This Los Angeles-based R&B and electro pop singer/songwriter, Kelela, is attracting a strong fan-base with her debut mixtape “Cut 4 Me” that features singles like “Enemy” and “Bank Head.” Her mixtape was listed on Global Grind’s “The 13 Best Mixtape/EPs of 2013” list and is creating much buzz in the industry. She has already made a name for herself and continues to make a movement by collaborating with the Fade to Mind/Night Slugs crews. If you didn’t know who Kelela was at first, after reading through this list, you’ll have a better idea.
1. The singer’s real name is Kelela Mizanekristos. Being the daughter of Ethiopian parents, who immigrated to the United States in the 1970s, her childhood often felt weird. While growing up, the feeling of racism was introduced to Kelela when her peers decided to sit with their race on her first day of middle school. Eating with “a mixed bunch of friends”, to Kelela, felt like a slap in the face. Since then, she’s “always had a commitment to not be in one thing.”
2. Although, in 2012, she headed to Los Angeles to embark on a “do or die” mission in high hopes to start her career, Kelela is born in Washington, D.C., but was raised in the suburbs of Rockville, Maryland.
3. Mariah Carey and Cheryl “Coko” Clemons of SWV are the pop R&B artists that she’s “spent a lot of time imitating.”
4. When choosing her musical destiny, Kelela had plans to be a jazz vocalist. Such legends like Sarah Vaughan and Betty Carter inspired her as well as Amel Larrieux, who Kelela attributes 20 percent of her years of musical discovery. In 2004, she remembers seeing Larrieux perform at D.C.’s Lincoln Theater and her decision to become a singer was validated. Kelela recalls “being so impressed that [Larrieux] could make you feel things while you were sitting.”
5. Kelela attended American University in Washington D.C. for five-and-a-half years where she studied international studies with a focus on development in Africa. She spent a lot of time in college just being academic and discovering who she was through reason and analysis.
6. Just last year, Kelela worked as a telemarketer. After catching the attention of Solange, who became a fan of her music, Kelela quit her day job and was booked as an opening act on Solange’s tour.
7. Kelela is not the type of artist to write lyrics. Her songs are “left up to chance” as she “hears the track and sings over it.” She “finds out what she’s saying live.”
8. Kelela has made two appearances on Solange’s “Saint Heron” album that is intended to showcase a new wave of R&B music.