Kehlani embodies the title of her 2017 full-length debut album, SWEETSEXYSAVAGE The GRAMMY® Award-nominated critically acclaimed R&B pop songstress breathes life into those three words, and they represent a moment of self-actualization.
"On my first two mixtapes, I talked about getting hurt a lot, because I was in these shitty relationships where I kept being very naïve," she admits. "A lot of things went down, and I grew up. I wanted to express everything at the same time on the album. SWEETSEXYSAVAGE came to me on a beach in Hawaii. I realized that's what women are. We can hurt. We can also be hurt. We can go as hard as we can go soft. We can be as crazy as we can be sympathetic. We're all of the above."
This sincerity has become Kehlani's signature since the 2014 release of her debut mixtape Cloud 19. At 19-years-old, she opened up even more on 2015's You Should Be Here. After bowing at #5 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Chart and at #1 on the iTunes Top R&B Albums Chart, the mixtape garnered a 2016 GRAMMY® Award nod for "Best Urban Contemporary Album." Upon release, Pitchfork praised how, "You Should Be Here's dynamism and generosity is something to be amazed by," while Billboard proclaimed it, "The year's first great R&B album." It landed on Complex's "Best Albums of 2015," Noisey's "50 Best Albums of 2015," and Rolling Stone's "20 Best R&B Albums of 2015."
Meanwhile, everybody from G-Eazy and Zayn to Post Malone and Pusha T sought her out for guest appearances and she contributed her very first RIAA certified gold single "Gangster" to the platinum-certified #1 soundtrack of 2016, Suicide Squad: The Album. Almost immediately after You Should Be Here arrived, she began piecing together what would become SWEETSEXYSAVAGE, recording in Los Angeles as well as in Philadelphia. Her experience on the road made an indelible impact on the approach.
"When I'd play shows, I realized what songs people were having fun to and what songs people got emotional to," she continues. "The whole point of this album is for me to have the most fun I can. It's about how I grew through being on my own and traveling. I felt like I didn't have shit to prove to nobody."
Emanating that confidence and charisma, she introduced the album with a series of undeniable tracks such as "CRZY" and "Advice" - which cumulatively amassed over 30 million Spotify streams in just a few months. The 90s-inspired swagger of "Distraction" impressively racked up over 3.2 million YouTube views in under 3 days. She kicked off 2017 unveiling the single "Undercover." The track coasts from a hummable acoustic guitar into one of her biggest hooks yet, "They don't wanna see it happen, but we say fuck it."
"I'm a very passionate person," she exclaims. "I feel like nothing should stop love if it's supposed to happen, regardless if I have to delay my position a lot of the time. There are so many things that can stop it though, whether it's being worried about criticism or about getting exploited. This is just me basically saying, 'It doesn't fucking matter. No matter how it has to get done, we're going to find a way to fucking to do this.' It's definitely about a female. People are so ready to attack those types of relationships, but we're going for this wholeheartedly anyway."
On "Personal," finger-snaps and bombastic production give way to her incendiary and infectious cadence before an undeniable declaration. "I'm telling somebody not to take what I'm saying personally, because I'm going to unleash everything I've got to say," she remarks. "I was talking a lot of shit."
The airy ballad "Everything Is Yours" proves both confessional and catchy. "I had an ex-boyfriend tell me, 'No matter what, even if we break up and I'm married in hella years, you could always take my ring from anybody's finger,'" she says. "I'm recognizing the love, but I'm also recognizing that it's possessive. If you don't treat some right, you won't make it far."
In the end, SWEETSEXYSAVAGE sees Kehlani naturally sharing herself, her emotions, and truth.
"I didn't want to make an album based on the dark times I went through," she leaves off. "I decided to leave all of that behind. I read this quote by Lao Tzu that really inspired me: If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present. I'm taking it one day at a time. When people hear SWEETSEXYSAVAGE, I want them to dance, have fun, and enjoy it. That's the vibe."