been eye-opening for people.
That was definitely strange. I'm still dealing with that, but I realize that the queer community in itself has experienced a lot of discourse and a lot of, so much hate towards it that some of the stuff I was seeing was internalized things that were projected off of people that they projected onto me. If there's ever a valid point that people make I'm super down to listen, I'm always down to have a conversation, I'm always down to hear somebody out and be heard in return. It's a learning experience with some people and it's a happy and enjoyable moment for me!
Photo Credit: Kehlani