By Gabrielle Smallwood
Although she began her music career on “America’s Got Talent” as a member of PopLyfe six years ago, Kehlani Parris is just getting started. That opportunity placed her on the radar for major labels and celebrities including Nick Cannon.
Due to certain events that took place in her life, such as a contractual dispute, homelessness and mental health struggles, her focus on music was diverted for six months. She resumed her musical career when Cannon lent a helping hand. All she asked of him was studio time.
“Cloud 19,” Kehlani’s 2014 mixtape, introduced her to the music scene. Pop culture and social media audiences wholeheartedly embraced her. Several online sources pinned the songstress as an “R&B Artist on the Verge of Blowing Up.”
One year later, Kehlani released a Grammy-nominated mixtape “You Should Be Here.” Upon its release, Billboard called this project “The year’s first great R&B album.” It has seen success on the charts, from being the top debut of the week to number one on the iTunes R&B/Soul chart.
The 21-year-old Oakland native dropped her major-label debut album, “SweetSexySavage,” on Jan. 27. Kehlani shares her struggles from love to adulthood with confidence. She also sings about public experiences, like overcoming the social media backlash that followed a prior suicide attempt.
On “In My Feelings,” that samples New Edition’s “If It Isn’t Love,” Kehlani questions her partner with things like, “Why you got me so obsessed with you?” and “Why you got me wasting time laying next to you?” She sings about being stuck in a relationship with fading love.
Kehlani expresses her strong self-assurance on “Too Much” stating that she is “more than just a girl walking down the street,” she references “More Than a Woman” by the late singer Aaliyah, while using it as an ode to a past boyfriend.
“Advice,” her third single, displays that she is with someone who mistreats her. She explains how someone she thought would be the one person for her ended up showing her many times they were not. The lyrics, “How is the man of my dreams, not a man of his words?” and “How is the man for me, just a man that makes me hurt?” shows heartfelt emotions toward her experience.
The album ends with a gospel ballad called “Thank You,” which she shares about her growth and everyone that has been a part of her life. If you have not listened to “SweetSexySavage,” or Kehlani in general, take a chance and tune in. She is a new wave of girl power in R&B.