Meet Kehlani Parrish, an incredibly talented 20-year-old singer-songwriter from Oakland, California.

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She previously fronted PopLyfe, a pop group that finished fourth on season 6 of America’s Got Talent in 2011.

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Judge Piers Morgan advised Kehlani to leave the group and go solo. In 2013 she did and released her first mixtape, Cloud 19, in 2014. It was well-received and listed 28th on Billboard’s ’50 Best Albums of 2014′. Critics describe her as having a traditional R&B sound and a style comparative to Ciara and Janet Jackson.

Kehlani released her second mixtape, You Should Be Here, in April 2015. It debuted at number 2 on the R&B charts and she signed with Atlantic the next month. The mixtape includes the song Niggas which is about no-good men. The chorus goes

“Niggas gon’ always be niggas
Can’t afford to give my heart to these niggas
Ain’t got time to lose my mind to these niggas”

Kehlani embraces her multi-racial heritage. When asked about it she has described herself as black, white, American Indian, Latina and Filipino in interview after interview and on her website. She was raised by her aunt, who she describes as “one of those soulful white women who only fucks with black guys.”

“All her friends are these super neo-soul, eccentric African females. We grew up around that. All she played was neo-soul music. Neo-soul and OG R&B. You can ask me about hip-hop history, I have no idea. You can’t ask me about a lot of current things, because for my entire life I was stuck in the early 2000s. Even before. Jill Scott, Musiq Soulchild, Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, the Fugees, end of the ’90s, early 2000s. Even TLC, Aaliyah, all that, until currently. I’m even just now, starting when I was 17, started listening to the radio, started listening to current things. Other than that, the only music I listened to that was current was the new neo soul albums, the new Jill Scott, the new Jamie Foxx, the new Chrisette Michele.”

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Kehlani defends her use of the word ‘nigga’ by saying she checks white people for using it.

“When you look at me, you can’t really tell what I am but I’m black, white, Native, Spanish and a little bit of Filipino. I’m the type to check white girls for saying it.”

But people aren’t exactly buying that explanation, as evidenced by the comments under the song’s video.

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There is undoubtedly privilege at play here. Kehlani is undeniably talented and has worked hard to ascend in an industry that is treacherous, particularly for young women, but she also benefits from its favoring of women of color who are racially ambiguous, but can claim access to black style, dress and lingo.

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The R&B genre has become increasingly difficult for talented darker-skinned black women to advance in, a fact R&B singer Jazmine Sullivan spoke about recently to the Associated Press.

As for the use of the term ‘nigga’, writing blog Writing With Color explains why it shouldn’t be considered a ‘catch-all’ term for people of color.

“Where do you get this idea that you can reclaim (hint: reclaim) something that does NOT apply to you.

When did Blackness become this product that us negros just ship to all of ya’ll to share?…

People of Color are not interchangeable. We are not a monolith of one people, even if we reunite under the same boat of “othered.”

Please see the history of “WoC” and understand the unity among the application of POC is just that; for unity. But we remain individual people of different races. Our histories are different thus our realities are different.”

Nonetheless there are plenty of Kehlani fans, both black and non-black, who have caped for her when it comes to the use of the word.

Ladies, what are your thoughts?

Black Girl With Long Hair

Leila Noelliste, founder of Black Girl with Long Hair (April 2008). Social media, pop culture and black beauty enthusiast. bell hooks' hair twin...

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82 Comments on "Racially Ambiguous Singer Kehlani Has a Hit Song Named ‘N*ggas’"

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Linda
She is from Oakland California people. She was raised with almost everyone around her saying that word. its equivalent to people saying “whats up man/ dude/ my guy/ etc.” Things are not racial anymore. they are cultural. there is not a race that has 100% of the people doing the same thing. And there is not anything that is exclusive for only one race to do or say. It all depends on what they are surrounded with growing up. The culture she grew up in used the word. And I’m sure she knows, like I also know, the ‘n word’… Read more »
Jazmine
Honestly the first chick cant spell. tb mixed raised… And Everybody is a mixed breed Technically. Why do think ancestry and other websites are so successful? People of African descent which is damn near everybody in the world except white people… Can Khelani just express her feeling through her music god damn ts like all you mf do is Dick Ride and then get angry when she says Nigga. Honestly is you look at a job app its going to as what race are you and she’s going to check a lot of boxes but they are still going to… Read more »
Nikki

She was raised by her aunt, who she describes as “one of those soulful white women who only fucks with black guys.”

So…she’s white (aunt= a parent’s sister. So one of her parents is white). I love her latest album, but fuck whoever lets her RECORD in the studio saying nigga on the mic.

Jazzy

Your statement Is invalid. She’s biracial black and white. Father black mother white. She has a right to say the word. You are what your father is .
One black parent makes you black. She’s half black

Exodus Farrow

Her mom is native and hispanic. Her dad is black and white.

HolPen
Whatever race she is is not what’s relevant. Her ignorant statement of, “I’m the type to check white girls for saying it.”, is the issue. If she is truly offended by the term, then she should “check” ALL who say it. To exclusively single out “white girls” is absurd. Pay attention to music, movies, & the internet, the likelihood of someone saying this disgusting word is far greater coming out of the mouths of the very same race it has been, & continues to be, used to degrade. There should be no “taking back” of this word, because this word… Read more »
Destiny

Are you black? Or even educated for that matter? Nigga in afrika means king. When us black people say it, it’s not in a neggative way. We are proud. White people can not say nigga because their ancestors deprived us of knowlege towards our roots and where we came from. We are greatness. Many blacks say nigga not knowing the true meaning and the power it has. Whites say nigga in a negative way, when Israelites and afrikans say it it’s because we’re proud. You made it neggative.

Jazmine

The Question is are you black? Where did you get your terminology from? An urban Dictionary does not count. Nigger is an Ethnic slur! before you ask if someone is educated why don’t you do your research. And can you please learn how to spell Negative?
Makes me question your education

Tunji Legba

The word Nigga derives from Nigger which derives from Niger meaning Black in Latin. Using Black in a negative way like Black-Bitch Black-Bastard Lazy-Black Ugly-Black etc is racially charged either way

Destiny

The word nigga means god in Afrika also. White people turned it into a negative way to downgrade blacks. The real meaning is sooo much more though.

Tina

She’s black. In 1650, she would have been a slave. Point blank period. Light skin does not invalidate blackness.

Tunji Legba

In 1650 she probably would have been a free person of color, or passed as some type of Mediterranean, light-bright skin does negate blackness. If she cant pass as black in Africa then she aint Black

Jazzy
You sound very stupid and clearly uneducated not all black people came from Africa. If you re referring to a black person that was born in America . That individual would be a black American who most likely doesn’t have African citizenship or affiliation . The name Africa was named after Scipio Africanus a roman general. Africa was not a name given to the continent by its inhabitants, but was instead a name created by the Romans. This most likely occurred during Rome’s wars with the North African empire of Carthage—either as a re-tooling of a Greek or Phoenician name,… Read more »
Tunji Legba
The song sounds like a slave master narrative from the 18th century [Chorus] Niggas gon’ always be niggas Can’t afford to give my heart to these niggas Ain’t got time to lose my mind to these niggas [Third verse] Niggas, niggas gon’ be niggas Walkin’ ’round so small but actin’ like they’re bigger Actin’ so damn bitter, lettin’ go of their temper I ain’t got the time so I’ll crop that ass out that picture I’d be mad if I stayed true, it ain’t in me to play you If I took you down, yeah you can’t talk shit cause… Read more »
.

Honestly, it was never that deep. The song is about no good guys that do girls wrong and how we are tired of it. It’s about reminding yourself to not let it get to you and to not be crying over some no good guy. I can confidently say it’s about many guys in our generation.

Tunji Legba

Specifically Black guys because Nigga is synonymous with Black

TWA4now

It’s NOT a good word to say coming out of ANYONE’S MOUTH NO MATTER THE COLOR.

guest

“I’m the type to check white girls for saying it.” bitch you are a white girl -_-

Jazzy

Clearly you don’t do your research because if you did you would know that she’s not white. She’s biracial black father white mother. One black parent makes you black.

Jazmine

First of all, Let us not throw out unintelligent words. “Bitch”

In2ition

No one should use this ugly word. Period.

Jazmine

Is it ugly because white people made it ugly?

Reece Wynter

yeah

Carmen

she has no rhythm. first red flag.

NaturallyMe
… black supremacy tho. About as obnoxious as white supremacy. Who the he11 is anyone to put definitions and boundaries on a cultural aesthetic??? Genetics is such a crap shoot. My step children all hail from the as same black mother and white father and each are aesthetically different. My biracial daughter is lighter than her white stepfather! Are black people now allowed to pick and choose which of my children are culturally acceptable????? All while complaining and moaning about how whites judge and discredit them exterior??? F*k that ish. If we’re turning into some exclusionist juvenile clique my family… Read more »
Blasian Gyal

But she said herself that she was raised in a black environment. She’s the one that decided not to say she is genetically black. And let me tell you if you aren’t black at all genetically, you should not be saying nigga. I personally ignored this factor because the song bangs but nah.

Jazzy

She is black genetically. Her father is black . Her mother is white. She’s biracial mixed girl. She cannot help the fact that her skincolor is on the lighter side of the spectrum. If you did your research you would know that. Look at her family pictures her grandparents her cousins and her sisters . Their black .

cyb pauli

I love how now you have to have a certification from the Real Negro Society to be considered black. It’s like a reverse paper bag test. Again coming to the defense of black men at the expense of black women… so boring. Ignoring the bizarre experience of being light/ambiguous and sexualized eroticized and objectified by black men and then finding no solidarity with dark authentic looking women. FFS get off of the BBC

Carmen

cry me a river.

Lolalao

Racially ambiguous? She looks human to me. ..

NoMatterWhat

Omg, like thank you.

Dark skinned Americans need a serious wake up call. The way you treat yourselves is the exact same way others will treat you as well. It is time to firmly accept that there is one race, the human race. Everyone is going to dog you and mistreat you until you are willing to join in and accept that fact.

Jazmine

I don’t treat myself anyway. I know I’m fine as wine it’s just the low-self-esteem of my other counterparts who have an issue. Anyone who does not respect themselves will be taken advantage of because it is weakness. Honestly you’re just stating the obvious.

kalexa1

Blacks didn’t invent the concept of race, whites did…with an obvious agenda in mind that is perpetuated to present day. Yes, there’s only one human race. Likewise there’s very real evil propaganda pervading human consciousnesses out there – black and white. Accept that and we may actually be able to move forward in the discussion.

Jazmine
I just want to say, Whites especially big boy whites are against every culture. Every culture in history has been somewhat humiliated by the white culture Asian, African, Indian/Mexican. The only reason they do this is to instill fear. First off Black are the only ones who don’t know their primary language. You know why because whites were so afraid that ancestors who’d be communicating about their masters death. Now we have broken language and broken school districts broken homes and communities. The system uses our ignorance against ourselves and one another as a money maker and nobody seems to… Read more »
Keyana Jackson

I’m not with that one drop rule you don’t get to be 3% black and run around saying nigga this and nigga that and she grew up around black people so she probably feels like it’s okay for her to say it because they gave her the okay but if I’m looking at you and you look everything BUT black then nigga is not a word you need to be using

Jazzy

Her father is black let’s time I checked you are what your father is. Her cousins are black . Her sisters ar black. Her grandfather is black .

well

Well, that’s what Black people get when you claim mixed people as Black. They take over your image and speak for you and erase you.

Continue to claim non-Black people and continue to be erased.
Simple.

Jazzy
First off let me elaborate for you how is she non black when she comes from a black father. You are what your father is . One black parent makes you black . Ask people cannot be erased. Their genome is dominant. People like you are the reason why black America is divided. When mixed black people such as myself claim back we are told your not black enough. Then when we don’t acknowledge being black it’s oh you think your too good . Literally the black community has so many issues and that’s why it will continue to be… Read more »
lis

IS THIS MUSIC????!!!!

eyionn

her dad is black

Shunya D. Wade
So are we just not claiming mixed Black people anymore? She is Black even though she’s “racially ambiguous”. I think the use of the N word is crappy for the most part but I don’t care if a dark-skinned Black person uses it or a light skinned Black person uses it. If racially ambigious or mixed people can’t use the N word anymore then call out Miguel, The Weekend, Terrance Howard, etc. How many mixed Black celebs are there out there who use or have used the N word? And are we just not claiming them as Black anymore? I… Read more »
Amy

The Weekend is black. he was born to African parents from Ethiopia

Cathy
You are very lost. I am about tired of black women continuously getting called bitter and miserable, along with divisive. We did not call or construct a divide, we are sharif our real life experience which is divided for us. Kehlani is not a black girl, she’s of mixed heritage and is racially ambiguous. This woman is using a weak percentage of blackness to say she checks white girls, albeit being pre-dominantly white, for saying this. Mixed race women have a place in our community, but they are not black women. She is not a black woman who is mixed… Read more »
Jazzy

People like Yourself are the main reason why why the black community has so many fucking issues it’s ridiculous I don’t know what’s going on in that fucked up head of yours but I’m hear to tell you that mixed biracial black people such as myself are still viewed as black it doesn’t matter how light our skin is . Because white people still see us as black they don’t give a single fuck that were black they still see a black person . So don’t come with that bullshit that were not black because we are.

JAY CARTIER

Sound kinda bitter fam

Tina

THANK YOU. Light skin does not invalidate blackness, I don’t know who came up with that theory…

cyb pauli

But Shunya those are black (?) men and black men are fragile creatures who need to be defended at all times from criticism!

S. Williams

thank you!!!!!! I wish I could like this a thousand times!!!!! it’s worse than the continental divide like OKAY so what her blackness does not aesthetically look like yours? who are we to take her blackness away from her or any other mixed raced person who identifies as black

Miss.

“Critics describe her as having a traditional R&B sound and a style comparative to Ciara and Janet Jackson.”

The music industry is straight up replacing us in the industry and we have supported it. Notice who they predominantly support and market in traditionally black music genres and singing styles. They are slowly trying to try it with rap music too.

kalexa1

Well said, and perceptive of you. I see that too. Sad to see many (far more talented) black artists supporting the trend with sell-out collaborations with white artists who’s records/street-cred/sound just wouldn’t cut-it without the addition of black talent. Ironic but true.

anna

I hope her ‘career’ tanks and doesn’t take off. What’s worse is people saying “oohh, she mixed. It’s okay for her to say”. Errrr, mixed race doesn’t automatically mean half black. Even if she was. She is so far removed from it. She grew up with no black parent in her life. Technically George Bush is Mexican because of some past relative. Guess what…..it still means jack-$hit. Also,of ALLLLLLL the female black rappers/singers,not on one has named a song this way.

aja

And yet black men will still want this girl on their arm…she is their ideal. What a damned joke! We are the bane of our own existence. Smh.

S. Williams

ok….I have a bunch of black male friends, ALL except 1 is dark-skinned and not a 1 has ever said they prefer mixed or racially ambiguous over “a fine black woman.” Does that mean that they won’t someday fall in love with a lighter woman? No. But not all black men openly shun darker black women when it comes to beauty. I think the media representation is skewing a lot of views about what black men want in a woman

CocoaGoddess

Exactly, all the guys that have ever liked me were black. And I’m not bragging, but that’s been a lot over my twenty years. So……….some of these black girls need to keep it to themselves

lis

Rolls eyes

Stevie

Us black ppl are funny. We will claim famous white ppl with the most obscure traces of African Heritage (e.g. Jackie O) but when a no name w/ African heritage tries to unite with our culture? No thanks. Not black enough.

Tunji Legba

Personally I believe the same people that are fine with this are the same people that would claim Jackie O

December86

She couldn’t think of any other word to describe a no good guy!

KissOfDanger

We did this to our selves.

BlueCornMoon
AMEN ! When I grew up near the end of segregation in the south; we black kids in our all black schools would get in TROUBLE if we used the N word at each other. You got the paddle from the teacher or a phone call home followed by a butt whipping from your parents & if you were out in the street & used it at another kid it was a fighting word. We were taught by adults not to use it because it was OUR ENEMIES’ word for us & a sign of DISRESPECT. White folks would even… Read more »
Ms. Vee

That’s what happens when we give people a pass just cause they “down” and got some colour. But these other groups won’t give our black behinds a pass for disrespecting them and/or biting off them. She not relevant however and will from now on be ignored 🙂

justme

These comments are so stupid!! Black people need to stop with the word nigga period!! Stop owning derogatory words! BGLH..you all should write an article on that! Would make for an interesting convo!

fromanotherplanet

How can you be black and white and Spanish? LOL. She knows that Spaniards are white right?? Cackling at this mess. Never heard of her before and I hope I never hear of her ever again. Bye girl.

Ingala Sandford
Spanish is a nationality not a race I don’t know what racial ambiguity has to do with being black….black people come in all shades and just because you have light skin it doesn’t make you less black than someone with brown skin it’s just how the mix is in your genes. That’s why you can have someone with a white parent be as dark as Halle Berry or as light as Rashida Jones. Kehlani has stated in many interviews that she is black, white and Native American. The soulfulness in her vocals speak for themselves she is no Teena Marie… Read more »
Veron Cruise

What? You just negated the struggles of an entire group of people with one sentence. The first one that came to my mind was Vincente Engonga, a footballer born in Barcelona who played on the Spanish National Team. Hs own countrymen made monkey noises and threw bananas on the pitch when he walked out because everybody “knows that ‘Spaniards’ are white right??”. Anyway, I’m sure when she said “Spanish” she meant Latina and not “Spanish from Spain” and most norteamericanos know she didn’t mean “Spanish from Spain”.

fromanotherplanet

Reading is fundamental. You cannot be blacK AND white AND Spanish (and denotes an additional element). And even if she meant latina, that is a still a massive FAIL. Latina is not a race — it is an ethnicity. There are indigenous, mestizo, black, white, asian etc latinas. Once again, you cannot be blacK AND white AND Latina. This is my last comment on this irrelevant chick. Bye!!

Bee

As the previous commenter said, it’s clear based on context that she was referring to herself as a mixture of African, White, and probably Indigenous/mestizo. I’m sure you’ve heard several people say, albeit incorrectly, “Spanish” when they’re actually referring *ethnically* to Latinas.

Kehlani’s questionable music and responses aside – yes, we totally and completely understand she screwed up in describing her genetic background, yet I’m not entirely sure why your responses to other comments are so aggressive, lmao.

fromanotherplanet

Doesn’t make her any less stupid.

maralondon

Thank you. I was wondering the same thing myself. She needs herself an education.

MalikaiDragonSlayer

I think she means Latina not Spaniard. I could be wrong about that though.

fromanotherplanet

Even if that is what she meant, there are WHITE latinas, just as there are Afro latinas and Asian latinas. Bye!

BlueCornMoon

Right ! I had many at my elementary school

Jacky
I think that the song is derogatory. I do not like the fact that it demeans black people and more specifically black men. Yes, I know that there are some black men who are womanizers but there are also womanizers from every race and not all black men are womanizers. She shouldn’t generalize and put all black men into one boat to lash out at them for something done by only a percentage of them. Also, I feel that she doesn’t have the right to use the word “N*gga”. I’m black, not mixed with anything else and I still don’t… Read more »
BlueCornMoon
Kehlani is just being stupid & ignorant; thinking she can get a pass because she’s “racially ambiguous”. Another way to get attention by disrespecting black people. Thanks,rappers, for putting our racial slurs out there & trying to “take the power away”. Instead, those fools have given it even MORE power !! Ya think you’ll ever hear Hispanics put out a song called “spics”, Asians a song called “gooks” ? What about the anti Italian slurs ?. NO WAY ! You’d probably vanish like Jimmy Hoffa & your body would never be found !! And you’d better not say racial slurs… Read more »
Linda

its not because she is racially ambiguous. its because of how she was raised, how the people around her speak, and how she was taught to speak. maybe you are ignorant for not knowing her culture and the way she grew up but are so quick to judge. hmmm.

Guest

You said it all. Nothing else needs to be added.

aja

Truer words were never said. Amen!

cryssi

Hmmm, never heard of her. When I saw the picture of her I was instantly offended. When I read her racial make-up I was like, “eh, I guess” and “I would still side eye the crap out of her for this and maybe check her.”

Did anyone see the episode of Blackish about the word? Zoe had male friends who apparently said it. Dre told both white boys they better not say it again and the last kid he said he needs to meet his parents.

I need to meet this chick’s family.

Jazzy

Her familu is black look up the pictures

Sangha

Fuck this user bitch. The article was right when it said that she, and other ambiguously racial females, is eating off black culture. She’s black when it’s convenient but is only popular because she is the “right kind of black” chick (see Stacey Dash)…that is barely none at all. You know white and black people only like their black women a certain way….Euro-centric features and hair textures and scoring an A+ on the paper bag test.

BlueCornMoon

TELL IT !

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