Kali Uchis - Por Vida
My first introduction to Kali Uchis was through her self-directed music video “I Know What I Want”. This video begins with Uchis suited in a 60’s inspired floral romper, white knee high boots, and white oversized shades. She calmly steps out of a baby blue hot rod to pop the trunk and later reveal a tied up and gagged man. This initial interaction made a few things painfully obvious to me: 1. Kali Uchis is more than a singer 2. She’s got a message and 3. She’s relaying that message in style.
With roots firmly planted in Colombia, twenty-three year old Uchis has already curated a distinct Soul and Doo-Wop meets Latin Pop sound. Uchis sets herself apart from other artists by exuding charismatic “Spread love but take no shit” personality in all aspects of her work. Between creative direction for music videos or even clothing choices, her work is intimate and cohesive. Kali’s first mixtape, Drunken Babble, which was thrown together spontaneously, is a collection of 50’s-70’s music samples complimented by sultry vocals. This project would end up gaining attention from several notable artists such as Snoop Dogg and Tyler, The Creator. Connections to these formidable artists would propel Uchis to explore her music further; this would ultimately lead to the release of her studio EP and most recent project Por Vida.
Totaling 30 minutes and 9 songs, “Por Vida’s” lyrics provide a sharp rhetoric complimented by soft candied tones. Take the track “Melting” for instance, which opens up with “You are my church, you are my place of worship” and flows into the chorus of “Melting like an ice cream when you smile.” The smooth melodic tones used leave you feeling like you’re being carried off into a dream and further into the world that Kali intentionally creates for her audience. This track, alongside “Loner,” showcases how she has mastered Kid Cudi worthy hums. It’s rare that an artist can command your attention and keep it, but Uchis does so with ease.
In addition to the vulnerability expressed is a perfect balance of blind confidence and attitude. In the song “Ridin Round” Kali belts out “I know I'm some shit and I'm cool with it, you can't tell me shit, don't come and share your dialect.” Aside from lyrics that make you feel like a badass, the song to me is easily relatable and catchy; much of this can be attributed by the song being created with a self-proclaimed “independent female anthem” in mind. Additionally, a personal anecdote is presented visually as the “Ridin Round” music video was filmed in Colombia; a clear celebration of culture. The organization of this EP allows each track to smoothly transition into the next while covering a wide range of autobiographical topics. This ultimately makes for an overall listening experience that serenades you and is easy on the ears. There are many things Kali Uchis does well in her presentation of this project, but personally what I feel she does best is draw inspiration from the past to remind you of some of your favorite artists (like Selena, RIP to the Queen) while expressing her genuine individuality.
Whether you’re just being introduced to her or are familiar and fiending for more, you’re in luck: Uchis is set to release her highly anticipated first album sometime this summer. The upcoming project has already teased to potentially include contributions from Gorillaz, Kevin Parker of Tame Impala, Juanez, and SZA. Having graced stages from The Apollo, to Fader Fort at SXSW, and Odd Future’s Camp Flog Gnaw, Kali Uchis is an artist you’ll want to keep an eye on to witness what she conquers next.
A free stream of Por Vida, music videos, and tour dates can be found at: http://www.kaliuchis.com/
by Christine Gonzalez