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Forthright R&B singer and songwriter Kehlani became known during the mid-2010s for a modern twist on the pop-R&B and neo-soul figures -- from TLC and Brandy to Lauryn Hill and Jill Scott -- whose work they absorbed as a youngster. The Bay Area artist's self-released mixtape Cloud 19 (2014) paved the way for the Grammy-nominated You Should Be Here (2015), a deal with Atlantic Records, and a Top Ten debut album, SweetSexySavage (2017), the source of Kehlani's second Grammy-nominated recording, "Distraction." Besides the recognition from the Recording Academy, Kehlani became an in-demand featured artist, supporting hits such as Charlie Puth's "Done for Me" and Cardi B's "Ring." Since hitting the Top Ten a second time with another mixtape, While We Wait (2019), Kehlani has offered a second Top Ten LP, It Was Good Until It Wasn't (2020), and their third album, Blue Water Road (2022). A stand alone single, "After Hours," was released in 2024. Kehlani Parrish was born and raised in Oakland, California. They attended the Oakland School for the Arts, where they studied ballet and modern dance, and blossomed as a vocalist following an injury that led to a move to the music department. During eighth grade, they joined Poplyfe, a band that competed on America's Got Talent during the program's sixth season. Following their affable performance of Travie McCoy's "Billionaire," one of the judges noted that he thought Kehlani, the frontperson, could be successful without the group. While Kehlani brushed the notion aside, they eventually went solo and presented themself as a slightly younger, more down-to-earth alternative to contemporary R&B artists like Jhené Aiko. Kehlani's first release, the brief mixtape Cloud 19, was independently released in 2014. A pair of its songs registered on Billboard's Twitter Emerging Artists chart, and it was singled out by multiple publications at the end of the year. A lengthier set, You Should Be Here, followed in 2015 and was highlighted by the Chance the Rapper collaboration "The Way." Received with more commercial success and critical acclaim, You Should Be Here reached number 36 on the Billboard 200 (number five R&B/hip-hop) and was subsequently nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Urban Contemporary Album. "The Way" eventually went platinum. Signed to Atlantic, Kehlani issued major-label tracks later in 2015 and during 2016. Among these songs were the platinum or gold singles "CRZY," "Distraction," and "Gangsta," the last of which was recorded for Suicide Squad: The Album. The first two hits appeared on Kehlani's first proper album, SweetSexySavage, which in February 2017 entered the Billboard 200 at number three. "Distraction" earned Kehlani a second Grammy nomination, this time for Best R&B Performance. Several tracks followed during the rest of 2017 and throughout 2018. "Good Life" (a G-Eazy collaboration off The Fate of the Furious: The Album) and "Honey" both earned gold discs for Kehlani as a lead artist, while they were also featured on hits such as Calvin Harris' "Faking It," Charlie Puth's "Done for Me," Kyle's "Playinwitme," and Cardi B's Top 40 entry "Ring." The collaborative energy spilled into the 2019 mixtape While We Wait. Packed with several featured appearances and different production credits on each track, it registered on the Billboard 200 at number nine, driven by the platinum Ty Dolla $ign collaboration "Nights Like This." The tape, along with assists on tracks by Justin Bieber and Megan Thee Stallion, effectively built anticipation for the 2020 arrival of Kehlani's second proper LP, It Was Good Until It Wasn't. The album landed that May at number two. Supporting roles on tracks by Disclosure, Pink Sweat$, and Lil Durk, among a few others, followed throughout the year and into early 2021. Plans for a deluxe edition of It Was Good Until It Wasn't were scrapped when Kehlani determined that potential bonus tracks they were recording would be better suited for another album. The decision made sense with the September 2021 arrival of "Altar," one of the singer's most stirring singles to that point. Cloud 19 was reissued within a week of it, and in 2022 was followed by "Little Story" and the Justin Bieber collaboration "Up at Night." Both singles appeared on their third full-length Blue Water Road which peaked at number 13 upon its April 2022 release. Kehlani's next single, "After Hours," arrived two years later in April 2024.
© Andy Kellman /TiVo


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