ESSENTIAL TRACK: “Kayela to the MF J”
FOR FANS OF: Cardi B, Notorious B.I.G., Da Brat
Portland saw its share of new rappers in 2018, but none hit the ground running quite like KayelaJ. Since dropping her debut single “Kayela to the MF J” back in February, the five-foot-nothing dynamo has been dripping confidence and popping up everywhere... and I mean everywhere.
KayelaJ notched two performances at The Thesis, earned herself a slot at PDX Pop Now! and Girl Fest, rocked Green Noise Records’ first rap show as well as the quarterly series Mic Check, made two appearances on the KGW News, and that’s just the start. All in all, she spit rhymes at more than 30 shows in the Portland area this past year, gracing a wide variety of venues from Holocene to a strip club to the Lloyd Center mall to a KPSU showcase at Portland State. In the same period, KayelaJ dropped three fire singles—including her “women’s empowerment/strippers anthem” “Heat Gentlemen’s Club”—and a 23-track mixtape entitled Homage (Thank You), which pays respect to the lady rappers, from Queen Latifah to Lauryn Hill to Azealia Banks, who inspire her.
But I assure you, her success is not simply a function of her work ethic. Sporting a husky and brash voice that contrasts her petite physique, KayelaJ can flat out rap—and she’s sitting on 22 years’ worth of lyrical inspiration that she’s just beginning to understand how to articulate. Not only does the Lewis & Clark psych grad and Portland native wear her sexuality on her sleeve and reflect on life in honest and hilarious ways that advance feminism and open thought, she also—to put it simply—always turns up. Every KayelaJ performance results in moshing fans from all walks falling all over each other to her upbeat style and compelling timing.
KayelaJ's forthcoming first full-length album is “essentially an introductory project” that “covers the process of my life,” she tells, as she moves from depression in her younger years to “rage, then confidence and happiness. I just came out as a lesbian three years ago, and so only after that was I able to work on being truly happy.” Now fully in control of how she expresses herself, she’s “able to be myself, dress how I wanted, and make the music I wanted to make.” Whether showing her vulnerable side, “talking about screwing and dating women,” or rocking “some dope turn up songs,” the impending project will definitely show off her growing presence as a player in Portland’s hip-hop scene.
UPCOMING RELEASE: D.Y.K.E. (Don't Yield, Keep Enduring) out July 12