In 2016, Kehlani Parrish’s career was nearly trampled by that four-letter word. The vivacious singer from Oakland was dating NBA All-Star Kyrie Irving and was believed to be in a harmonious relationship with her basketball beau. The two flooded social media with their Colgate smiles in a string of selfies showcasing their love for one another. Talk about real love.
Then, one day in March, Kehlani’s ex-PARTYNEXTDOOR derailed her budding romance with Irving by posting a picture of the singer laying in his bed. Trifling. From there, Kehlani was obliterated by the media for her decision to run back to PARTY despite being with her soon-to-be NBA champion. The pressure nearly eviscerated the heart of Parrish and almost caused her to end her life. She deleted her Instagram and disappeared for a while. The singer needed to recharge and rediscover herself after that tumultuous ordeal.
Nearly a year later, Parrish unveils her debut offering SweetSexySavage, which proves to be the opus she needed to regain her swagger. After dodging the stray bullets of criticism from the people’s smoking guns, Kehlani is demonstrative about her vulnerabilities. Instead of stifling her emotions in hopes of not being chastised by the public eye, she rolls up her sleeves and conveys her scars for everyone to see. On “Keep On”, a candid Kehlani acknowledges her blemishes and imperfections. “I haven’t been the best I could have been,” she convinces. Despite her glaring wounds and ineptness in love, she revels at the thought of knowing that someone will never let her flounder alone. All she’s asking is for her partner to be her personal life raft in case she slips and falls in the pits of love. Though she can be a mini tornado of fury at times, Kehlani can also be the sexual siren you dreamed of. Her intoxicating vocals on “Distraction” are enough for any man to hit the pause button on life and engage in some TNA in the bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen counter.
Kehlani’s decision to provide spoonfuls of candor throughout the album is why she’ll reach the apex of R&B sooner than a lot of her contemporaries. Parrish squeezes every drop of ink from her pen to explain why she yearns for that unbreakable bond that many dream of, but sadly, never achieve in a lifetime. “Just tell me I was worth a million smiles,” she sings on “Piece of Mind.” On “CRZY”, Kehlani utilizes a bouncy flow to swerve through the Novawav-produced track. Once again, Parrish biggest weapon – aside from her unruffled vocals – is her ability to “kill them with compassion.” “On Do U Dirty,” Kehlani admits to her savage demeanor. “Have you all up in your feelings/Experienced, I did it times before/And I can see you from a distance/I could fuck you now and years later on/You gon’ be stuck, just reminiscing.”
Kehlani’s ear for production proves to be a major plus on SSS. Pop & Oak’s provides an eclectic sound to illustrate her vision. On the ominous “Everything is Yours”, Pop & Oak create a dark soundscape for Kehlani to drown in her sorrow. (“Up at a time when I shouldn’t be/Thinking ’bout things that I shouldn’t be/Sad about shit I’m sad about for the past year/I’ve been low, I’ve been down and out,” she sings.)
With SSS, Kehlani is unloading her baggage at the front door with no hesitation. She presents you to the different sides of her as a woman. Not only does she exude all three personalities from her album title, she’s unabashedly letting men know out there, “I’m fucked up, but I’ll promise to love you from the bottom of my heart.” You gotta love an honest woman.