Kehlani’s ‘SweetSexySavage’: Instant R&B Classic & Love Letter To Self

After a very much anticipated release, Kehlani’s debut studio album SweetSexySavage officially dropped last week, and it is by far one of the strongest female, R&B albums to come out in a very long time.

Story | Jasmine Sabagquit

To be fair, I couldn’t review this album in just one day, or even three days of listening to it, because of the depth and quality of the production. It’s no secret that SweetSexySavage (SSS) has been an ongoing project with as much history, drama and expectation, that equaled the growing anticipation prior to its release. Upon first listen, I didn’t realize how much this album brought me to tears and got me in the FEELS from the Intro, all the way up to Track 19 “Gangsta.” (Yes, a debut album with 19 tracks!) In fact, SSS captures so many different feelings, moods and situations, that my personal favorites jump from one to another each day.

Every lyric in this album was carefully chosen and every tune was eloquently created and sang to reach more than just ears, but into the souls of her fans. SSS has no features, no duets, and is ALL Kehlani. She lets out every part of her in this new album, showing vulnerability through truth, pain, honesty, love and lust. It’s an exciting album that proves the Oakland-born artist’s growth since her first release in 2014, Cloud 19, especially on the SAVAGE tracks, “Distraction,” “Do U Dirty,” “CRZY” and “Undercover.”

But most importantly, SweetSexySavage shows the growth of a young woman who’s already been through so much in her lifetime, as she shared on the Intro for her second mixtape, You Should Be Here (2015).

“I’ve seen things and I’ve felt more pain than some will in their entire lives, all before the age of even being able to buy a fucking drink at a bar.” – Kehlani on “Intro” to You Should Be Here 

After listening to and studying the album multiple times in the past few days, it dawned on me that this album is more than just an official debut, but is more so a gathering of positive, self-love anthems, that collectively form a love letter from Kehlani to herself.

On her track “Advice,” Kehlani reflects on how she lost herself in a difficult relationship. She sings: “How is the man of my dreams not a man of his words?/And how is the man for me just a man that makes me hurt?/It’s time to take my own, take my own advice, take my own advice/Need me to take my own, take my own advice, take my own advice.” She follows up with, “You had to break me, take me, to make me better/but I had to save me, baby, now or never.”

“Piece of Mind” continues the reflections of a past relationship, learning to move forward while trying to clear her mind and get back to her former self. One nice touch to the song is the nostalgia of “As I Am,” from Cloud 19, as she repeats “I am, I am” on the hook.

“Hold Me By The Heart,” continues the uplifting note to self, whether it be from Kehlani herself or from someone significant in her life, through lyrics of strength and support: “I’m thinking that you should just pick up the pieces/Help me learn to stand/Lift me from the ground and use your hands to hold me by the heart/Tell me to be whole again.”

If you’ve followed Kehlani’s career like us, you’ve noticed her evolution from young Oakland girl, to The Town’s budding R&B Princess, and the journey has been consistent with her team by her side. Kehlani’s long time producer and musical director, keyboardist, Jahaan Sweet produced, “Keep On” and “Personal,” while fellow HBK member, P-Lo, co-wrote and produced the banger, “I Wanna Be,” which has Bay Area-bounce written all over it. Kehlani even pays a little homage to New Edition’s classic heartbreak track, “If It Isn’t Love,” on the track, “In My Feelings.”

She closes the album with “Thank You,” a beautiful testimony of thanks and appreciation to everybody who has supported her along her journey, to family, friends and fans alike.

In love and life, there is always a learning experience through pain and happiness, and it’s clear that Kehlani has taken her experiences and left an everlasting imprint and an R&B classic with SweetSexySavage.

Kehlani will hit the stage on her SweetSexySavage World Tour beginning this month.

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