Oakland native, Kehlani has been putting in some serious work to make to keep a name for herself in the music industry. Working with various artists such as Chance The Rapper and G-Eazy, just to name a few, has helped her to manage to stay consistently in the public eye since her first mixtape release.
In 2014 she released Cloud 19 which Pitchfork listed as one of their overlooked mixtapes for the year. She had been making music before with a girl group but this was her first solo project and where most of her fans first discovered her. Following that Kehlani continued her path of success with her mixtape You Should Be Here in April of 2015. This mixtape received a ton of critical claim and eventually received a Grammy nomination for Best Urban Contemporary album. Musically things have only gotten better for her from touring to having her music in a feature film. The sky seems to be the limit for the 21 year-old songstress.
That’s where SweetSexySavage comes into play Kehlani’s 3rd body of work and debut album. SweetSexSavage, a play on TLC’s CrazySexyCool is not only an ode to R&B’s past but a showcase of the diversity of womanhood. Everything about this album illustrates a woman’s journey. A journey of being accepted by a society with strict guidelines on who she’s meant to be and who she really is.
The listener’s journey begins with poet Reyna Biddy baring her soul and setting the story for the album with the intro. This poem is a cry for people to understand that women do have flaws and many phases that can be understood if attempted. “I’m afraid you’re under the impression/ That I was made to please you/ I was under the impression you understood me better/ The truth is, I’m a superwoman/ And some days I’m an angry woman/ And some days I’m a crazy woman”. Reyna Biddy is letting you know from the beginning that this album is going to tell the story of what it means to be a woman. Flaws and all.
Kehlani doesn’t let you down with the tracks to follow. “Keep On”, “Distraction”, and one of my personal favorite “CRZY” CRZY, the debut track from the album, comes off as an anthem for women to take back their power “You showed up to see me lose/ But I overcome so you overcame/ Basic, basic, ain’t nothin’ bout me basic”. Kehlani shouldn’t be counted out and she’s letting every woman know they shouldn’t be counted out either.
There’s no denying the 80’s, 90’s, and early 00’s influence on Kehlani’s music either. Tracks like the Aaliyah sampled “Personal” and the Akon influenced “Undercover” showcase her knowledge of the genre she’s entered into while still providing some heavy hitting lyrics. “You so far gone, got you thinking you’re safe/ All said and done, you lost my respect/ All said and done, you’re the one I regret” she croons on “Personal” with a very Aaliyah like flow.
What this album does well is that it doesn’t rely heavily on being nostalgic. Kehlani gives a nod to her musical influences without letting that nod take over the album. A task that is not easily executed by many artists hoping to take on the same task. “In my feelings” does that with it’s New Edition sample. Utilizing just the vocals of “if it isn’t love” and “why do I feel this way” in the chorus Kehlani is able to use just enough of the lyrics to get the listener excited.
This is an excellent first album and follow up to Kehlani’s previous mixtapes despite my disdain for certain tracks (really just the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition). Every bit of this album lets you into her mind and the mind of every woman. “I never said I was done with my growth” Kehlani reminds us on the last track ”Thank You” a line that can resonate with every woman and in fact every man as well. It takes a lot to admit that you’re not done growing and to bare your soul on an album. Kehlani let us in and didn’t disappoint with her debut.
Agree or disagree? Let me know.