Kelela Mizanekristos, known simply as Kelela, is a singer, songwriter, and record producer who has been captivating audiences since her 2013 debut mixtape, Cut 4 Me.
Her unique sound, which blends elements of R&B, electronic, and alternative music, has earned her widespread recognition and critical acclaim. She makes tunes that are weird, lovely, and worth checking out if you’re searching for something unlike anything you’ve heard before.
She recently released her sophomore album Raven to rave (get it?) reviews.
Fans are thrilled to have her back after a six-year-long break from sharing full-lengths, and now is the time for others to discover her talent.
1. Genre-Defying Sound
Kelela’s music is known for its fusion of traditional R&B with futuristic electronic and alternative sounds. She has been credited with pioneering a new genre of music known as “alt-R&B” and her music has been described as both innovative and boundary-pushing.
Her sound is characterized by emotive vocals and atmospheric soundscapes, making her music both introspective and danceable, which is not often easy to manage.
2. Ethiopian Roots
Kelela was born in Washington, D.C. to parents of Ethiopian descent. Growing up, she was surrounded by Ethiopian music, which has had a profound impact on her sound.
Her music often incorporates traditional Ethiopian styles, such as scales and modes, which are used in a new and modern context. Kelela has said that her heritage is a major source of inspiration for her music, and that she feels a strong connection to her roots.
3. Talented Producer
In addition to her singing, Kelela is also a talented producer. She co-produced her debut album, Take Me Apart, which was released in 2017 to critical acclaim.
The album was praised for its intricate production, which showcases Kelela’s versatility as both a singer and music-maker. She continued to produce for her sophomore set Raven, though she also partnered with a healthy mix of well-known names (such as Kaytranada) and unknowns who had something to say.
4. Unforgettable Voice
Kelela is known for her powerful and emotive voice, which has been compared to those of famous R&B singers such as Aaliyah and Sade. Her vocals are often characterized as warm and especially expressive, and she is able to convey a wide range of feelings and thoughts through only her singing.
5. Advocate for LGBTQ Rights
As she was promoting her debut album back in 2017, Kelela spoke to the music magazine Dazed, and in the chat, she stated that she “had to learn how oppression works in the music industry, specific to my experience as a queer black woman.”
Her work often reflects her personal life, so much of it deals with love and her struggles, though she finds ways to discuss these difficult and complicated topics with nuance, making them fun and easy to consume.
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