OAKLAND (KPIX) — Just a few years ago, she was couch surfing and homeless. But now, young Oakland native Kehlani has a huge contract with Atlantic Records millions of social media followers and two new Grammy nominations,
KPIX 5 saw the power of her draw at one of two sold out concerts that were held recently at the historic Fox Theatre in Oakland.
Outside the Fox, the long line of fans waiting to enter the venue stretched around the block. Many of the excited attendees were women.
“We love her voice. We love who she is as a person,” explained follower Maja Gonzales.
“She’s like the voice for women,” said fan Tage Springfield.
“She’s very strong. I like her,” said Jessica Bran.
Once inside, the fans got to meet the tiny, tattooed singer named Kehlani Ashley Parrish. She took an extraordinary amount of time talking to her fans, hugging, and posing for selfies.
It is clear that she appreciates each and every one of them.
“Artists are artists because of the people,” explained Kehlani.
But to truly understand why Kehlani is such a star, one has to listen to her voice and gain an understanding of her journey. Her voice is the real deal with the ability to send shivers down a listener’s spine.
Just 22 years old, Kehlani was already nominated for a Grammy in 2016 for her mixtape, You Should Be Here.
Only a few years ago, she was struggling to make ends meet. She knows her life has been quite a journey and she deeply appreciates where she grew up.
“Oakland taught me that I can never compromise who I am. Never compromise my heart, never compromise my soul and never forget where I came from.” Kehlani said.
Life has always presented challenges to Kehlani.
Her parents struggled with addiction, with her father dying when she was an infant and her mother serving time in prison.
Her aunt adopted her, and exposed her to music she grew to love: lots of R&B and neo-soul.
At 14, Kehlani joined a musical group called Poplyfe.
They performed on the televised reality competition “America’s Got Talent” and came in fourth place. Even at that young age, her talent is plain to see in the band’s performance clips.
Afterwards, conflicts ensued and Kehlani ended up homeless.
It was a phone call from “America’s Got Talent” host Nick Cannon to check up on her that changed her life.
Kehlani spoke about what happened and how Cannon changed the trajectory of her path last year at the Billboard Awards Show.
“He literally called me, said ‘Yo, if you finish high school, I will bring you to Los Angeles and let you work in my studio and I will give you an apartment,’ which will be the first place I can lay my head for years,” explained Kehlani.
As for her two 2018 Grammy nominations, Kehlani is up for Best R&B Performance for “Distraction,” an amazing love song about not wanting to fall in love.
“Because when I fall in love, I fall very hard and it does tend to just side swipe my entire life and just kind of take over,” laughed Kehlani.
Her second nomination this year is for her song “Undercover,” which is in the running for Best Remixed Recording thanks to a reworking by the Canadian Duo known as Adventure Club.
She found out about her nominations with a very early morning call from her manager, and told a funny story about her manager excitedly telling her, sprinkling in several curse words. She asked KPIX 5 to bleep them out, shrugging her shoulders and chuckling.
While Kehlani may look and talk tough, to her predominately young and female fans, she shows a vulnerability and touches their hearts.
The East Bay native is multi-racial, and bisexual. She is honest about her life, and that honesty appeals to her fans. She speaks and connects to them.
“We always hear the male perspective but it’s amazing that we actually get to hear the woman’s perspective and it just empowers us all,” said fan Tage Springfield.
Springfield then turned to the large group of young ladies standing next to her and asked how they felt. The response was overwhelming positive and warm toward Kehlani. It was clear she is well loved and that the crowd of fans could not wait to see their favorite artist perform live.
Next month, Kehlani will play her biggest Bay Area show yet, appearing at SAP Center in San Jose as the opening act and special guest of Demi Lovato and DJ Kahled on February 28.
Kehlani: Official website
The Grammys: Official website
Atlantic Records: Official website