Story By Marjon Carlos
As much a provocateur as a troubadour, dance music singer, Kelela, infuses penetrating vocals, envelope-pushing performances, and disarming wit into her overall sound. Buoyed by the thumping beats of the Fade to Mind/Night Slugs family, Kelela’s voice propelled Kingdom’s hit, “Bank Head/Send Me Out” to new heights this year with its sensual, atmospheric vibrato. Channeling a mixed bag of artists from Amel Larreiux, Little Dragon’s Yukimi Nagano, to Cheryl “Coko” Clemens of SWV-fame, the Maryland/D.C.-native has created a signature stroke of accessibility in her work and a heightened sense of the abstract.
Her just-released mix tape, Cut 4 Me, personifies this sentiment emphatically, it an artful mash up of the present and yesteryear. Between gentle coos and emotive roars that are reminiscent of dance music greats before her, Kelela soars over progressive beats from Nguzunguzu, Kingdom, and Girl Unit, which mark today’s sound. The result is decidedly fresh and transcendent. Saint Heron had a chance to speak with the rising singer on her influences, creative process, and the indelible mark Janet Jackson’s, Rhythm Nation, 1814, left on the her artistry.
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