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Kehlani is living life to the fullest with her partner 070 Shake and her daughter Adeya by her side. With a new album out — and her first headlining tour in five years — the Bay Area-born singer is truly enjoying the present moment.
“All the changes in my personal life ended up being public for everyone to see. My last album was this toxic album about being in a heterosexual relationship,” she tells Rolling Stone. “And now I’ve fully come out as a lesbian and I’m happy and healthy. And the music is different because of it. I knew that there would be a shift in everything because everything was changing.”
Kehlani — speaking to Rolling Stone with an ear-to-ear grin at an L.A. video shoot last week — is also preparing to perform the songs from her LP Blue Water Road for the first time during her Grey Goose Essences “In Bloom” concert experience next month.
“I hope they just feel warm and safe. I hope they feel inspired,” she tells Rolling Stone about the New York concert. “I hope they leave feeling more connected with each other as an audience. I hope they leave knowing that you can make it as far as you want by being 100% yourself.”
Fans in New York City will be able to attend the concert on July 10, while those worldwide will able to access a live stream of the event. Those interested in reserving tickets for the “In Bloom” concert in New York City can do so by visiting Grey Goose’s website. The show will live stream on Grey Goose’s YouTube.
As part of her collaboration with Grey Goose Essences, Kehlani helped design a “Kehmami” cocktail, which features the vodka brand’s Watermelon & Basil flavor, fresh lime juice, St-Germain Elderflower Liqueur, and some chili slices.
Rolling Stone caught up with the “Wish I Never” songstress about raising her daughter Adeya in a queer environment, reflecting on her growth after past toxic relationships, and what she’s most looking forward to on tour:
The last time Rolling Stone did an interview, was at the beginning of 2021. You did a tarot card reading and got the lovers’ card. You said you were looking forward to meaningful relationships in 2021. Did that happen?
Yeah! Meaningful relationships, indeed. Super meaningful. I’m probably in the most meaningful relationship I could probably be in but also not just romantically, but with myself, with the world, my music, and with my personal life. It’s very joyous and peaceful at the moment.
And you got your baby girl, Adeya. What’s that been like?
it’s the best. I mean, like, coming out of the pandemic when I was getting to spend every single day with her and now having to go back to work and having to navigate that is obviously a new set of challenges. But we’re handling it super well. She’s such a G. She’s so fun and full of life and loves to come to work with me. Everything is flowing as it should.
Last year, you did a cover story with The Advocate, and talked about raising your daughter in a super queer environment. What’s that been like for her and for you?
It’s just little conscious things. It’s just remembering when talking about family, to not binary it up. When talking about gender, be open, when talking about familial structures, when talking about the world, and when referring to other people. It’s about putting certain things in their vocabulary. It’s just little mindful moments that we all have to have with ourselves and people our age. It’s just starting them early by being aware.
It’s obviously something you didn’t grow up with. What’s it like to bring that into her life?
It’s dope. I grew up in a really open environment and am really aware but these conversations are very new. How much we’re able to learn from each other in this generation, whether it’s on the internet or like conversations in person, our parents weren’t really having these conversations. Even having verbiage for certain things, having titles for certain things, has helped so many people understand themselves so to be able to raise children, and they get that verbiage and those opportunities from a young age, is really cool.
You’ve represented the LGBTQ community in a way that comes naturally. It’s just you existing as a queer person. Has that been an important aspect of your career?
It’s really easy to get fetishized. It’s very easy to get gimmicked by the outside world. What’s so great about everybody in this generation that’s publicly queer, is that now it’s becoming accepted. Everybody’s so open with it that there’s no way for other people to gimmick us. When there was only a small amount of queer artists, people were saying ‘Agenda this, agenda that.’ But no. Probably everybody around you is some type of queer. Probably half the fucking music industry is queer.
It’s so normal now and that’s the best to me because that means it doesn’t have to be this fetishized. We don’t even have to start picking out like, ‘This is a gay artist.’ This is just an artist and they’re gay. You know what I mean? Like you don’t do that to straight people. We don’t have ‘The best straight albums of 2022.’ On one hand, I’m so grateful for that. I’m honored and I’m happy that people feel connected to me in that way, but I also just want it to be so evened out and so equal, because it’d be so normal and so regular.
And we also get beautiful videos like you and your partner 070 Shake for “Melt.” That was gorgeous. We get that with hetero couples-
And no one says a thing about it! This is just me and my girlfriend just like it’s some guy and his girlfriend or whatever.
What’s it like to put that out?
I was more nervous because it was me now being in a public relationship. I didn’t think anything of the gay part. I’ve been in public relationships with men, and it was way crazier than now, so I can’t even compare it.
It was special to me to see the reaction. It was really special to see all the young lesbians and queer femmes in my comments being like, ‘Yo, I finally feel like I have something that we can listen to.’
Blue Water Road has been out for about a month now. How are you feeling about it being out in the world? And what’s your current favorite song on the album?
I feel good. It’s been interesting to navigate how different this process was from the last album and the albums before. I’m in a different place. I’m heading on tour, and haven’t headlined my own tour in five years. That’s where my head has been since the day it dropped. How am I gonna perform this? That’s my favorite part.
My favorite song is “Melt.” I think it was always “Melt” because it was just such a fun song to craft. There’s a really special thing with the lyrics, a really special thing with the strings, and the added vocals at the end. That’s actually my vocal coach. His name is Stevie Mackie. He’s gay too. It’s a little gay party on that damn song!
I love that. And obviously, you’re also going to perform the album for the first time with this Grey Goose: Essences In Bloom event on July 10. What’s prepping for that been like?
I’m just excited for everybody to see it. It’s just been an exciting thing all around to even imagine playing these songs because I’ve been sitting on them for so long. What’s new to everyone is so old to me. I made this album a good year and a half ago. We’ve just been sitting on it. I’ve been screaming the songs in the car and in the shower so I’ve been waiting for this time to come.
You have Rico Nasty joining you on tour. What are you looking forward to with her?
The Rico thing is so natural. I always just thought she was incredible. We always shared love for one another. I thought she deserved a really positive epic tour experience after the last experience she had. I was like, this makes sense in a cool way because I feel like you need both of us to accomplish what the purpose of the tour is: to heal and to bring people together and to be yourself and enjoy yourself. You need to freak out and lose your mind a little bit as much as you need to have a crying moment and hug on your people. It was perfect.
And then we got Destin Conrad, who is like my little brother. He’s also one of my artists. And he’s perfect. My fanbase already loves him because we’ve been connected our whole lives. And his music is fucking incredible. And he’s queer too so it’s going to be a rockstar queer party.
I’m from the Bay Area like you. What’s it going to be like to pull up to the Bay with this tour?
I’m playing the frickin Oracle Arena. To be from the Bay Area and to play the Oracle Arena for a headlining show? You really can’t do more things in that. People from New York have Madison Square Garden. People from LA have the Staples Center. This is our shit. This is where our sports play. This is where all of the biggest events we’ve ever had — you can’t play a bigger venue after you played the Oracle Arena. I remember being a kid and driving past the Oracle Arena, going to the Arena, tailgating in the parking lot, it just being the center of all of it. Just to be able to play is like: that’s enough for me.
Is there anything you haven’t been asked during this album cycle that you’d like to share?
I’m really grateful that the audience that is sticking with me is sticking with me because I was very nervous. I was super nervous to put this album out because I knew it was a shift. To be very very blunt, I was singing about sex and men and toxic stuff and heartbreak and all these things and then I did a complete fucking 180. I knew that the people who want to hear toxic and sexy music about men would no longer have a home on this album. The people that love me so much and stuck around to love that journey and to see me through all of it mean the most to me.
Is it wild to see that growth in yourself?
It’s crazy. I didn’t even see it nor saw it happening because I’m living in my own skin. But to hear other people be like “Wow, I wanted to cry when I listen to this because I can hear how happy you are. I can hear how at peace you are.” My favorite comment is “You deserve this.” Like “I’m so happy to see that you finally got here,” because people know how much I’ve gone through. For people to recognize beyond the music sounding better or the growth lyrically is great, but for people to literally hear my personal energy and my soul and my heart and be like “Wow, like that’s what we’re happy for.” Stop and rewind.
Talk to me about your Grey Goose: Essences collaboration.
Funny story. On Destin Conrad’s album, Colorway, there’s an interlude called “Vodka?!” where I go, “You’re drinking vodka? Uh uh. I don’t do vodka at all.” All my friends know that I have talked crazily about vodka. But I will say that genuinely this Grey Goose: Essences are doing it for me. They’re doing it for me. Them being low carb, no added sugar. That’s my problem with drinking: the sugar. Finding out that vodka is the healthiest option… I’m getting older, I’m trying to watch myself and really make sure my internal health is good, but I’m also trying to have a good time.
Finding an alcohol brand that doesn’t make me feel crazy and doesn’t do the worst thing to my body. Like I love it. I actually am not getting paid to say that. This is an actual feeling about the Essences because I want to make a point that I really had a problem with vodka but now I actually think I’m gonna drink this because it tastes really good and it’s not bad for me. That bitch bang! And it don’t taste like fucking rubbing alcohol.