Growth is undoubtedly one of the most important facets to creative production. The ability to experiment and retool of what worked and maintain a fan base is no easy task and leads to constant questions of whether a failed trial spells the end for a career.
On her 2017 debut album, SweetSexySavage, Kehlani highlights personal growth following a whirlwind 2016 that included a suicide attempt in March. The Oakland songstress offers a collection of 19 tracks that highlight both external examinations of her persona and mentality as well as her budding capability to express herself as she navigates her way to stardom.
The foundation for Kehlani’s music is her trademark voice, one with gritty undertones and a hint of rasp that complements her ability to balance both the ballad-oriented tracks as well as the increasingly prevalent Trap&B, that’s common with the likes of Ty Dolla $ign, Fetty Wap and Tory Lanez. Most notably though, Kehlani doesn’t compromise to reach into either genre; she performs equally well on songs with pop appeal like “Escape” as she does on the fluctuating bass patterns of “Not Used To It”.
On the production side, Kehlani stays true to her roots, seeing longtime collaborator Jahaan Sweet on two tracks, while much of the album is produced by duo Pop &Oak, who have worked with a number of hit-makers, including Alessia Cara and Tory Lanez. Kehlani’s engineers ensure to prioritize her vocals, maintaining that the piano of “Thank You” or the acoustic guitar of “Hold Me By The Heart” are wholly complementary roles.
All things considered, Kehlani takes unapologetic personal strides in providing an R&B album not unlike the 90s compositions by Aaliyah, Mary J. Blige, but with definite modern influences. And while she may not be as vocally gifted as the Mariah Carey types in the industry, Kehlani is more than able to hold her own.