Maryland-born, L.A.-based singer Kelela more or less came out of nowhere with her thundering yet seductive bass&b mixtape Cut 4 Me, a debut full-length that SPIN’s Phillip Sherburne called “stunning.” But as the hype boils over, Kelela will become less and less anonymous, the first step of which arguably just happened in New York City, where the vocalist performed her first high-profile set for the Fader Fort audience during the CMJ Music Marathon.
Video has emerged of Kelela performing title track “Cut 4 Me.” Like most of the album — produced by bass music heavyweights such as Bok Bok and Kingdom from the labels Fade to Mind and Night Slugs — the song features hammering percussion but also vast open space that pushes her soulful vocals to the forefront. It’s a trick nicked from Aaliyah and Timbaland but filtered through a decade of British underground dance sounds, and this live rendition is appropriately intense.
Most captivating, though, is the singer’s personality. “No fucks,” Kelela says with a laugh before launching into the song. “If you would like fucks, they are not being given over here.”