Tidal Rising: Kehlani

Tidal Rising: Kehlani

After a spirited run on America’s Got Talent that led to a top four finish on season six, Kehlani wasted little time fulfilling her vast potential.

In the four years since, the 19-year-old Bay Area native has already released two critically acclaimed full-length mixtapes, Cloud 19, and her most recent release, You Should Be Here, that have restored hope in R&B purists everywhere.

Given the buzz she has built up, and her membership with the progressive Heartbreak Gang, which includes Iamsu! and Sage The Gemini, along with enthusiastic co-signs from Chance The Rapper, PARTYNEXTDOOR, and fellow Bay Area native G-Eazy, it was no surprise when she announced last month that she had signed with Atlantic Records.

Despite being in the midst of completing her major label debut and prepping for a nationwide tour that begins in July, the Tidal Rising alum was kind enough to bless us with some time to get to know her better.

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How did you first get into music and how did it happen?

I got into music once I stopped focusing on dance. I couldn’t dance anymore because I got injured in middle school.

Who are some of your influences?
Lately… I’ve been paying attention to a lot more songwriters and a lot more businesswomen. I’ve been trying to learn things that I didn’t pick up when I was younger, just from music that I liked. I’ve been looking into a lot of people that built empires such as Jay Z, Drake, J Cole, etc. And people that have their own record label. Of course I have my “Go To’s”… Lauryn, Erykah, Beyonce, Aaliyah, Selena; but that should be every girl my age’s inspiration growing up.

What’s an album or artist that changed your perspective on music?

Esperanza Spalding, because she is a young jazz singer/upright bass player thriving in an urban music-dominated generation.

What role did being a top four finalist on America’s Got Talent play in your career?

Of course it gave me the start of a fan base. More importantly it taught me how to be a businesswoman, how to deal with all things camera-related, how to interact with a team, and it taught me that this is really what I want to do forever. Being a finalist just showed me that never giving up takes you a long way.

For those who don’t know, talk about your debut project, Cloud 19, and the impact it had on your career.

I only had about three songs out before Cloud 19, and I was nervous about how people would receive a “straight-up R&B” album in 2014… But I believe it was very necessary for the time in which it came out. It’s the story of young love and self-discovery. It left a lot of room for growth into further projects.

Being a Bay Area native, how do you feel about the Golden State Warriors being in the finals? Any predictions on who is going to win?

I’m very proud of any team representing my city in a positive way. As far as predictions, let’s keep up with the positive thinking and make sure we manifest this Warrior win.

You talked in a previous interview about how you feel like a lot of singers now don’t care about how they sound. How do you feel about the present state of R&B?

I feel like… It’s not necessarily how they sound, it’s like people don’t care about what’s coming out of them period and what they are a representation of. R&B used to not only make you feel through lyricism but also feel the emotion through the singer’s voice. I feel like the present state of R&B is evolving, and everyone is finding their own wave through it.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being affiliated with HBK Gang?

The advantages are that I gained a family, a group of people I can trust, and hot ass beats whenever I want. Disadvantages are some people might consider that as putting me in a box, which I don’t agree with.

What do you have coming up next?

My first headlining tour is almost sold out after five days, and starts up in July. I’ve been in the studio every day working on my debut album. I’m just having fun with it.

[Photo: Arturo Torres]

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