Kiana Ledé celebrated her birthday with the release of her debut album KIKI on April 3. The long-awaited album comes following her spicy lead single Mad At Me which interpolates OutKast’s So Fresh, So Clean. Ledé delivered with a soulful sound and clean vocals in a stunning set of songs.
Ledé sets the record straight for her first track of the album. Ledé uses Jasmine Orlando’s TikTok sound for the intro of the song to show that she’s over it. She doesn’t hold back her feelings for hectic relationships. “You got options, made bad choices/Only cried so much ’cause he lied too much/You don’t need nobody. . .” She keeps things simple with the intro’s tagline, “You know the vibes. . .” for the chorus.
In an at-home event with Billboard, Ledé mentioned that this track meant the most to her. She wrote it about a friend of her’s that kept getting screwed over and over by the same guy.
The song provides a certain comfort to those that may relate to its subject. She raps about her friend’s worth in a way that assures that she’ll be just fine. Ledé maintains a steady rhythm with pointed lyrics that match her persuasive tone. She’s simply trying to make the listener understand their importance. This track acts as an optimistic beginning for what ends up as an album that produces a whirlwind of emotions.
Ledé anchors her first track with another follow up feel-good anthem. “Yeah, just keep it movin’/Don’t let that little s**t get to you, f**k up your groove. . .” She pushes against the idea of compromising your wealth and harboring on the past.
Ledé pairs the pick-me-up song with an enchanting pop beat. The instrumental utilizes an array of instruments for an airy finish. Its softness is good for anyone who feels like they’re in a slump.
Mad At Me.
The third track of the album is Ledé’s lead single for KIKI. The track reminds a former lover that they can’t be mad at her as he’s been playing games with her too. “You been on some f**k s**t lately, keep that distance, please/Yeah, so if you’re thinkin’ there’s a problem, we can settle it/Say you don’t care, but truth is you just can’t get with it. . .” This track is what made me want to review her debut album. The sample of OutKast’s 2000 hit is golden and stands out as one of my favorite tracks by her.
The beat is a seamless rendition of its sample, yet it maintains Ledé’s flair. She hit the nail on the head with an R&B stunner.
R&B songstress Ari Lennox joins Ledé on the fourth track of the album. The song uses a familiar guitar riff throughout its entirety. The track is sweeter this time around. Both artists reminisce about encounters with a lover. “So chocolate, craving it/So amazing like it ain’t real, mmm (Yeah)/So unassuming, you got me losing it/It ain’t fair, no, oh. . .” In comparison to the previous songs, it shows Ledé’s ability to bounce off of negative and positive aspects of a relationship. She uses this sense of duality throughout the rest of the album.
The two singers also join once again in a video which is a fun, but also safe, addition to the track in the age of social distancing. The song balances chimes and lulls throughout the background of the track for an overall lighthearted sound.
In another feature, Lucky Daye joins Ledé in a duet. The song features an argument between two lovers that are asking for one another to forfeit before things escalate. “Why do you always gotta push me?/You know how to do it, baby, every single button. . .”
The track uses guitar riffs that create an underlying rock-and-roll feel. The duet showcases both of their soothing voices which juxtaposes the angry tone within the song. “You better forfeit, keep f****in’ with my vibes/And I can assure you it won’t end how you like. . .” Ledé’s and Daye’s voices complement one another in this impressive R&B track.
Ledé pushes out another duet, this time with 6LACK. The sixth track of the album chronicles another argument, but this time she steps away. This time around, Ledé chants, “No more second chances, chances/No more second chances, chances. . .” 6LACK’s verse signifies the side that doesn’t want to give up just yet, despite her warnings to leave.
The track uses a constant set of strings throughout its instrumental, which at times doesn’t match Ledé’s powerful voice. The message, nevertheless, is an ode to no longer giving second chances to those who don’t deserve it. It’s a message we can all take notes from.
In the seventh track of the album, Ledé sings about being pushed to the edge. The song follows the lead of the previous track as she warns that she’s run out of patience. ” I might slash the tires in your car/Already got the windows, I ain’t even say I’m sorry. . .”
Ledé’s soft vocals contrast her words similar to that of the previous two songs. The beat of the song is clouded as she sings about her crazy side in an almost hypnotic way.
The next track revisits the message of the previous song in a more bare way. Ledé mentions the infidelity that she deals with. This time around, she’s not so straight forward in her anger implied by the previous few tracks. “The truth is, I can’t let it go, let it go. . .” She’s reached a hard place. She wants to be mad at her lover but it’s not so easy to leave them alone. This contrasts her chorus, however, where she warns, “There’s plenty more/Plenty more where that came from. . .” She’s clearly fumbling between her anger and her feelings.
This song is more acoustic in sound and seems closer to the heart based on its production. The atmosphere of the song is relaxing and it almost seems that Ledé prefers singing her frustrations in interestingly calm ways.
The ninth track of the album sounds like a middle finger to a previous relationship. “I can’t with you, I can’t with you/I can’t with you no more/You been actin’ out of spite, I must really got you tight. . .” She taunts whoever is on her bad side which serves as a lighter mood to her previous track.
The instrumental of the song uses an acoustic rock-and-roll sound glittered by an array of soft piano chords. She once again features tranquil vocals in a song that conveys an obviously cold message.
Moneybagg Yo and BIA join Ledé on the second sample of the album thus far. She incorporates Mtume’s Juicy Fruit, which was popularized to the newer generations by Notorious B.I.G.’s Juicy. “I’m the one that kept it juicy for ya. . ./Now who the f**k gon’ keep it, juicy for ya. . .” She takes a dig at her previous relationship, reminding them what they’re missing based on their actions.
The instrumental of the song is a perfect rendition of the track it samples, but I don’t think one of the features for this tune were necessary. I was not a fan of Moneybagg Yo’s sound on the track as it seemed almost offbeat and overly-auto tuned. Aside from that, BIA was a smooth addition, providing a 90s rap sound to the nostalgic track.
The eleventh track features a sample from Brandy’s Have You Ever. This track seems to visit the relationship before things went wrong. It chronicles her trying to understand or get to know her lover when it seems they’ve shut down. “You never want it when I want it, want it, want it, want it/I’m just tryna be up on it, on it, on it, on it/At least, I’m being honest, honest, honest, honest. . .” It sums up how a relationship feels once someone’s gotten what they wanted and then lost interest.
The instrumental follows a constant set of piano riffs in addition to Brandy’s lulls from the intro. Ledé’s tone conveys a certain longing as she sings about her efforts of keeping something she wants in her life.
Feel A Way.
The twelfth track talks about the feeling of being in a one-sided relationship. “And you gon’ feel a way/When I start chargin’ for my time (Time). . .” It mostly chronicles the point where she figures enough is enough and demands more from her lover.
The instrumental of the song features guitar riffs distorted by synths amidst a hip-hop tempo (which is heard during the chorus and bridge of the song). The track provides both a gloomy and cheerful mood through the beat’s distortions which contrast her airy vocals.
Col3trane joins Ledé in a track that asks, “Why do good girls end up with the bad guys?” In that same breath, Ledé also realizes she can’t really be mad about it. Ledé returns to her acoustic sound with a slow-paced song. The beat is simple and lacks tension. It’s simply a conversation between both ends of the spectrum. Col3trane’s verse was surprising. I didn’t feel as confident after hearing the auto-tune build which I think would have been better left off the song, but his vocals were perfect for the sound of the song. He provided somewhat of an indie sound which seamlessly blended with the acoustics.
Ledé recognizes she isn’t in the best situation, but she doesn’t want this lover to walk out of her life just yet. She simply wants this lover to see her, but he only seems to pay her attention when they’re in a bad place. “‘Cause if I let my feelings out, it’s my luck that/I’ll bore you/I’m tryna keep you around. . .” If starting an argument is what it takes to keep his attention, she’s willing to go that route.
I must admit, this track is probably my favorite right under Mad At Me, so far. The song featured a simple yet meaningful set of piano chords. This instrumental did an incredible job of accentuating her vocal ability. The atmosphere is somber and accurately matches her lyrics which describe her most delicate point in the relationship. I think Ledé got her emotions across flawlessly alongside her vocals which were incredible.
In the albums last feature, Arin Ray duets Ledé in a track where she questions how much she means to him. “Do you think about me when I’m gone?/Do you think about me when you need your space?” She wants to know does her partner think about her when she’s not around, hence the title.
This song maintains the gentle sound of the previous song, this time using a guitar instead of a piano. Similar to the majority of the tracks on the album, Ledé doesn’t focus on the overproduction of her instrumentals, rather the message her lyrics get across.
The second to last track of the album seems to highlight the high point of her relationship. “I try to hide out, you always find out/And when I’m way down, you’re my safe house/We built from the ground, guess I’m home now. . .” This can explain her holding onto her lover despite the numerous low points she’s mentioned throughout the album.
The song features synths and a mix of instruments such as guitars and pianos along with minor drum sounds for a gentle sound that matches the calmest points of her relationship. The instrumental strays away from matching her vocal peaks and troughs and lets her voice lead.
“Been with you, by your side, through your battles/Don’t forget who was there at your worst. . .” This might be the perfect song for the ending of this album. She doesn’t want her partner to take back anything that he’s said, despite the negative feelings there may be.
The track revisits an acoustic sound. Ledé doesn’t harbor too much anger from everything that happened and she holds her head high to rejoice what things were.
Overall rating: 4/5
Time and time again, artists prove their talents through their debut album. I think this is a stellar project for Ledé and she’s simply great at her craft. I’m interested to hear what else she has in store for the future. This album was great at showcasing her ability to guide us through all the peaks and troughs of a relationship. Ledé is a force to be reckoned with.
Featured Image via @KianaLede on Twitter