Kelela: ‘You can never have enough music that empowers black women’ – Chicago Tribune

Kelela’s debut album, “Take Me Apart” (Warp), is bold stuff — genre-blurring, trippy, glitchy, seductive, intimate, vulnerable — beauty and weirdness forged out of struggle and pain.

It arrives only a few months after Kelela’s 34th birthday, more than a decade after she began flirting with the idea of pursuing her musical passion only to encounter a series of dead ends. She broke through in collaborations with artists such as Solange and Gorillaz’s Damon Albarn and with a buzzed-about series of recordings before tying all the musical threads together in “Take Me Apart.”

Could she have made an album this assured a decade ago?

“No way,” she says. “There were systemic reasons that it took me this long to find a way to say what I needed to say. In part it was because this industry, this culture says if you’re not 15 to 20 and have a major first rush, you’re not going to do it ever. That’s the way the world and the pop music industry work. In order to execute your vision in the world as a woman in general and as a black woman in particular you need to process a lot or be unafraid to lose power, opportunities, money. You have to be relentless. Some people can be brought up that way, but it’s rare to come out the womb feeling like that, and feel immune to a racist, sexist establishment. Now when I get resistance, I can combat that and shut it down. But I had to painstakingly accumulate that skill.”


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