Twenty-year-old Kehlani is way up and admittedly feeling blessed. She’s so far beyond cloud 9, that she’s floating past Cloud 19, literally and figuratively speaking. The Oakland native dropped her debut mixtape in August of 2014 and she’s all R&B fans are talking about these days.
Her most recent project, You Should Be Here, had over a million plays on Soundcloud within the first 24 hours of its release in April and she is readying for an accompanying tour in July. The Atlantic records signee will be hitting every city from Philadelphia to Portland over the course of the summer. She’s effervescent and smart but ultimately grounded as a result of experiencing a number of tough times while growing up in the Bay Area. With those unstable periods behind her, the “Bright” creator is sure to continue putting her stamp on today’s R&B with a focus on bringing back the traditional vibe — she’s a fan of ’90s R&B so it only makes sense.
Kehlani definitely knows which elements are missing these days. With the help of her already unwavering fan base — dubbed the Tsunami Mob — she’s set to make some changes in the genre before it’s all said and done. Generally, she’s an open book in interviews but in case you’ve missed any part of her story, here are 25 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Kehlani.
Face tattoos are the least painful, according to Kehlani. Her decision to get them done wasn’t too tough to make either. “I felt like the way that I’m already tatted, it would be too much to get [the facial tattoos] like, right in the middle of my face.”
Oakland rapper Clyde Carson — formally signed to Capitol Records — is her cousin.
Her grandfather was sure to keep Kehlani aware of her Native American roots. When the singer was young, the two made tomahawk crafts together.
When she found herself stuck in a contractual obligation a few years ago, she ended up working a few jobs from an ice cream parlor to Hot Topic at the mall.
Kehlani was a dancer as a kid, even enrolling in a summer camp in Oakland for a few summers before having to hang it up due to a “jumper’s knee” injury. By then she had transitioned into singing.
Within three years, Kehlani hopes to win a Grammy, have a song hit Top 40, have “plaques on plaques on plaques” and buy a home for her family.
Chick-fil-A has a hold on Kehlani. “I get the same thing so often that my friends go without telling me and bring back exactly what I usually order. It’s that double spicy chicken delux, the meal, with Polynesian sauce and a lemonade! I’m a healthy eater but I don’t consider Chick-fil-A fast food.”
The singer is pretty connected to her city. Everyone from E-40 to Too $hort and even Keyshia Cole have embraced her. A collaboration with the latter may be in the works.
For a California girl, Kehlani isn’t as comfortable with the ocean as one would think. Her biggest fear is of large aquatic animals. “My dad passed away when I was little and he used to be a surfer. My family figured that the actual story of gun violence might be too much for a little kid, so I told myself that he must’ve gotten eaten by a whale or a shark. So to this day, I don’t go out [in the water] past where my feet can touch the bottom.”
The 20-year-old says that she’s planning for a big family. When asked about future children, she wants “a bazilliion babies.” “I want babies before I’m 25. I want to bring my babies on the road, and bring them to concerts and raise them in the studio,” she shares.
Chris Brown should be expecting a call from Kehlani’s camp sooner than later. He’s the primary artist she’d like to write a song for. “I just remember falling in love with the old Chris Brown music, where it was like, that real R&B and I love the radio smashes he’s put out since then but I go back to his older music for that R&B.”
The chanteuse signed with Atlantic Records because she says they were supportive of her desire to be independent in her career choices, even while signed.
Kehlani admits to being anal regarding her business. “I have to run a ship and sometimes being 20 years old and running your whole situation is insane… I feel like when you know your vision, you know your vision, and I’ve gone this far knowing exactly what I’m doing. It was a plan.”
She’s received plenty of backlash for her liberal use of the N-word. “When you look at me, you can’t really tell what I am but I’m black, white, Native, Spanish and a little bit of Filipino. I’m the type to check white girls for saying it.”
The title of ‘You Should Be Here’ was more than a passing idea, Kehlani admits. “It was the day before we left for tour and I took everybody to the beach, deep in the cuts of Malibu and I was just there reflecting like thinking about the people who couldn’t leave with us. Either weeded themselves out of my life or passed naturally. It’s like, ‘You should be here forever.'”
The ‘You Should Be Here’ creator says that her latest project concludes her “mixtape journey.” She’s ready to release an album next year but says that she had to get ‘YSBH’ out of her system beforehand.
Rick Rubin reached out to the Oakland native in 2014, and told her that her music would “change the world.”
Two songs that define ‘You Should Be Here’ are “The Way” and “Bright.” “‘The Way’ is so R&B and it feels nice. ‘Bright’ is bluesy and people weren’t expecting that from me.”
She shares that fans often thank her for helping them come out to their parents. “I was going to the studio and making songs to heal myself,” Kehlani reveals.
The singer-songwriter once told her Twitter followers to drink water just to see if they would and she was shocked by the fact that they actually took a few sips because she randomly asked them to.
Kehlani was raised by her extended family, spending a lot of time with her aunt who is responsible for the late ’90s to early 2000s influence in her music. “She would play the same CDs, neo-soul, R&B, she would play the same five or six CDs until they couldn’t play anymore or they broke.”
The ‘Cloud 19′ creator thanked Frank Ocean “for his existence” upon meeting him. She reveals that ‘Channel Orange’ helped her through some hardships at the time it was released. The project also assisted with her songwriting.
While touring in 2014, Kehlani encountered her first real stalker in Toronto. The young man knew her entire crew by name and waited for her to exit the host hotel overnight.
The Oakland songstress says that the only people she’s truly “fanned out” over are Elle Varner and Stevie Wonder. She actually cried in front of the latter. “I sang with him when I was 16 and when we met, I teared up, like, ‘Do you know who you are?'”
When she was dancing, Kehlani studied ballet though she says that she’s unsure if her current personality would mesh with being a ballerina.
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