Kehlani Parrish (born April 24, 1995), known professionally as Kehlani, is an American R&B singer-songwriter who is currently signed to Atlantic Records.
Kehlani grew up in Oakland, California. She has described her ethnicity as a mix of "black, white, Native American, and Hispanic".She was raised by her aunt because her father died when she was young and her mother was in and out of prison. She attended the Oakland School for the Arts initially with a focus on dance.
Early in her life, Kehlani aspired to train as a dancer at the Juilliard School, but she suffered a knee injury in junior high and turned her attention toward singing. Her aunt listened almost exclusively to R&B and neo soul artists, and Kehlani counts Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott among her early influences. When she was 14, Kehlani was recruited to join a local pop cover band, PopLyfe.
Kehlani's singing career effectively began as the vocalist for PopLyfe. The band's music was produced by former Tony! Toni! Toné! member, D'Wayne Wiggins. The group played shows throughout the Bay Area and elsewhere for about two years. In 2011, they auditioned for the sixth season of America's Got Talent, and eventually finished in fourth place in the finals. During their final appearance, judge Piers Morgan told Kehlani, "You've got real talent, but I don't think you need the group."
Kehlani left PopLyfe soon after the end of America's Got Talent because of several managerial and contractual disputes. For six months, she avoided doing anything with music for fear of being sued by the group's management. In 2012 and 2013, Kehlani was effectively homeless, moving from house to house and often sleeping on couches.During her senior year of high school, she moved to Los Angeles with no legal guardian before returning to Oakland soon after. To help with money and food, she turned to stealing items from grocery stores for a short time.
In 2013, Nick Cannon, who had been the host of America's Got Talent during PopLyfe's run, called Kehlani to ask her about being in a rap group. She agreed at first and went to Los Angeles, but, ultimately, she didn't like the direction of the group and moved back to Oakland again. A few months later, Kehlani released her first solo track on SoundCloud called "ANTISUMMERLUV." Cannon called her back after hearing the song and set her up with an LA apartment and studio time.
This studio time culminated in the 2014 release of her first mixtape, Cloud 19. The mixtape features guest vocals from Kyle Dion. Cannon also sent her to New York City to work with producer Jahaan Sweet. The album ranked 28th on Complex's list of the "50 Best Albums of 2014," and was also listed among Pitchfork's "Overlooked Mixtapes 2014." Her song "Till the Morning" was chosen by Billboard as one of the "Emerging Picks of the Week" on November 7, 2014. In early 2015, Kehlani opened for G-Eazy on the second leg of his From the Bay to the Universe tour.
In April 2015, she released her second mixtape, You Should Be Here. Billboard called it the "year's first great R&B album," and it debuted at number 5 on the national R&B/Hip-Hop chart. The album features guest appearances from Chance the Rapper and BJ the Chicago Kid. A week after the release of her mixtape, she announced that she'd been signed to Atlantic Records. In support of her album, she went on the You Should Be Here tour which sold out every North American date and select European dates. Throughout 2015, she also received individual plaudits: Complex called her one of the "15 Artists to Watch Out for in 2015" and Rolling Stone named her one of the "10 New Artists You Need to Know." She was also nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album. Kehlani collaborated with Zayn on the track "Wrong" from his debut album Mind of Mine, released on March 25, 2016.
Her song "Gangsta" was featured on the soundtrack for the hit movie Suicide Squad, which gave her and her music some beneficial recognition, as it reached number 41 on the Hot 100. On November 26, 2016, she revealed the title of her debut album SweetSexySavage, which was released on Atlantic Records on January 27, 2017. On December 5, 2017, Hip-hop artist Eminem revealed that Kehlani would be collaborating on the song "Nowhere Fast" for his ninth studio album Revival. Kehlani's third annual Tsunami Christmas tour concluded in Santa Ana, California on December 18th, 2017.
Kehlani served as an opening act on Demi Lovato's Tell Me You Love Me World Tour in North America, which started on February 26, 2018 and concluded on April 2, 2018. She then opened on Halsey's Hopeless Fountain Kingdom World Tour in Oceania, which started on April 19, 2018.
In January 2016, it was confirmed in Instagram posts (which have since been deleted) that Kehlani was in a relationship with NBA point guard Kyrie Irving. In March 2016, there were allegations by Canadian musician PartyNextDoor that Kehlani was cheating, posting a photo of her in his bed on Instagram (which has also since been deleted). This caused a media controversy across Twitter, in which both Kehlani and Kyrie's name was trending in hundreds of thousands of posts. This media attention caused Kehlani to attempt suicide. Kehlani posted on her since deleted Instagram a photo of herself in the hospital explaining that she had not cheated and the breakup of her relationship with Irving led to her affair with "best friend" PartyNextDoor who she credited with "saving her life" during the suicide attempt ordeal.
In an interview with Power 106, Kehlani discusses her attempted suicide was due to the negative media response as well as her first major heartbreak. She states that her album was therapeutic through her difficult time. During her recovery, she got a tattoo that says “perdida y encontrada” which in English translates to “lost and found”.
After she recuperated, in 2017, she had multiple posts about love for everyone regardless of gender identity, and was motivating fans to accept people's differences and beliefs. While on the SweetSexySavage World Tour, she posted pictures of her girlfriend, New Jersey artist Shaina Negron. In April 2018, Kehlani posted on Twitter stated that she identified with the term queer over gay because gay "always insisted there was still a line drawn as to which 'label' of human i was attracted."
On January 5, 2018, Kehlani posted a photo to Instagram showing that her iconic "WOKE" hand tattoo has been now covered up with a lotus flower; she stated that she felt that her "hand would speak for [her] before [she] even got a chance to open [her] mouth".
- SweetSexySavage (2017)
- Cloud 19 (Released: August 26, 2014)
- You Should Be Here (Released: April 28, 2015)
- You Should Be Here Tour (2015)
- SweetSexySavage World Tour (2017)
- Demi Lovato – Tell Me You Love Me World Tour (2018)
- Halsey – Hopeless Fountain Kingdom World Tour (2018)
Awards and Nominations
|2016||Grammy Award||Best Urban Contemporary Album||Nominated|
|2017||BET Awards||Best Female Soul/R&B Artist||Nominated|
|2017||BET Awards||Centric Award||Nominated|
|2017||American Music Awards||Best Female Soul/R&B Artist||Nominated|
|2018||Grammy Award||Best R&B Performance||Nominated|