This year has been a good year for music, but there really hasn’t been anything that is unique or a breath of fresh air. For the most part, it has been the same bass heavy synths or the usual “Mustard on the beat, h*.”
Many artists stick to these tropes and fail to take chances with their music. However, every once in a while, an artist pops up that pushes their perspective genre in new directions, and gives listeners something fresh. Kehlani is one of those artists.
Kehlani is an R&B artist that is taking the genre to new levels. Lately, R&B has been about turning up, making babies and chasing that “paper,” yet Kehlani strays from genre stereotypes, as the singer/songwriter focuses on the trials and tribulations of love, as well as with her family. Her sound is moody and atmospheric, yet it can be light hearted aor even dark.
Her voice is smooth, but able to hit unbelievable heights. What makes Kehlani unique is that she is not constrained to one sound. For example, certain artists don’t like to deviate from the things that made them successful, but her risk-taking is what will undeniably build her up.
Kehlani’s music breaks the mold of what everyone believes R&B is. She doesn’t demean her gender and truly makes unique music. Transfer student Christian Casias agrees. “She is a modern-day Aaliyah in my mind,” Casias said. “It’s great to hear a more refreshing voice in R&B, because it is very male dominated right now.”
Kehlani first came on the scene when she released her first mixtape “Cloud 19” in 2014. The mixtape consisted of new school R&B mixed with the old school. One of the highlights, “Get Away,” sampled R&B singer Ginuwine’s “So Anxious” and reshaped the song from one that was about baby makin’, to a story about a failed relationship.
The song begins cheerfully and full of hope, only to become dark and hopeless. “Said you were scared to come f**k with me/ cause you see I’m chasing dreams/ but that doesn’t mean I don’t need nobody” she sings.
“Runnin’ (Interlude)” is undeniably the most powerful track Kehlani has written. It’s not often that we get something that outrightly states women’s misrepresentation in music. “I changed the way they lookin’ at us women makin’ music/ don’t put back on the crown/ stop makin’ us look so stupid” she sings.
That statement alone not only serves as lyrics, but can make listeners aware of the stereotypes that exist in the music they consume. Later on in the track she continues, “‘Cause I know every man has a fear of a strong minded women/ but I say she’s a keeper if she got it on her own and keeps it runnin’.”
Shortly after the release of “You Should Be Here,” Kehlani signed a record deal with Atlantic Records. There has been no announcement of when listeners will hear her debut album, but there’s no doubt that Kehlani is an innovator, as her music reflects a side and sound that we rarely hear in R&B.