Indie-R&B vocalist Kelela has been somewhat of a dark horse in this year’s Spring Weekend lineup; not as famous as Modest Mouse or Waka Flocka and not as notoriously crazy as Pusha T or Hudson Mohawke, she seems to have been somewhat under-played by the majority of the Brown community. So, I’m here to set the record straight and provide some much-deserved hype for this year’s most underrated artist.
Before I continue, I must confess that I’m slightly obsessed with Kelela; my phone auto-corrects her name to “KELELA” every time that I try to type her name in text messages (or, more embarrassingly, on Facebook).
Kelela, a.k.a. Kelela Mizanekristos, is a Los Angeles-based electronic-alternative-R&B vocalist whose sound can best be described as unwaveringly honest, genre-defying, experimental, ethereal over heavy instrumentals, and consistently raw. She first broke into the music scene after meeting the musicians of famed electronic music collectives Fade to Mind and Night Slugs, where she provided vocals for notable producers and began recording material for her first album.
Her debut LP, Cut 4 Me, dropped a year and a half ago and has since taken off, catapulting the artist to prominence in the afrofuturistic scene. Cut 4 Me was met with both commercial and critical success; single “Bank Head” (above) has garnered over one million plays on Spotify while the album as a whole has been praised by Pitchfork and Björk, among others. The album features 13 sublime tracks, produced by the likes of Kingdom and Bok Bok, that explore the intersections of electronica, R&B, soul, and pop. A Deluxe Edition was released just days ago, which contains several additional remixes.
Since then, she’s been continuing to make a name for herself, collaborating and performing with various artists–including fellow SW performer and “[friend]” Hudson Mohawke (hint-hint, wink-wink)–while writing and recording more songs. This year, Kelela has been quite active, most notably working again with producer Bok Bok on “Melba’s Call” and putting out an extended mix of Cut 4 Me track “Go All Night” on Solange’s Saint Records label.
More recently, in the days leading up to the Spring Weekend lineup release, she released “A Message” and an accompanying music video (below). The dramatic, psychedelic, and introspective single is the first off her latest project, a six-track EP titled Hallucinogen, which is slated to drop on May 5th–just in time for finals (sorry). If “A Message” is any indicator, the new EP will be even more honest and infectious than Cut 4 Me.
And Kelela isn’t just phenomenal in the studio. The vocalist also has amazing live performance chops–this video of her performing “Cut 4 Me” at the Pitchfork Music Festival last summer speaks for itself. Complementing her vocal prowess, she’s not afraid to get involved with her audiences; in one interview, she emphasizes the importance of “[touching] or, like, [feeling] somebody” and describes how, at South by Southwest, she jumped a barrier in order to better connect with the second section of the crowd. So, watch out for her–both literally and figuratively.
P.S. For those of you who don’t know how to pronounce her name, here’s a fun tutorial featuring the
goddess artist herself.