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Music / Kelela

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Let me know (it ain't that deep, either way)

Kelela Mizanekristos (born June 3, 1983) is an Ethiopian-American singer and songwriter, known for her blend of classic R&B vocals and writing with futuristic, cutting-edge electronic production.

After working with several producers in the underground club scene, she released her debut mixtape Cut 4 Me to wide acclaim. In 2015, she signed to Warp Records and released her debut EP Hallucinogen. Two years after that, after having collaborated with people like Gorillaz, Danny Brown, Solange and more, she finally released her much-anticipated debut album Take Me Apart, one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year 2017. On September 13th, 2022, she released "Washed Away", the first single from her sophomore album.


  • Cut 4 Me (Mixtape) (2013)
  • Hallucinogen (EP) (2015)
  • Take Me Apart (Album) (2017)
  • TAKE ME A_PART, THE REMIXES (Remix Album) (2018)
  • Raven (Album) (2023)
  • RAVE:N, The Remixes (Remix Album) (2024)

You better trope me apart:

  • Animated Music Video:
    • "Frontline" is animated in the style of The Sims.
    • "A Message" begins as a live-action video but shifts to an Anime-esque style during the bridge.
  • Back to Front: The narrative of Hallucinogen doesn't make much sense when the songs are listened to in the order provided, but when listened to in reverse order they describe the gradual implosion of a relationship.
  • Break Up Song:
    • "Better" sees Kelela attempting to rekindle a relationship after taking a break from her partner, only to find that the break didn't actually resolve anything and the relationship is beyond saving.
    • In "A Message", she describes going through the motions of a breakup and reconciling with the ways that her ex hurt her.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Her logo, which is actually just her name in Amharic (though it should also be noted that her name means "protection" in the language).
  • Deranged Animation: The video for "Frontline" uses a Sims-like aesthetic to tell a surreal tale about a break-up.
  • Face on the Cover: All of her releases.
  • Godiva Hair: On the cover of Take Me Apart, Kelela's naked body is draped in floor-length dreadlocks.
  • Genre Mashup: Her Signature Style borrows mostly from R&B, but is heavily influenced by club music of all kinds. Additionally, on Take Me Apart, she takes influences from art pop, ambient, and even orchestral music.
  • Gratuitous Foreign Language: "Gomenasai"'s title is the Japanese word for "sorry", which is also repeated in the song's backing vocals.
  • Heal It with Water: "Washed Away", which, by Kelela's own account, is about the therapeutic experience of "going inward" to "find renewal in a world that’s built to make [Black people] feel inadequate", uses aquatic lyrical imagery, coupled with a video where she journeys to a secluded body of water, to articulate the experience of internal healing.
  • Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The track names on TAKE ME A_PART, THE REMIXES are rendered in All Caps with the BPM at the end and underscores in lieu of spaces as if to resemble a filename (e.g., what was rendered as "Waitin" on Take Me Apart is rendered as "KAYTRANDA_WAITIN_115 BPM" on THE REMIXES).
  • Important Haircut:
    • The music video for "A Message" depicts Kelela chopping off her dreads as she articulates the process of moving on from an unhealthy relationship.
    • In the music video for "Washed Away", a song about healing and self-reflection, she starts out wearing a wig made of black rubber strands, then dramatically removes it to reveal a clean-shaven head before journeying to a secluded and tranquil body of water.
  • Initialism Title: "LMK", which, as the lyrics reveal, stands for "let me know".
  • Intercourse with You: While she has many songs with sexual lyrical content, "Cut 4 Me" is probably her most overtly sexual song, featuring explicit demands for her partner to "bite hard" among descriptions of wild, passionate embrace.
  • Location Song: "Altadena" is named after an census-designated area in California, near Pasadena.
  • Longest Song Goes Last: Downplayed with "Altadena" on Take Me Apart, which, while it is much longer than most of the songs on the album, is technically only the longest by one second.
  • Love Is a Drug: The overarching theme of Hallucinogen, with "The High" being the most blatant manifestation of this trope.
    Your hands are firm around my waist
    They’re moving south, my saving grace
    Patience was wearing oh so thin
    A surge of adrenaline
    And I'd do anything for the high
  • Lyrical Dissonance: A common thread in her music, exemplified by "Enough," an upbeat albeit experimental track with angsty lyrics about the decay of a relationship.
  • Non-Appearing Title: "Guns & Synths," "Bank Head," "Cherry Coffee," "Hallucinogen" (though it doesn't have any lyrics), "Jupiter," and "Altadena."
  • Obligatory Bondage Song: "Gomenasai" is about Kelela teasing and dominating a submissive partner.
  • Remix Album:
    • TAKE ME A_PART, THE REMIXES for Take Me Apart, naturally.
    • RAVE:N, The Remixes for Raven.
  • Prehensile Hair: She has it in the video for "Blue Light", in which she magically increases the length of her locs so she can use them in a suggestive manner.
  • Punny Title: The title of Raven's Remix Album is stylized as RAVE:N, which is fitting since it's mostly dance/garage remixes.
  • Sampling: "Hallucinogen" heavily incorporates the Arca song of the same name.
  • Sexy Packaging: The cover of Take Me Apart, in which Kelela sits cross-legged in her birthday suit while gazing seductively at the camera.
  • Singer Namedrop: On "Enemy":
    Breathin' down my neck
    Better back up off me now
    Don’t you know it’s me
  • Singing Simlish:
    • The vocals on "Hallucinogen" are just nonsensical humming and babbling that Kelela improvised over the course of one take.
    • The intro of "Washed Away" is comprised entirely of Melismatic scatting, though she does switch into actual words by the first chorus.
  • Stop and Go: On "Waitin."
    Stop—music stopsLemme catch my breath...
  • Studio Chatter: Midway through "Hallucinogen", you can hear Arca (who produced the song) and Kelela cracking up at the latter's nonsensical scatting.
  • Surreal Music Video:
    • "A Message" starts out pretty straightforward, but during the bridge abruptly shifts to an Anime-esque visual of a nude Kelela splitting into two selves which chase after each other and ultimately re-fuse in a somewhat grotesque process.
    • "Blue Light" depicts Kelela's dreads rapidly growing, snaking around her body, undressing her, and finally pleasuring her.
  • Textless Album Cover:
    • Hallucinogen's album art is nothing but Kelela's Face on the Cover, albeit lit strangely to make her skin look dark blue.
    • TAKE ME A_PART, THE REMIXES is a series of portraits of Kelela with a variety of hairstyles, with no text accompanying them.
  • Title Track: Cut 4 Me, Hallucinogen, and Take Me Apart all have one.
  • Uncanny Valley: The cover of Raven, in which Kelela's eyeless, pitch-black face is emerging from a dark lake.
  • A Wild Rapper Appears!:
    • Rapper GAIKA has produced remixes of "All The Way Down" and "Frontline" that feature guest verses.
    • The absolutely star-studded remix of "LMK" features one verse apiece from CupcakKe, Junglepussy, Princess Nokia, and Ms Boogie.