In 2014, Kehlani released their first commercial mixtape, Cloud 19. The mixtape was listed as one of the Complex's "50 Best Albums of 2014." In 2015, Kehlani released their second commercial mixtape, You Should Be Here. The mixtape debuted at number 5 on the national R&B/Hip-Hop chart, preceded from Kehlani's sold-out North American promotional tour. In 2016, Kehlani was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album for You Should Be Here. Kehlani released their first major-label debut album, SweetSexySavage on January 27, 2017.
In 2019, Kehlani released their third mixtape While We Wait, to both critical acclaim and commercial success.
Kehlani has previously identified as bisexual, queer, and pansexual before coming out as a lesbian in 2021. Kehlani is also nonbinary, using she/her/hers and they/them/theirs pronouns, with a preference for they/them/theirs.
In an interview with Billboard magazine, Kehlani has described themselves as "mixed" (they are Black, White, Native American, Filipino and Mexican).
In a Billboard interview, Kehlani revealed that the origins of their name is Hawaiian, despite not being of Hawaiian descent at all.
Kehlani has one daughter, born 2019, from a past relationship with guitarist Javaughn Young-White.
- Cloud 19 (2014)
- You Should Be Here (2015)
- While We Wait (2019)
- SweetSexySavage (2017)
- It Was Good Until It Wasn't (2020)
- Blue Water Road (2022)
Tropes Found In Kehlani's Music and music videos Include:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Kehlani's song Gangsta has them singing about wanting a gangsta as a boyfriend.
- Boastful Rap:
- In "Can I", Kehlani raps about being skilled in the bedroom and tells their lover to leave his girlfriend for them.
- On their verse on the remix of "Icy Grl" by Saweetie, they rap about their wealth, not being bothered by their haters, the fact they could steal anyone's romantic partner as well as the fact they're not even known for rapping.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko at the end of "What I Need". Subverted in the video for "Morning" with Teyana Taylor, the kiss is only teased, never seen.
- Bisexual Love Triangle: A brief one between Kehlani, Hayley Kiyoko and the creepy male hitchhiker in "What I Need".
- Closet Key: Hayley for Kehlani in "What I Need".
Kehlani's Aunt: Where the fuck you think you're gonna go this time?... It the same place with that same girl!Kehlani: The same place I always go. ... Yes, with my same-ass best friend! I go with all the time!Kehlani's Aunt: You think I'm so fucking stupid that I wouldn't know that's more then just a best friend!? So fucking ungrateful! Go!!Kehlani: I've been planning on going on this trip for a long time!Kehlani's Aunt: Why did you turn out this way!?Kehlani: Can I be me!? Can I be me!? I'm my own fucking person! Why does it always have to turn into about fucking her?!
- Kehlani's character suffers this from their aunt in the opening of "What I Need" where they are is evicted for being queer.
- Intercourse with You: "Can I", "First Position", "Water", "Morning" with Teyana Taylor, "Touch Me Remix" with Victoria Monét.
- Lipstick Lesbian: In several music videos, they play lesbians with a feminine style.
- Ms. Fanservice: Kehlani plays this role in the videos for "Distraction", "What I Need" with Hayley Kiyoko and "Morning" With Teyana Taylor.
- Nightmare Fuel: As beautiful as the cover photo for their album It Was Good Until It Wasn't, the back-drop photo of what's behind Kehlani that makes it unsettling. Some fans have even mistaken the collapsing building for 9/11 though Kehlani was quick to point out that it wasn't 9/11 happening behind them, just a random collapsing building.
- Platonic Life-Partners: With fello Oakland artist G-Eazy, they have described each other as having a brother sister relationship.
- Relationship Upgrade: Between their and Hayley Kiyoko's characters in "What I Need".
- Retroactive Recognition: In 2011, Kehlani auditioned for the sixth season of America's Got Talent with the group Pop Lyfe, and eventually finished in fourth place.
- Shout-Out: "The Morning" video with Teyana Taylor reenacts the red photography kissing scene from Vicky Cristina Barcelona and the pool scene from Wild Things.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: "F&MU"details a fight between dysfunctional lovers being resolved in the bedroom.
- Transparent Closet: As Kehlani notes in a infamous coming out video on Tiktok, everybody in her family knew they were a lesbian before they knew and that "the f—king closet was glass!".
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: Kehlani shows her rap skills off on their verse on the remix of "Icy Grl" by Saweetie.