On one of her early songs from 2013, the grainy, crackling “What They Say,” Kali Uchis sounds so convincingly old-school that you’d swear the track was a Motown B-side from 1965. But even if the Virginia-based singer can go retro like a pro, when she wants, she’s just as masterful at informing that nostalgia with a healthy dose of contemporary influences. Think of the way that Amy Winehouse could seamlessly marry Martha Reeves with Ghostface Killah and you have something of an antecedent to Uchis’s decades-blending pop. Even her signature look—peroxide-blonde hair, big sunglasses, gold jewelry—is a balance of fifties pinup, Los Angeles rap star, and a wardrobe that an extra in Clueless might have worn.
In her most recent music, Uchis whips up soul, hip-hop, and Spanish pop (the 20-year-old was born in Colombia and spent much of her childhood there) with a no-holds-barred approach to songwriting. Take “Lottery,” the latest song from her upcoming EP, Por Vida. While the production twinkles like a classic Supremes song, Uchis quivers between pretty singing and straightforward rapping for some very frank lyrics about life and love in the modern world. “I sampled ‘Oh Honey ’ by Delegation because they dedicated that entire song to glorifying a woman’s loyalty. No one seems to really care about that anymore, people mostly only do things for self,” Uchis explains in an email. “[But] I still have hope in loyalty, in having love that is stronger than pride. I don’t do anything half-ass. Not work, not friends, not lovers.” Take a listen.
Stream: Kali Uchis,“Lottery”
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