Twenty-one year-old Kehlani Parrish is wise beyond her years. She’s endured more in her Oakland upbringing and past year in the mainstream spotlight than most would survive in a lifetime. After releasing two critically lauded mixtapes, Kehlani dropped her first LP SweetSexySavage in January, which debuted at number 1 on Billboard’s R&B chart. The title is a millennial-era nod to TLC’s 1994 album CrazySexyCool, but it is also a well-rounded definition of womanhood, of everything a woman is able to be when she’s free from any mold society tells her to fill.
Kehlani channeled every aspect of that feminine omnipotence on the April 20th stop of her SweetSexySavage tour at Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas (her second show back on road after emergency hernia surgery). With appearances by opening acts/ emerging R&B talents Ella Mai and Jahkoy, as well as DJ “Baby Noodz” Noodles, we’ve rounded up the sweetest, sexiest and most savage moments from her the Las Vegas tour stop.
On April 18th, Kehlani announced her #WeNeedUs drive to collect donations on behalf of local women’s shelters in city of the tour. On this night, supplies were collected for Family Promise of Las Vegas.
While Ella Mai was about half-way though “10,000,” the song which garnered the biggest audience reaction from the British songstress’ set, a fan passed out in the midst of the main floor. Fellow concertgoers waved their arms and phones to call security’s attention for help, and Mai stopped mid-song to make sure the young music lover got the care she needed. “I hope you feel better,” she said. Then she started “10,000” hours from the top, for the fans.
“Y’all know I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t talk, right?” Kehlani doesn’t let a platform for good go to waste. She delivered mini inspirational speeches throughout the set: respecting yourself and living at your own pace before “Not Used to It,” what a difference a little kindness can make (and how, like she does, you can imagine a box you have to put yourself in that doesn’t have room for other people’s negativity), words of love and acceptance for the LQBTQ community prior to “Undercover,” and knowing when to “talk your shit when it’s necessary, set your boundaries with people” pre-“Personal.” We hope we weren’t the only ones taking notes.
Kehlani very well could have wrapped the night with “CRZY,” SweetSexySavage’s lead single and biggest radio success to-date. Instead, she closed with “Thank You,” the album’s humble end track, which she dedicated to God and her fans, calling the latter a “the most loving and supportive support group. Bigger than fan and artist shit. It’s human to human shit. Young person to young person shit.” Naturally, she sang part of the song immersed in the audience, embracing every hand she came across.
If you weren’t one of the couples dutty wining their way through Jahkoy’s sultry new single, “California Heaven,” you were certainly sandwiched between a few of them. Things got so heated, the Toronto native had to remove his flannel shirt.
For opening number “Keep On,” Kehlani emerged onstage wearing all black: trench coat, fishnet stockings, cutoff shorts and a Tupac t-shirt. She’s selling out theatres across the country and rocks what you would wear to your aunt’s poolside barbeque (okay, probably minus the trench coat). Her relatabilty makes her sexy, though the wind machine which gently rocked her curls didn’t hurt. She never pulled a full-on outfit change, either. She only swapped her black trench coat for a white one on “I Wanna Be.”
In the tradition of R&B goddesses such as Aaliyah and Destiny’s Child before her, Kehlani stacks her sets with choreography, equipped with two backup dancers. On the standout, “Undercover,” they whipped out cumbia, hip-hop and bachata-inspired moves. Spicy!
DJ Noodles always brings the turn-up, but she surprised everyone by dropping Panic! At the Disco’s 2007 emo-pop smash “I Write Sins, Not Tragedies” about 3/4s through her set. “I don’t care if you’ve never heard this song,” she said with a smile. “This is my favorite song!”
Dam vocals were savage, particularly on the stripped-down performance of “Hold Me By the Heart,” the touching ballad served the dual purpose of shutting down anyone who questions her range and vocal prowess. She’s not only a bonafide pop star, she. can. sing.
As anyone who follows Kehlani on social media could guess, she wasn’t going to let April 20th come and go without a celebration. But when she ceremoniously sparked a blunt onstage between “CRZY” and “Thank you”? That was COLD.