ABOVE: KELOW. IMAGE COURTESY OF REALSHOOT
Mess with Kelow, and she will take your girl. Nouveau female MCs with a certain type of swagger are often compared with arbiters of the “bad bitch” crown—think Nicki Minaj, Iggy Azalea, Azealia Banks, and the collective debt they owe to Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, and Trina. But Kelow, whose model-good looks are submerged in a sea of tattoos and grown-out ombré-like dreads, is on a different tip. When she’s on stage, shirts comes off, blunts get lit, and she head-bangs into oblivion, catapulting her potential alongside the likes of A$AP Rocky and Waka Flocka Flame.
Without the blessings of traditional media outlets, or blogs for that matter, the Maryland rapper has become a tour de force through YouTube, building a cult fan base and doing shows as far afield as Sweden, along with opening for the likes of Kanye West-affiliated Ryan Leslie and the aforementioned Azalea. While the mainstream is currently splitting hairs about whether hip-hop is ready for a “gay rapper,” well, there’s an agglomeration of these quiet heroes sprinkled throughout America—and the world. With passion, persistence, and two EPs, Colored Pencils and Stixxx-n-Stonez, under her belt, Kelow’s talent and buzzing momentum transcend her sexuality.
Because of her impressively hectic schedule, Kelow’s doing her first-ever UK gig on May 11 at Scala London. The up-and-comer filled us in on making it, pet peeves, and Rihanna.
NAME: Kiara Brown
HOMETOWN: Maryland; second base: District of Columbia
ON BEING YOUNG ‘N’ FLY FROM THESE PARTS: It’s just how I said in my song “Fantasy” from my Stixxx-n-Stonez EP: “I come from the city where they makin’ hella mistakes and its plenty bitches politickin’. All these little chickens just wanna get a little taste, and them niggas be thirsty all smile in your face, but they heart filled with hate. Understand that the world gon’ all be fake, but if you make it here you can make it anywhere.”
But it is my home: There’s gorgeous women, beautiful people, section eight and millionaires, haters and “get wits;” my hometown prepares you for the world.
THE FOUNDATION: Honestly, I don’t remember the first song I ever heard that gave me the inspiration. For as long I can remember I’ve been writing, since I was about five or six years old. I just digged the expressions, the feeling, and vibes; the art of rap music and hip-hop culture.
STARTED FROM THE BOTTOM: It all started the summer after graduating from high school. That’s when I released my Colored Pencils debut. That collaboration with my Baby Dinosaur & Co. teammates, Jabari Jacobs and Ayinde7—their production and visual skills and my ‘zilla illa killa’ bars—lead to my tour in Sweden that following summer.
NO SUCH THING AS REGRETS: My past led to who I am today. Yeah, I could have done some things better, but they’ve been what helped me grow. To go overseas without the use of any drug money or sponsors, but off of the strength of real love from my supporters of my first project…. that’s hella rare.
WE MAJOR?: I consider my big break being the growth in supporters; aka what y’all call fans. They gave me proof that my art is appreciated by a person other than myself. Every time I hear people in the crowd singing my lyrics, someone asking me for a picture, seeing that someone made a T-shirt, shoe, or phone case with my face on it, receiving love from different parts of the world I’ve never visited… it’s blessing.
LIFE HURDLES: My biggest challenge is not getting Rihanna’s attention yet.
THAT’S THAT SHIT I DON’T LIKE: The biggest pet peeve I have is the idea that a useless piece of paper, the fake valued dollar, is worth more than your own wealth of inner value.
KELOW’S COLORED PENCILS AND STIXXX-N-STONEZ EPS ARE BOTH AVAILABLE NOW. FOR MORE ON THE ARTIST, PLEASE VISIT HER FACEBOOK PAGE.