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. Cloud 19 was reissued by Atlantic later in the year. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
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