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.

Thanks for 10.1k 💙🌊 @kehlani #kehlani #ecu #TSNMI (RP @godlyslani) #the­way

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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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kehlani2

kehlani3

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

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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.

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 »
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

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

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 I… 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 -_–

In2ition

No one should use this ugly word. Peri­od.

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 »
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.

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.

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

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.

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 »
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 »
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.

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 use it.… 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 »
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.

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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