You might not be familiar with Kah-Lo’s name, but you’ve certainly heard her music. The Nigerian born, New York City bred musician has been a force for over half a decade, lacing tracks with her signature brand of rapping meets singing. As Kah-Lo unveils her major label debut EP The Arrival, she continues her solid track record of consistency and authenticity.
Born Faridah Seriki, Kah-Lo got her moniker when her sister nicknamed her “Kahlo” since her first name bears a resemblance to Frida Kahlo’s. Art was an inevitable path. Kah-Lo grew up in the suburbs of Lagos, Nigeria, where music became a part of her life early. “I would say around eight, I realized that maybe I had some talent,” she explains, after realizing within herself that she could hold a tune. Her father would travel back and forth to the States, and would return with videos of American TV programming, including episodes of the Grammy’s and the Michael Jackson Thriller documentary. “We had stacks of VHS tapes in our house,” she adds with a laugh, “but it made me realize that music was what I wanted to do.” By her teens she was casually collaborating with a group of local talent who helped her hone her craft,. Kah-Lo graduated high school early and was bound for the United States at 16, eager to venture into music. However, coming from a strict Nigerian family, education remained at the forefront, so she attended New York’s Hofstra University, where she earned a degree in Journalism and pursued music on the side.
Kah-Lo held a series of odd jobs from Express to marketing at various companies, while maintaining her own tech blog. It was there that she leveraged her ability to galvanize readers, which in turn became listeners. “I would record these Alternative R&B songs and upload them to Soundcloud using the alias Kah-Lo,” she recalls. “Then I would tweet about this artist whose music I just discovered and loved. The whole time it was me.” She began attending open mics while continuing her online hustle recording and posting songs.
In 2015 she was approached online by British DJ/producer Riton and the two began working together. Their first cut “Rinse & Repeat” became a deep house darling, really propelling Kah-Lo into the world of dance. The song received a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording, fueling the fire within Kah-Lo as she was now a part of the same award show ceremony she once watched as a child. The hits kept coming. Kah-Lo released “Fasta” in 2017, grabbing the Number One spot on the BBC Radio 1 Dance charts for five weeks.
By 2018, she dropped the infectious “Fake I.D.” which became the flagship song for TikTok’s American arrival a year later and went viral on the platform. 2019 was a landmark year for Kah-Lo, as more artists and producers reached out, furthering her desire to evolve. “I really wanted to show all of the different styles of music I was capable of making,” she expresses. “That was really important to me.” Whether it was collaborating with Idris Elba on “Ballie,” Selena Gomez on the “Back To You Remix,” Diplo on “Give Dem,” or with The Knocks on “Awa Ni,” Kah-Lo crystallized her ability to not only create tangible, energy-packed music, but the kind of music that embodies her credos of feminism and self-expression. In 2020, she dropped the rhythmic “Melanin” with Michael Brun, a timely track that celebrated the essence of Black beauty in a hopeful post-COVID era. All the while, Kah-Lo secured a number of TV, film, and gaming placements for her songs, including “Exit Sign” on the FIFA 21 Volta soundtrack. Versatility is key, and Kah-Lo has plenty of it, amassing hundreds of millions of global streams in the process. The stage is now set for The Arrival, her Epic Records debut EP.
“I titled my EP The Arrival, because I feel like this is finally my arrival,” she explains. “All this time, I’ve always had to accommodate other people’s inputs, opinions and versions of what they believe my sound should be. This time, it’s solely me.” Co-written by Kah-Lo, the five track EP travels sonically along her journey into music. “It’s a well-rounded project, where we have the traditional Kah-Lo dance sound on ‘Ouch’ but ends with ‘Candy,’ which is a pop song where I’m on my Kahloana Grande vibe,” she says with a laugh. While those two tracks flank the EP, the middle brings other elements to her sound. There’s “Fire,” a badass half-sung half-rapped track, where Kah-Lo unleashes her female empowerment bars: I look so fire, bitch, I am the match. “I took inspiration from N.E.R.D.’s ‘She Wants To Move,’” she adds. “Like, ‘Oh my god, she’s so on fire, she’s so in the moment, you can’t tell her shit.”
Other songs like “Commandments” bring a dancey vibe that erupts into intoxicating strings at the end. The song has already locked a feature on the Hulu series “The Bold Type.” Then there’s the Knocks-assisted “Spaceship,” which again showcases Kah-Lo’s melodic vocals. Each track reveals a new layer to this rising star’s personality. With influences including Michael Jackson, Rihanna, Blondie, Human Nature-era Madonna, and M.I.A., Kah-Lo’s music is as diverse as her own favorite playlist. For Kah-Lo, the goal with The Arrival is to escape any boxes that she may have previously been placed in. “I want everyone to know that yes, I like to party and yes I like to dance, but sometimes the baddest bitches can cry in the corner of the club, and sometimes you want a song for that too,” she says. “I’m here to make all kinds of music that people won’t expect.”