The fashion world is political and elitist in that way. I went to a high school called T.C. Williams High School – you know where the Remember the Titans movie was set? Last Tuesday, Jorja Smith and Kali Uchis performed at the Aragon Ballroom in Uptown.
kali uchis merch – This Incredible Colombian Pop Star Is About To Make It Big In America
On his debut LP, Jardín, Gabriel Garzón-Montano sings of the struggles and uncertainties of the many-layered game that is America today, from the specific doubt and double consciousness of the first-generation hustle, to the universal challenges of love, legacy, and exploring the maze of one’s own mind. When she was starting out, Kali spent a lot of time trying to control other people’s narratives of her, whether it was in interviews or on Twitter. But as the director of many of her decadent, stylized videos and the songwriter on every song of her debut album — a rarity in a music industry that’s desperately trying to get more women both in and behind the booth — she’s finally just letting her music speak for itself.
Kali Uchis has had a great year, having been nominated for a Grammy for her work on Get You” with Daniel Caesar and a Latin Grammy for El Ratico” with Juanes. With her successes, including the release of her first studio album, Isolation, she not only makes her statement as an artist, but as a strong independent Latina making noise in the music industry.
For me the most beautiful thing about people is humor. I used to think confidence, because a lot of people would tell me confidence is the most beautiful thing a woman can have. For a long time, I tried to overcompensate with confidence, because I wasn’t secure in myself. I thought as long as I own it, then whatever. And there’s truth to that, but I also find shy people beautiful and people that aren’t so confident beautiful, too. I also think imperfections are beautiful. A lot of people are starting to look the same with all the procedures they’re getting, they are losing their unique qualities. Uniqueness is the most beautiful thing.
Karly-Marina Loaiza (born July 17, 1994), known professionally as Kali Uchis, is an American singer and songwriter. She debuted in the music industry with her 2012 mixtape, Drunken Babble, which was described as “genre-defying”. She released her first EP , Por Vida , in 2015 to further recognition. Her debut studio album, Isolation , was released in 2018 to widespread acclaim.
Uchis goes on to tell me candidly that mental illness runs in her family, and that she’s struggled with depression herself. She says that up until recently, her family didn’t really understand what she was doing with her life, but ever since her 2017 duet with popular Colombian artist Juanes, they’ve been very supportive. In the last few months, she’s also dealt with her fair share of online haters.
We got in for a few days and we made some of the songs that are on my album. Once we felt like we got the songs, out of the batch of songs that we made, we were like, These are the strongest. These are the ones that we both like the most and we felt had the most potential.” That’s when we really went in on them, and I re-vocal’d everything. Because when I first make a song, it’s more of just laying the idea, and I just kind of freestyle some of it, and I might go back and re-write certain parts or whatever. It was a couple days of just going in together and reworking stuff before it really happened.
Kali Uchis ‘s sound is not so easy to pin down—her debut album, Isolation, is a little bit ’60s Motown, a little bit reggaeton, a little bit funk. It tracks, then, that her sense of fashion can also be as genre-bending as her music.
Though Kali Uchis’ voice always carries a hint of melancholy, the overall vibe of the set was triumphant. On March 14, 2018, Uchis performed on The Tonight Show and announced her debut album, Isolation 19 It was officially released worldwide on April 6, 2018.
For a pop star, she’s a bit of a musical outsider too. As a kid, she started playing the saxophone, moved onto the piano and eventually became so proficient in music that now she plays all the instruments on her songs and self-produces her music. Uchis told i-D she was the first-chair saxophone in her school band.
Kali Uchis looks like she’s stepped out of an infinitely glamorous telenovela at all times. Shrouded in marabou feather gowns, with feline claws and waterfall curls, the Colombian singer is a femme fatale to the highest degree, not least in her music. Imbued with as much retrospective mystique as her aesthetic, Uchis’ voice is syrupy and coy, lulling you into a false sense of security (you know how much damage those acrylics could do if necessary).
After a brief intermission – enough time to grab another beer and make a friend – the houselights dimmed as the audience chanted “Kali! Kali!” Uchis emerged atop a circular staircase, rotating on its top step, to serenade the crowd with a sultry performance of slow burner “Loner,” from her 2015 album Por Vida. There was no need to rush. Or so it seemed. A string of high energy latin infused, R&B, pop, dance fusions (“Dead To Me,” “Just A Stranger,” “Your Teeth In My Neck”) from her breakthrough 2018 album Isolation invigorated the opening moments of Uchis’ set. She sent the dancing audience into a frenzy with every new dance move, every new pose.
The background: Kali Uchis is a 20-year-old singer, songwriter and producer who also directs and styles her own videos. From Colombia via Virginia, the LA resident’s 2013 Drunken Babble mixtape, which she put together in 48 hours, attracted invitations to work with Snoop Dogg, Tyler, the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, A$AP Rocky, Dâm-Funk and Diplo. You can hear some of those collaborations on Por Vida, her brand-new mixtape, released next week. She calls her spin on vintage R&B with modern production soul wop” – where hip hop meets doo wop. Her vocals are, similarly, halfway between singing and talking, which she does in a sort of cute monotone. It’s sugary with a side order of sulky menace. Probably why she has been described as a cross between a street princess and an anime character, a poster girl for a pretty-but-tough aesthetic. She shares a birthday with M.I.A. and a death-day” with Billie Holiday. That says a lot.
Smith opened the show and seemed totally comfortable in her role as a dazzling, pink-clad idol. There were moments when Smith was partially drowned out by the instrumentation on her more upbeat songs, though the crowd didn’t seem to mind. For my part, not knowing the songs by heart, she shone brightest on the slower numbers that centered the emotive power of her voice, allowing me to actually make out her lyrics.
Curiosity helped Uchis, the youngest of five siblings, escape the reality of a full house, which was often the first stop for many extended family members after they relocated from Colombia. There was constantly music playing, food being cooked, people running around; meanwhile, Uchis was happiest in her room, writing or drawing.
You can see from my first videos I was using handheld cameras and literally doing it all by myself with no team. I didn’t know how to perform. I had to teach myself all these things.” One of these videos from 2012 is still on Uchis’ YouTube channel. Directed and edited by Uchis herself, the video shows her singing in a tiny home bathroom, DIY-style shots of her lying on a (very ordinary-looking) bed and lots of teenagers smoking weed. It’s got the same gritty, amateur feel as the freestyle videos you might have seen on SBTV before grime went mainstream , but with a hedonism-heavy story board that brings to mind Thirteen, the indie cult classic about bored, rebellious teens.
Uchis was born in Virginia on July 17, 1994. She spent most of her childhood years between the U.S and Colombia. Additionally, she became interested in music since an early age and hence grew up playing saxophone and piano. She holds both American and Colombian nationality. Furthermore, there are no details available regarding her ethnic background at present.
Tomorrow” is aspirational; Coming Home” starts off doubtful, but the second half is assured. After the Storm,” with its irresistibly groovy crawl, is encouraging. The album ends with the reflective Killer,” written while Uchis was living out of her Subaru, in which she likens love gone bad to murder.
If Smith’s set was focused on allowing her jazzy artistry to shine through, her co-headliner instead made her case as a full-on show woman. Kali Uchis’ set was shock and awe from the first beat, as the Colombian-American singer appeared center stage on a rotating, multi-tiered platform, all surrounded by smoke and a band playing proggy, portentous funk. Throughout her set, Uchis played up her charm and bravado — lounging over her stage decorations, making use of a prop chair, and drinking from a champagne bottle that she opened onto the front rows of the venue. The difference in performance styles between the two was clear, and so was the audience response. Someone threw a bouquet of flowers on-stage for Jorja; someone threw their bra to Kali.
The Colombian American singer, who oversees most of her own creative direction, has a clear view of not only what she wants to do, but how she intends to do it. And the 24-year-old is well aware of how the world perceives resolute women like her.
In 2017, Jardín was met with praise by critics and fans alike, and was awarded several notable best-of lists including NPR’s 10 Best R&B Albums of 2017, and #5 on KCRW’s albums of the year. Visuals for the album also received accolades, as Bombo Fabrika” was ranked on Remezcla’s Top 25 Videos from Latin Artists. Garzón-Montano collaborated with several female rappers including Little Simz and Junglepussy for a series of remixes with verses over the Jardín instrumentals which became playlist favorites. Appearances on NPR’s Tiny Desk” and the nationally syndicated program World Cafe,” along with headlining shows in the U.S., Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia, and festival stops including Primavera Festival in Spain, and SummerStage in New York showcased the album further. In early 2018, Gabriel released Golden Wings,” an upbeat track with an infectious rhythm accompanied by a video shot in Death Valley, keeping his growing audience eager for his next body of work which is imminent.
TYLER: A lot of heroin comes from Afghanistan, I believe… Yeah, Colombia’s not really put into mainstream as anything other than this is where we get coke from” so people are ignorant to what’s there.
I mean, we have a statue dedicated to Juanes in Medellín! In music, it’s really difficult to remain timeless. You want to remain somebody who can keep being an artist and not be washed out. You often hear things like, I liked his first one better.” It’s hard for the fans to grow with you. So I have a lot of love for artists like him and Shakira, who are putting on for Colombia so much. They do so much for the city; they do so much for the country. It’s amazing to have Colombian artists at the forefront of pop music. I wish there were more Afro-Latino Colombians or indigenous Colombians that were being put on at the moment – I feel like that’s really what’s missing right now. But, you know, being from Colombia is definitely still something to be proud of.
Kali Uchis: I kinda want to go to Paris. Yeah, I’m not ready to go back to Colombia yet, that would be a big move for me and I would have to be really comfortable with the place I was in my career. Kali Uchis (right) and Jorja Smith (left) in the music video for their song, “Tyrant”.
I think it’s about time that Spanish-speaking music dominates because it’s such an important language on the planet. I can remember being really little and coming out of school in Colombia and always hearing American music outside, in people’s cars. It’s their time. It’s important that Latino artists who’ve been overlooked for so long, because of the fact that they don’t make music in English, get the credit they deserve and not just people who are trying to capitalise on the language and the trend.
Tyrant” was the first single off Kali Uchis’ debut album, Isolation. In addition to being a dynamic singer, Uchis has also been a music video director, songwriter, record producer and fashion designer. Dir. Kali Uchis & WIISSA. Video prod. Nouvelle Vague LA. Song prod. Kaytranada & BBNG.
Most of my features have been production features. I’m very selective about who gets on the same song as me, and whose song I get on. But when it comes to production, I really like to work with different people, because I’m still looking for that one person to work on my next album with. Every song is a different genre. There’s Gorillaz Damon Albarn, who does some vocals and produces (In My Dreams”). Kevin Parker from Tame Impala produces a song. Thundercat was doing a lot of ad libs and playing bass. He’s one of my good friends. He’s a really sweet person. And the Dap-Kings. I love them. For my next project though, I don’t want to bounce around between producers and features. I want to just work solely with one person and in one place.
He posted it and was like, Oh, parcera” – that’s homegirl” in Colombia. He said, This girl is from Medellín!” and I responded, Actually I’m from Pereira, but thank you!” He was like, Oh, my bad.” But then I just DM’d him, Let’s work, though.” He had a song ready for us to work on – he came to L.A., and we finished the song that night. I wrote my part in Spanglish. You know when you don’t speak in Spanish for so long? I was going through a huge phase, where, for some reason, even though I’ve been living in L.A. for the past few years, a lot of people in L.A. don’t like to speak Spanish. My makeup artist and I will be walking around speaking Spanish, and I notice people get really offended. But I’m the type of person that kind of enjoys offending people, so…. Laughs I love to see people get mad when I’m speaking Spanish. It makes me want to speak it more.
Kali Uchis: These vintage Dior heels, they were a steal. Same as with my sound, I like to experiment with my style and use it as an extension of myself. Like I said, I’m really intuitive Show your moods, your thoughts, your actions. I try to make myself and people around me feel good, I try to make sure that I smell good. I don’t have to be super glam all the time, but I love wearing colours that are going to make people around me feel good. I like to wear patterns that are going to make people brighten up. How I feel is going to show through in what I’m wearing.
Her family — her parents, especially — was confounded. She says they were humble and hard-working and couldn’t understand why she would pursue such a precarious career path. Told about Uchis’s goals, one classmate responded: ‘Here’s my number; let me know when you’re homeless,’ ” the singer recalls with a laugh.
Unlike most stars, she had her image in place from the start. At 18, Uchis released her first mixtape, Drunken Babble. Her instincts were so honed that she finished the tape in just 48 hours. After the release, one of the first people to reach out to Uchis was Chris Braide, who co-produced Lana Del Rey‘s Born to Die. Music writers have drawn comparisons between Del Rey and Uchis before. The tape made waves almost instantly — everywhere from the pop to the hip-hop community. Snoop Dogg was an early fan.
But the way I work best is still from scratch on the keyboard, when I’m by myself in my room. I’ll just make different sounds, and it can get weird laughs. Then I bring my ideas to people who can really produce, because I’m still figuring out how to be a better singer, writer and musician in general. It’s nice to see what you come up with with different people, because I learn so much from all these really talented musicians.
I’m from the DMV area, which is D.C., Maryland and Virginia combined, so it’s a subculture of its own. But for some reason when I tell people that I lived in Virginia, they ask, Oh, is it a bunch of, like, hillbillies out there?” They don’t know a lot of legends come from Virginia – Pharrell is from there, Timbaland, Clipse and Missy Elliott, obviously such an important icon in music and culture. But that’s OK, stay sleep.
Kali Uchis: People have tried to make me, but at the end of the day, my response is always like, ‘this is my song, my video. I was one of those people at one point who was scared to put my foot down and show where the boundaries were. For me, it’s really important to stand your ground and know exactly what you are, where you wanna be, and what you’re doing or else people are gonna try you.
After the student openers, and a DJ set from Los Angeles-based DJ Mia Carucci, who kept energy high with a keen eye for out-there transitions (going from punk rapper Rico Nasty into synth pop artist Grimes into Reggaeton singer Ozuna was my personal highlight) and a choice distribution of teddy bears into the crowd, the rain lifted, and, almost as if blessed by the weather gods, Jorja Smith was there.
Jorja Smith and Kali Uchis are exceptional performers, their voices are impeccable and the arrangements they did to their songs were very good. But, Kali, was performing for barely 40 minutes when she said bye Boston”. They crowd started screaming her name, anxious for her to come back to the stage. Then the lights were turned on and the back stage staff stared breaking down. We sat there confused because we were waiting for Jorja and Kali to finish the show with their song tyrant. But didn’t happen. We left disappointed and wanting a little more.
In spite of her creative spirit, Uchis struggled in school. She’d skip classes to work on her photography and often butt heads with authority figures. I believe in education, but I don’t believe that the way schools do it is for everybody,” she tells me. In high school I just felt like nobody could teach me art, nobody could teach me how to be a creative person.” Intent on getting her GED certificate – the minimum requirement for graduating high school in the US – and getting out of there, Uchis took a job at a grocery store and sold clothes to make extra cash. At 17, she was kicked out of her family’s house following an argument with her dad. Headstrong, she vowed to make it work. During the day Uchis would go to school. At night she’d crash at friends’ houses or sleep in her car.
Uchis, 24, boasts collaborations with Diplo, Gorillaz, Kaytranada and Tyler, the Creator. Last year, she released her debut album, Isolation,” to critical acclaim. Kali Uchis (born July 17, 1993) is a Colombian singer, songwriter, producer, and videographer. She was born in Pereira, Colombia and raised in Virginia, United States.
She’ll bring some of that nostalgic flair to the stage in April, when she embarks on a co-headlining tour with her friend and “Tyrant” collaborator Jorja Smith Uchis says she plans to coordinate complementary looks with on stage, but before she gets started on that, the Grammy-nominated musician took a moment to break down her thoughts on fashion, what it means for her to embrace her sexuality in her style, and why she recently started obsessing over Louis Vuitton handbags.