Oakland’s breakthrough R&B talent Kehlani Parrish’s follow up to the Grammy-nominated You Should Be Here mix-tape is a debut that grounds itself in the heyday of 90s R&B while asserting an intimate connection to the listener that few artists have the confidence or skill to match in 2017. It’s a record that lives and breathes the air of nostalgia for 90s-00s R&B, pop and soul. After titular nods to TLC's CrazySexyCool, there’s a hat tip to Aaliyah’s “More than a Woman” on "Too Much", in bars as much as beats, and even the video for "Distraction" pays homage to Lil' Kim and Destiny's Child.
The title for Kehlani's debut offering is a clear nod to her '90s influences — that TLC/Aaliyah/Monica/Brandy mode of soul that transformed the genre at the time and still influences today's R&B mindset. SweetSexySavage builds on the buzz generated from 2014's Cloud 19 and You Should Be Here mixtapes.Full name Kehlani Ashley Parrish, the Oakland, California native has had an eventful year or so — social media and tabloid-fuelled chatter surrounded her personal life, and she grappled with depression and anxiety. SweetSexySavage is filtered through this lens, touching on issues of love, relationships, self-awareness and perseverance through the eyes of a 21-year-old woman who views herself as a survivor.
The title of this interminable 19-track debut album shows how Californian R&B singer Kehlani sees herself, however inaccurately. There is some melodic sweetness here, in the chorus to Undercover or the modest earworm of Get Like; savagery is signified by a willingness to say the F word and smoke blunts in her videos. But sexiness is utterly absent in a record whose jaw-slackeningly boring lyrics make it more like a first date from hell.