Oakland’s very own Kehlani released her long-awaited, 19 track album “SweetSexySavage” – channeling TLC’s CrazySexyCool – but doesn’t rely on the nostalgia of this reference to guide the album. It feels refreshingly contemporary and straight to the point, with some staple Bay Area hyphy beats. Her reflections on her past infamy and looking to the future are equally balanced in sweet, savage and sexy.
It starts off with a goosebump-inducing heartfelt slam poem about the complexities of her womanhood and how that affects her relationships. The last line “I’m still searching for someone to understand me better” reverberates in the void of the track and sets the tone for the rest of the album.
“Keep on” eases into the rest of the album, with a grimy R&B beat and vocals to warm your soul. The contrast between her voice, the background beat and vocals allows the listener to feel like it’s Kehlani’s heartbeat in internal conflict.
When all eyes were on her for the public love triangle between past lovers and a current lover on social media, she pushed through all the hate and misogyny she experienced with this album. “Do U Dirty” is being honest and upfront about her intentions. “Undercover” goes into this some more, and her line “one way or another imma love you, they don’t wanna see ya happy” explores her reactions to having her love be out in the open for public comment.
“CRZY” is the most quotable song on the album, with “Everything I do it with a passion, if I gotta be a b**** imma be a bad one,” and in turn is freeing, for her to be so unapologetic about being crazy and having emotions.
She delves into her Oakland days in “Not Used to It” and reminisces over growing up, seeing gun violence and drinking with her friends, and how she’s handling all the fame that has come her way. She doesn’t hide who she is, and has tweeted before about her past in Oakland .
My personal favorite, “Too Much,” has some early 2000s R&B beats that propelled me to get up and dance. She adds her own Kehlani twist of carefree girl power. It makes me feel like I’m 9-years-old singing JoJo, thinking about the boys I’ve never lost.
Her sweetness flourishes in the end, as she allows herself to be emotionally vulnerable with “In My Feelings” and “Hold Me By My Heart.”
The honesty about her past is a story of empowerment, after a rough patch in her career and turmoil in her life. Respect, love, and reflection shine through “SweetSexySavage.” Kehlani being unapologetically herself is something to blast in your car going down the 580, or listen to on a night in when you’re upset about a past relationship.