The Mid Year Report launched in 2016 with the intent of spotlighting 10 artists within the realm of music who share and represent the adventurous, independent spirit of NEST HQ. Similar to our end-of-year superlatives, the Mid Year Report recognizes those musicians who are outpacing their contemporaries due to fearless creativity and deliberate integrity, and this week, we’ll be discussing 10 artists who we believe are pushing their genre forward in 2018.
Read below for our Mid Year Report on Kali Uchis.
Kali Uchis is next in line to usurp pop’s throne. It’s a bold assertion, but the Colombian-American singer supports that exact feeling in an interview with Noisey by claiming, “My goal is definitely global domination. Whether I get there this year, next year, or in four years, who’s to say?” In April of this year, she dropped her major label debut, Isolation, to rave review. She’s headed out on her second headlining tour and has smashed collaborations with the who’s who of the music world. In just six years, she is closer to her dreams than ever before, but her artist entryway stemmed from much smaller beginnings.
In 2012, Kali unleashed her first project, Drunken Babble, a 17-track project that was crafted in 48 hours. The mixtape featured her talk-rapping, sampling old soul classics, and reframing negative experiences into positive perspectives. Keen on concepts of dreaming and youthful storytelling, Kali’s personality was unfiltered — rough around the edges, but at the tender age of 19 she already had honed in on a unique sound and was fearless in her approach. The tape was received warmly by fans and shortly after, Snoop Dogg reached out to collaborate.
Kali’s breath of fresh air within the industry also caught the attention of Diplo, BADBADNOTGOOD, and Kaytranada, all of whom would work on her follow-up EP, Por Vida. Released in 2015, the 9-track record showed Kali’s leaps and bounds as a vocalist and narrator. On the acapella opener “Sycamore,” Kali fiercely commands her crooning and fully abandons her talk-rapping style. Her alto range confidence throughout the EP led to comparisons of Amy Winehouse and Billie Holiday, solidifying her as a surefire performer. Lyrically on “Ridin Round,” Kali is unrelenting as ever: “Baby, understand, I don’t need a man / Fuck me over, I’ll fuck you worse, then take off to Japan.” Her vocal and lyrical breakthroughs infused with the eclecticism of Kali’s doo-wop, reggae, R&B, and synth-pop inspirations made Por Vida a huge stepping stone in her career.
2018 saw Kali’s game plan of global domination come closer to fruition. By lassoing an all-star class of producers (Tame Impala, Gorillaz, Romil from BROCKHAMPTON, DJ Dahi, and Thundercat to name a few) and snagging features from Tyler, the Creator, Jorja Smith, Steve Lacy, and Bootsy Collins, Kali positioned her casual pop sensibilities and genre-blending talents with some of the most exciting artists of this generation. Isolation bred hits like “After the Storm,” the lo-fi “Just A Stranger,” and the synth-pop favorite “Tyrant.” Amidst the heavy collaboration, Kali was praised for the effortless feel of the album as she was able to once again float between genres while not making the listener think twice.
Sonically, collaboratively, and aesthetically, her choices show sophistication, emotion, and a level of confidence reached by few. In an interview with Vogue, Kali proclaimed, “When I was making this album, I really didn’t want to be influenced by current music or by my peers.” That’s what separates Kali Uchis apart from the rest of the pop world: she isn’t concerned with current trends, but rather focuses her energy on making music that feels honest to her. It’s the reason why Isolation holds a spot in the Top 10 Best Releases of 2018 and just another step towards her complete musical takeover.