Kelela synthesizes contemporary R&B and progressive electronic music with an aptitude for prompting club play as much as bedroom listening. The singer and songwriter became active in the early 2010s with numerous supporting roles leading to Cut 4 Me (2013), her mixtape debut for the Fade to Mind label. Increased exposure and a growing network of collaborators naturally led to a deal with the Warp label, an affiliation that started with the conceptual Hallucinogen EP (2015) and continued with Take Me Apart (2017), Kelela's widely acclaimed and charting debut album. The singer has resurfaced after a lengthy hiatus with the atmospheric and wholehearted ballad "Washed Away" (2022).
Born in Washington, D.C., Kelela Mizanekristos was raised in suburban Maryland and didn't have aspirations as a singer until she started studying jazz. Subsequent obsessions with Amel Larrieux and Little Dragon helped push her toward finding her own style -- one she found after she moved to Los Angeles in 2010. She connected with Teengirl Fantasy and contributed to the duo's Tracer album on the song "EFX." This led to meeting the Fade to Mind label's Prince William, who exposed her to his associates' lean yet sharp and deep productions. Knocked out by what she heard, she soon debuted on Kingdom's August 2013 single "Bank Head." A couple months later, guided by the intent to put together a mixtape that sounded like a remix collection, she released the free download Cut 4 Me with contributions from Kingdom and peers Bok Bok, Girl Unit, Jam City, and Nguzunguzu. One of the year's more striking debuts, it wasn't available on any physical formats until April 2015, when Night Slugs released a two-CD edition that added actual remixes.
Between the digital and physical releases of Cut 4 Me, Kelela was featured on an array of tracks, including Bok Bok's "Melba's Call," a pair of highlights off Kindness' Otherness, and Future Brown's "Danger Zone," after which she joined the latter group on the Warp roster. Her first work for the revered U.K. label was the six-track Hallucinogen EP. Conceptually focused on the beginning, middle, and end of a relationship in reverse order, the October 2015 release involved input from some of Kelela's previous partners, as well as the likes of Arca, Obey City, and Ariel Rechtshaid. Across the following year and into early 2017, Kelela extended her reach by appearing on Clams Casino's 32 Levels, Danny Brown's Atrocity Exhibition, Solange's A Seat at the Table, and Gorillaz's Human. Preceded by the Jam City collaborations "LMK" and "Frontline," her first proper album, Take Me Apart, was released by Warp in October 2017. The album entered the R&B/hip-hop chart in the U.S. and went to number three on the U.K. R&B chart. Take Me a_Part, the Remixes followed in 2018. Kelela then took an extended break from music, and in 2022 returned with the single "Washed Away," a collaboration with producer Yo van Lenz. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi