Kiana Ledé talks debut album ‘KIKI,’ FaceTiming with Ari Lennox for “Chocolate” video and the growth in her music
REVOLT caught up with Kiana Ledé to discuss the release of her debut album and so much more. Read here!
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Kiana Ledé has finally unleashed her debut album, a moment she’s been looking forward to for the last eight years. Her new project, KIKI, is equipped with soulful R&B ballads with trapped-out production, and lyrics recounting real-life experiences.
Hailing from Phoenix, Arizona; Kiana got her start at an early age by debuting her smooth, buttery voice on Kidz Bop. At the age of 15, she was signed to RCA Records, but eventually got dropped. But, everything happens for a reason. She later signed to Republic Records and unleashed her debut EP titled Myself.
Boasting 762K followers on Instagram, Kiana exudes confidence, love, charisma, personality, and one hell of a voice. The singer-songwriter has blessed audiences all around the world with female empowerment anthems such as “Ex,” which has received standout remixes from both French Montana and Lil Baby. Now, KIKI arrives in perfect timing for audiences around the world who are quarantined. The 17-track project has standout features from Ari Lennox, 6lack, Moneybagg Yo, BIA, Lucky Daye, and more.
REVOLT caught up with Kiana to discuss the release of her debut album and so much more. Read below!
Congrats on KIKI! How’s it feel to have your debut album out?
I’ve been waiting for this moment for the last eight years of my life, so I’m happy that it’s finally out.
How did you celebrate your 23rd birthday during quarantine?
The night before, all my friends showed up on the street and gave me a bunch of stuff from a distance. Jasmine dropped off some cupcakes, which I ate eight or nine of that next day and that night. I mostly celebrated it by celebrating the album, so it was really fun. It was a great day.
You’ve been singing since a young age. What took so long for you to blow up?
I’m still young, so it’s a lot of learning and a lot of opinions. When you have a big management team, myself, my producers, and a label, there’s so many people who are so involved — which is such a blessing. I really feel so lucky that everyone gives a f**k, but it’s also very scary because I have to sift through everything. Even as a younger woman before, it was hard for me to sift through those. I’d sit for hours and contemplate what was me and what wasn’t, rather than just being me.
Now I’m able to be me. It’s a little easier to sift through now. I’m stubborn, but in the best way possible when it comes to my career. It’s about knowing what I want and being a little older. Sometimes, I look back on it like, “F**k, I wish I would’ve done this a year ago and trusted myself.” But, at the end of the day, it all happens for a reason. I’m glad it’s all happening now. Weirdly enough, it’s good that the album came out now because people can only listen to it. They have nothing else to do.
Marc E. Bassy said he watched you turn into a butterfly. How would you say you evolved?
The biggest difference for me is that the album is an album. I have so many more opportunities for people to hear who I am — really get a good sense of it. The first EP, I was completely myself, but I was very depressed and really anxious. I was 19 years old. I knew who I was, but I didn’t necessarily know what I wanted. On the second EP, I was really feeling myself. I got that confidence I was striving for, but what I was portraying to people wasn’t exactly who I was on the inside.
I was working really hard to prove to people that I loved myself. Show exactly the things that I’d learned, but it didn’t really come across the way I wanted it to. I was so afraid about people knowing that I felt good, loved myself. I’m comfortable in my sexuality. I’m comfortable with myself in my own skin. I took it a little far because I was excited about feeling myself and being so confident. Also getting [a] little lost in the sauce for sure. Especially as a mixed girl, there’s so much s**t going on all the time. Especially in the urban — I hate that word — and R&B/hip hop world, this certain standard gets put on you as an artist. In this day and age where people get to watch every second of your life, it’s pretty nerve-racking. Pretty scary. Everyone wants the best, so there’s a lot of expectations put on me from other people, and also from myself.
This album, I let go of all those insecurities. All those thoughts, all the things I was pressing myself to be and to do. F**k it, let me be me. Let me get back to exactly who I am. The one thing that set my mind to re-centering myself was my product manager Donna at the label [who] showed me this marketing tool. It showed me five different versions of Kiana as an artist, but also as a person because I’m being myself all the time. That was really scary for me to see.
What did it show you?
Fashion-wise, it was Bratz dolls. Disco diva, hip hop queen, etc. I realized I was all those five different versions within the last year. That has to tell you something, I’m not being completely myself. At least I am, but I’m not presenting it the right way. I had to take a step back like, “Alright, it’s time to center yourself and do what you want to do” because nobody f**king knows. No one knows, you might as well do you.
How was getting Ari Lennox on “Chocolate”?
I love Ari. She’s another Aries, f**king R&B, soul queen. I was really excited to have her on it. The first person I think of when I think of chocolate and black queen is Ari. She really holds that pedal well. I look up to her for that. All I did was send it over to her, she got it done within a week. It was great. It was really easy.
Whose idea was it for the FaceTime video with Ari?
It was a combination of me and my team. We’re brainstorming how we could shoot a video because I know me and Ari have a lot of the same fans. I know they’d want to see us together. We said, “We have to shoot a virtual video” because we ‘re planning on doing a high-budget video with beautiful chocolate men. That would’ve been really fun. We’re talking about how we do a virtual version. I’m like, “Why don’t we just FaceTime?” because if I was talking about a hot dude, I’d FaceTime my girlfriends and we’d talk about it. So why don’t we do that?
Derrick Milano is excited about your project. How did you guys come to work together?
I had no idea it was going to be like that. I gave him so much s**t the first day he came into the studio. At the Malibu camp, he was invited by one of my producers Michael. They worked together before. He came super late, like hours late. When he showed up, I’m like, “Oh my god! I can’t believe you finally decided to show up.” This was the first time I’m ever meeting him. He did some melodies, I’m like, “Okay, I guess that makes up for you being late because your melodies are good.” But, as we’re working, I thought, “Wait, this is really easy. This is so much fun, he’s really good.”
You have to understand, I’ve been in rooms with the biggest people in music and some of them don’t give a f**k about you. So, that’s what I was expecting. This dude’s a huge writer, but is he going to actively participate in this session? People like that, I don’t work with them. Derrick ended up telling me later [that] the reason he [was] so late was because he was so nervous. He was about to cancel because he does turn up s**t, he’s not an R&B guy. He doesn’t get in his feelings. He’s like, “You know what? I’ma try it out and see.” Especially because there’s me and a bunch of other R&B writers writing in the camp. When he heard all those names, he’s like, “That’s not me, I can’t do that.” To both of our surprise, we ended up being the perfect musical match and making one of the best albums.
Did he work with you on the entire project?
Yeah basically, there’s only four songs that he didn’t work on with me. He’s amazing.
We loved hearing Moneybagg Yo and BIA on “Labels.” How did this collab come about?
That was one of those you send it off and hope for the best. BIA was so down. She’s so sweet and so supportive. She’s been posting everything — being awesome. Moneybagg, super easy. I sent it off and waited for it to come back.
What is your most meaningful tattoo?
I have a lot of matching tattoos with my best friends, so probably the blueberry or the heart. It’s really fine, so you can barely see it. I got the blueberry with my best friend Alex, there’s a story I can’t really share. This heart one, I got with my other best friend Rudy, who I’ve known since I was 14.
How close of a circle do you have?
It’s really close! Over the years, it’s gotten closer because I don’t trust a lot of people. The people that I do trust, I trust them with my life.
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