In 2014, she released her first commercial mixtape, Cloud 19. The mixtape was listed as one of the Complex's "50 Best Albums of 2014." In 2015, Kehlani released her second commercial mixtape, You Should Be Here. The mixtape debuted at number 5 on the national R&B/Hip-Hop chart, preceded from her sold-out North American promotional tour. In 2016, she was nominated for the Grammy Award for Best Urban Contemporary Album for You Should Be Here. Kehlani released her first major-label debut album, SweetSexySavage on January 27, 2017.
In 2019, she released her third mixtape While We Wait, to both critical acclaim and commercial success.
Kehlani has previously identified as bisexual and pansexual before coming out as a lesbian in 2021. Kehlani uses she/her/hers and they/them/theirs pronouns.
- Cloud 19 (2014)
- You Should Be Here (2015)
- While We Wait (2019)
- SweetSexySavage (2017)
- It Was Good Until It Wasn't (May 8, 2020)
Tropes Found In Her Music Include:
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Her song Gangsta has her singing about wanting a gangsta as a boyfriend.
- Boastful Rap: In "Can I", Kehlani raps about being skilled in the bedroom and tells her lover to leave his girlfriend for her.
- The Big Damn Kiss: Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko at the end of "What I Need".
- Bisexual Love Triangle: A brief one between Kehlani, Hayley Kiyoko and the creepy male hitchhiker in "What I Need".
- Breakup Breakout: After the group Pop Lyfe disbanded due to creative differences, Kehlani began an (eventually successful) solo career.
- But Not Too Black: In an interview with Billboard magazine, Kehlani has described herself as "mixed (she is Black, white, Native American, Filipino and Mexican).
- 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!? Why does it always have to turn into fucking her?!
- Kehlani's character suffers this from her aunt in the opening of "What I Need" where she is evicted for being LGBT+.
- Heritage Disconnect: In a Billboard interview, Kehlani revealed that the origins of her name are Hawaiian, despite not herself being of Hawaiian descent at all. It's because of this that a lot of Hawaiian fans who encountered her got mad at her.
- Intercourse with You: "Can I", "First Position", "Morning" with Teyana Taylor, "Touch Me Remix" with Victoria Monét.
- Lipstick Lesbian: In several music videos. And in real life as of 2021.
- Method Acting: Under instructions from Hayley Kiyoko herself who directed the video for "What I Need", the opening dialogue between Kehlani and her homophobic aunt was completely improvised.
- Ms. Fanservice: Her "Distraction" video and duet with Hayley Kiyoko and "Morning" With Teyana Taylor.
- Nightmare Fuel: As beautiful as the cover photo for her 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 her, just a random collapsing building.
- Romantic Two-Girl Friendship: Between Kehlani and Hayley Kiyoko's characters in "What I Need". Eventually becoming something more.
- Relationship Upgrade: Between her 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.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: "F&MU"details a fight between dysfunctional lovers being resolved in the bedroom.
- Transparent Closet:
- A Wild Rapper Appears!: Kehlani shows her rap skills off on her verse on the remix of Icy Grl by Saweetie.