MIMO - When Music is Your Fix

Introducing: Kelela

Combining the futuristic production of Timbaland and the neo-soul of Erykah Badu with an inspired wave of experimental electronica, Kelela Mizanekristos is arguably the most forward-thinking out of all the female performers currently attempting to emulate the golden age of R&B.

Born and raised in Rockville, Maryland by Ethiopian parents, the dreadlocked vocalist grew up listening to everyone from Miriam Makeba to Janet Jackson and performed in an indie-rock band and as a jazz singer before settling on her “deliberately off-putting” take on the urban sounds of the 90s.

But it wasn’t until she approached the relatively late age of 30 that Kelela, who had previously majored in International Studies at Washington D.C.’s American University, began to make any inroads in the industry. Indeed, she was still working as a telemarketer as recently as 2012 when Solange invited her to be the support act on her US tour.

After guesting on abstract electronic duo Teengirl Fantasy’s Tracer (“EFX”), Kelela began working on her own material with progressive label/DJ collective Fade To Mind, resulting in last year’s critically-acclaimed Cut 4 Me mixtape.

Voted The Guardian’s No.7 album of 2013, the mixtape’s 13 tales of twisted love proved that Kelela had more of an edge than most of her younger alt-R&B peers. None more so than on “Enemy,” which combined the sweetly-sung melodies of classic TLC with the jackhammer synths of Dizzee Rascal’s daring debut. Elsewhere, the warped Purity Ring-esque “Keep It Cool,” the spooky sci-fi soul of “Do It Again” and the throbbing electro of “Guns & Synths” also showed that Kelela was far more interested in subverting the genre than merely paying tribute.

Since then, she’s appeared on Solange’s hipster compilation, Saint Heron, been shortlisted for the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2014 poll and is currently working on her debut album proper, due for release later this year. Telemarketing’s loss definitely appears to be the R&B scene’s gain.

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About the Author


Jon O'Brien's love of music began as a six-year-old after becoming bizarrely transfixed with the 80s poodle rock of Heart, Europe and Def Leppard. Switching his attention to pop icon Michael Jackson, he then became addicted to the UK Top 40, becoming a rather pointless walking Wikipedia of chart positions in the process. Driving his poor neighbors up the wall while learning to play the drums as a teen, he toyed with the idea of becoming a musician, but in studying Journalism at the University of Central Lancashire, he realized heÕd rather write about music than perform it. Since then, he's written thousands of reviews and biographies on everything from bubblegum pop to death metal, but electronica remains his main passion, with everything from Aphex Twin to Zero 7 in his spare room-consuming record collection. Jon resides in northwest England near Liverpool.

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