Kehlani – It Was Good Until It Wasn’t – The STiXXclusive Review

The title of the album is pretty much self-explanatory, and can sum up the sequence of events in my life­ for the past few months, including the 1st couple of 2020. I’ll allow interpretation to play itself out from there, but the music can absolutely be a soundtrack to what was, and what could potentially be, in terms of what it means to look forward and look ahead. We can’t do that without reflection, and that’s what Kehlani has brought to the forefront with her latest album.

Admittedly so, I didn’t listen to a lot of her, but because her music was played around me a lot (specifically Honey), that led me to taking in a couple of her projects, including her mixtape You Should Be Here, and her debut, SweetSexySavage. Today’s R&B artists have a conflicting battle with public reception, because where the vocal talent isn’t what it used to be in terms of the major acts, there’s a strong focus on lyricism that mirrors rapping, but also telling stories with more attitude than their predecessors (Monica, Fantasia, Brandy, Keyshia Cole, Tamia, Melanie Fiona, just to name a few). There’s more rawness with their lyrics, and whether you like your R&B women to swear more than usual, it’s the way in which R&B is presented these days, because on the flip side, Chris Brown & Trey Songz started rapping, and nothing was the same. However, that’s another discussion for another day, and we’re staying focused here.

As COVID-19 looks like its strength is fleeting bit by bit (depending on where you live), and people prepare for what may come of a 2nd wave, and also trying to make sense of what the ‘new normal’ will look like, we could use some good news & good music, and thankfully 2020 has given us amazing projects, that I definitely felt like I could have written about – but admittedly so, the inspiration wasn’t always there. However, dvsn & Giveon need your ears, so give those spins and feel good about yourself while we’re all doing our part to socially distance and self-isolate by all means. Kehlani decided that throwing her name in the R&B ring was the right call, and it’s a great thing, because the appreciation that has heightened for the genre (a lot of thanks to the Versuz battles), the product has surely been a reflection of what’s been ingested through our eyes & ears, surrounded by our walls & doors.

I had no expectations for this album, and that’s a freeing feeling so that you don’t find yourself disappointed, but I knew that the hurt bars were coming, because that’s Kehlani’s brand, and although I haven’t been in her business in terms of her romantic involvements, I was still aware of her public relationships with PARTYNEXTDOOR, Kyrie Irving & most recently, YG, although they too split up, which is a strong theme that carries through this album. I was doing the dishes when I started listening, and where Toxic sets the album off on a great note, it was Can I that slapped me out of nowhere and told my body to leave my kitchen and press ‘back’ 3 separate times.

I love how Kehlani approaches her songs like she raps. She has a sex appeal that was in question in years past, but with experience, and of course growth, I’ve certainly seen her in a different light, but the Oakland roots are brought out in full force over her sultry, 2AM “hey wyd lemme slide through” voice, and I am not mad at it. G’on head, Kehlani. On Can I, which features Tory Lanez, the dubbed ‘King of Quarantine,’ (and The New Toronto 3 is dope too), she refused to be washed by his presence. The flow itself was rude, but how the verses complemented each other was effortless, because Tory & Kehlani can be seen as mirrors of themselves, especially when you look at Tory’s Chixtape series, and the subject content that inspires his R&B Rap. A lot of bad decisions are made because of needs that are desired to be fulfilled, but that doesn’t mean they’re worth it. It happens, but I enjoy that the album goes through stages of the loss, much like how Jhene’s CHILOMBO is structured.

It makes a lot of sense that Jhene has a feature with Change Your Life, coming right after Water, a song that highlights the various traits of the infamously great water signs of the Zodiac (CANCER, Scorpio, and Pisces). In periods of reflection, you really sit down and think about what were the high points, and when you love someone hard, you want to give them everything and anything to put them on the highest pedestal, because as Water signs, that’s just the kind of shit we do, to the best of our abilities, and as much as it’s a human trait and not exclusive to 1 set of zodiac signs, or one sign in general, certain things are universally known.

“I’m not sayin’ that you incomplete, but
Just imagine what we’d be if we became one
You deserve someone that’ll take you to another level
Let me put you on
You’ve got so much potential, I really am fuckin’ with you
Just open your heart
I’m tryna get you right, take you to the other side”
– Jhene

There are a lot of standouts on this album, but when it comes to the consistency with lyrics, and production, it has a lot of replay value. It flows seamlessly, and it’s a surprise that it hit me this deep, because I didn’t think much of the release. That’s a shame too, because we as consumers take for granted all of the music that comes out, but don’t give the works the time they deserve, not accounting for how many hours have gone into the songs from rough drafts on paper to masters on wax.

“I ain’t never been a half-ass lover
Rather lay out on the train tracks for ya
Hit the pavement for ya
Make a statement
And you ain’t never had to ask for that
It’s included in the packaging
I was made like that
I came like that, I paid for that
You ain’t never have to pay me back
Can’t make me feel bad for nothin’
Don’t make me feel bad for lovin’”

Everybody’s Business is where things turn, because once it’s all out there in the streets, only one side of the story is being told, and then suddenly you’re painted as the bad guy. Each side feels as though their feelings are valid, but as the saying goes, there are three sides: Their sides, and the Truth. But truthfully, unless voluntarily professed, it’s nobody’s business but their own; that’s how the game goes.

“I hear every word they talk
Try not to care at all
I know it’s frontin’, don’t know me from nothin’
Still learning to shake it off
I know I can take it all”

It’s hard to pick out a favourite on this album, considering that it hasn’t even been two whole days at the time of this writing since it came out, but Hate The Club is truly amazing, and then Serial Lover follows up and tumps me in my chest. What gives? That’s not fair, it’s really not. From hating wanting to go out in public spaces because of the uneasiness of seeing your ex, to transitioning to a major self-reflection saying that you acknowledge the ways in which you love, which make you susceptible to heartbreak time and time again? The lyrical and emotional violence really cannot persist, so we need to shut it down. Self-awareness is key, and the lyrics really hit on a deeper level when you’re going through it.

“I think I’m addicted to romance
Showing my whole hands
Laying my cards out flat
I say, wear my heart on my sleeve
If you fuckin’ with me
Anything I’ll ever take back
I think I should be single
For a while
It’s getting a little wild
Know when to slow down”

I definitely ran back this track to listen to this verse multiple times, because there are certain times songs have the ability to really read you, and this was one of those times. I am unapologetic with my love, and I accept all that comes with the territory of that, and where there are highs, there are lows, there’s closeness and there’s distance, and that’s the cycle. But instead of throwing myself into multiple situations, the important thing to learn is to sit back, realize where you are in life, focus on self-love, and when you really feel the need to get back into the swing of things, there are beautiful things that await you. I’ve taken that approach, and quite frankly, there’s no looking back.

An unexpected surprise was Grieving, and the collaboration with James Blake. The title makes the theme obvious, but their combination really made it a pleasant song that is certainly relatable for a plethora of reasons, but it was three lines that really summed up a bunch of my sentiments with 2020.

“Now all I want is peace and quiet
For peace of mind
Peace and time”

I’m proud of Kehlani for coming out with a great album that evokes not only the emotions of herself and her fan base, but I can tell that it’s a great sense of relief for her to get the weight off of her chest. It’s a very courageous act to be vulnerable in such an intimate way, which is making music, and for the reception to be so strong off the jump, I can only hope that, throughout this pandemic, while people are isolated, she’s able to find great success with this piece of work. It’s a testament to those who have loved, lost, been broken, and are working through their healing to be even better moving forward. It’s a painful journey, one that can definitely see the rewards on the other side when treated well. Best of healing to everyone out there, be safe, WASH YOUR HANDS…and maintain social distancing where possible. We’ll be out of this in due time, friends. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review,

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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