We tried to tell you back in June, but in case you didn’t hear us: R&B singer Kelela (pronounced “Kuh-LUH-lah, get it right) is dope AF. Maybe you weren’t aware, but this fact’s not lost on her fans, who’ve been craving (and pressing her for) her debut album since her Hallucinogen EP ruined us all in 2015.
In a recent Instagram post dedicated to her “ride-or-dies,” the Solange-affiliated siren thanks them for it. “It’s a blessing to have access to a constant stream of positive reinforcement when I’m not feeling like my real self,” she writes, “when I don’t think I can do it.”
And it’s that openness—that vulnerability—that makes her as inspiring as she is alluring. In a recent interview with The Ringer, Killa Kels serves readers a little bit more, talking to writer Amani Bin Shikhan about courage, Black womanhood, and the Black women who inspire her.
Get into the seven quotes that hit us hardest below. Take Me Apart is reportedly due this year.
1 “When I’m writing, I’m usually writing for Black girls. That’s who I’m thinking about. I want them to feel better. That’s who I’m trying to speak to.”
2 “I read Amandla Stenberg in an interview that Solange did with her. She said that a Black woman existing robustly is radical. Really radical, actually. I want to use my platform to talk about [that]; how the experience of love and romance and vulnerability through the lens of relationships happens in front of this backdrop that is inherently challenging for Black women.”
3 “I also appreciated the sort of gender fluidity [Tracy Chapman possessed]. I didn’t know it was what I was appreciating, but I knew that I found it wondrous. I was intrigued by the fact that she didn’t look so girly. I didn’t feel so girly even though I might’ve looked it and done femme, girly things, I wasn’t so girly like that. I felt safe; it was really important. And she’s Black.”
4 “I want to express that I’m coming through a lot of trauma in the same way that a lot of people are. Especially in my Black womanhood. There’s a lot of trauma that we experience that we don’t even know we experience. We don’t even know it was an actual thing that hurt us.”
5 “If I’m going to feel good in this world, one of the ways that I can do that, most simply, is to surround myself with a lot of women who have shared experience and similar ethics.”
6 “As I grow, that becomes more and more apparent, how much that has affected my experience. How much the experience of being a Black woman has shaped me and the thing that I want everybody to understand about me is probably, at this juncture, the songs that I write are really coming from that place. Of trying to create an empowered person in a situation that maybe wasn’t so empowered, a situation that might be disempowering.”
7 “Courageousness, I guess, is the main thing for me. Being vulnerable over and over again. I guess it has to do with love superseding everything and being the most powerful sentiment.”