Halftime Leisure

Critical Voices: Kehlani, Cloud 19

February 9, 2015

The 19-year-old Bay Area native, Kehlani Parrish, has taken R&B to a new level with the release of her first mixtape, Cloud 19, this past August. On the outside Kehlani embodies a grungy punk vibe with her tattoos and skater wardrobe, yet her music is soft and delicate. Her music has a very old school classical sound similar to artists such as Ms. Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder, India Arie, John Legend, and Musiq Soulchild. While Kehlani definitely has a unique sound, her mixtape offers a lot of variety. Her lyrics are very relatable and fun. Since she is only 19-years-old, teenagers and young adults will definitely connect to her music, and her overall message is inspiring and empowering.. Kehlani collaborated with various upcoming producers and artists on her mixtape to keep her music sounding fresh and unlike anything else on the R&B scene at the moment.

The first track off Cloud 19 is called “FWU”. Produced by Swagg R’Celious, “FWU” is extremely catchy. Kehlani hits various notes throughout the song and really shows us the wide range of her voice. Contrary to Chris Brown’s infamous track “Loyal”, Kehlani sings about a relationship in which she is extremely faithful to her man.

Kehlani slows things down for her second track, “As I Am”. Producer, Red Vision, keeps the instrumentals simple and clean, allowing Kehlani to really show off her vocals. This song is about being as in love and obsessed with someone as they are with you.

The third track and the leading single off the mixtape, “Get Away”, takes it all the way back to the late 90’s Mariah with a touch of Ms. Lauryn Hill. It’s something I can picture blasting in the car on a late summer night. Personally, I think Kehlani killed this track with her powerful and soulful voice. In this song, Kehlani sings about appreciating and holding tight onto true love.

The fourth track on Cloud 19, “Deserve Better”, is a girl’s anthem. Kehlani sings about knowing your self-worth, loving yourself, and deserving the best.

If this next song doesn’t take you back to summer barbeques in your backyard, I don’t know what will! The fifth song off the mixtape, “How We Do Us”, contains a sample from Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It”. When I first heard this song, I thought it was going to be a club banger, but Kehlani and the featured artist on the track, Kyle Dion, decided to slow it down to keep it on par with the rest of the mixtape. Not only do their voices complement each other, both artists really experiment with the range of their voices on this song.

The next track, and my personal favorite, is called “1st Position”. The slowest song off the mixtape, Kehlani does her thing on this track. More than anything, the message of this song is unlike anything currently out there on the R&B stage. Kehlani is explicit in her lyrics singing, “Say baby, stop messing with those boys get you a lady.” She also just released the music video for this track in which she pictures two girls falling in love.  I think it’s awesome how she is creating a platform for the LGBTQ community through her music.

Kehlani expressed her Bay Area roots in “Act a Fool”. Featuring Bay Area and Heartbreak Gang rapper IamSu!, “Act a Fool” is a refreshing track that makes you want to get up and dance!

The eighth and final song on the mixtape is called “Tell Your Mama”. This is definitely an upbeat and uplifting track. Kehlani encourages her listeners to tell the people they hold close and dear that they love them. I think it was the perfect song to end with.

Not only is Kehlani an amazing vocalist, she is an extremely talented dancer. Wrapping up her first tour, The Bay to the Universe, alongside rappers G-Eazy, Jay Ant, and Kool John, this tattooed skater is definitely on the look out.

Photo: hotnewhiphop.com


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