In a 2019 interview with Apple Music, Kehlani described getting signed after leaving the teen-pop group Poplyfe. Great, she thought: Now’s her chance to do something for herself, something authentic. So she put out a couple of mixtapes. The response was good—2015’s You Should Be Here reached No. 5 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop charts—but the business side kept insisting she could be something more, something like a “quote-unquote superstar,” she remembers. “So I’m like, ‘Let me try!’ And then I try. And I’m like, I hate this.” Which, of course, is part of her appeal, in hindsight. Born in Oakland, California, in 1995, Kehlani Parrish has become one of the most grounded, inspiring voices in modern R&B, preaching messages of self-care, sexual fluidity, and light New Age-iness in ways that feel frank, funny, and real. She’s perfect in her messy bun (“Unconditional”); she’s down with astrology for reasons both sexual and psychological (“Water”); she’s here to break bread with you, travel the world, and sleep in different beds with you, but also to make revenue (“Change Your Life”). Above all, you get the sense that Kehlani is genuine—to herself, to her music, and to her audience. If she isn’t 100% human, she does a good job pretending.
BORNApril 24, 1995