This piece is part of Spotify’s Frequency series, where we highlight some of the most prominent voices helping rewrite the narrative on Black music and culture. Learn more about Spotify's Frequency and all of their featured artists here.

You should already know this by now, but if you don’t, let’s set the record straight: Black music is @#$%&! iImportant. Music produced by Black artists has stood the test of time, reflecting the state of popular culture at various points in history and the diverse range with which said artists operate.

While Black music, as a pseudo-genre, is a solidified entity across generations, there’s always been more to the discipline than just providing a nice bass line to dance to or verse to recite throughout the day. To its core, the art of Black music is an extension of those who create it, a conduit that channels stories, experiences, and ideas.

Music is identity. Through these melodies and chords, we hear history, authentic recounts of circumstances lived, and a search for autonomy and individuality within an institution that has worked against a group of people since its inception. Black artists are undeniably some of the greatest storytellers, offering a peek into a world of struggle for stability–both in environment and in self.

Kelela is no stranger to these sentiments. For the last decade, the enigmatic songstress has painted her experience through music, sharing feelings that most think but are too scared to say to the world.

As a queer, Black woman, Kelela’s perspective is at one moment singular to her, while in the same breath shared with so many others. The 39-year-old artist is a role model for many who struggle with identity and acceptance, whether she tries to be or not. By giving the world this unfiltered piece of herself, Kelela shows that you don’t have to look or be a certain way to feel seen, heard, and admired.

Spotify / Shaun Llewellyn, Spotify / Shaun Llewellyn

After her unsolicited six-year absence, the reticent singer/songwriter is back to offer a new comprehensive body of work. Released on February 10, Raven is the 15-track culmination of time spent gathering experiences, observing dynamics, and meditating on how to convey complex messages in a way that feels true to the D.C. native. All of this is to say: the wait was worth it.

"I love Kelela because she is deeply intentional about centering Black femme & nonbinary folks in her work," shares Francine Tamakloe, a Marketing Lead for Frequency. "This method of rooting establishes a fan base that receives the music with the same care and intentionality. With Frequency, we’re building a platform that centers Black people and the possibilities of our creativity to tell stories that reflect the future we’re actively shaping together."

Recognizing the impactful influence Black artists like Kelela have on music and the culture at large, Spotify created its signature Frequency content brand, a global initiative designed to support artists who are unapologetically changing the face of the game.

Launched in 2021, Spotify’s Frequency celebrates Black art and culture in all forms, both on and off the popular streaming platform.From supporting community spaces like Black Market Flea to docu-series like Free Studio and Sunday Dinner, Frequency is a hub committed to highlighting Black artists pioneering new waves across multiple genres while also creating a space for conversation and advocacy on a larger scale.

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Check out our conversation with Kelela, where she details how she maintains a strong sense of self in a fickle industry.

After six years, why is now the time to put out a new body of work?

I wish there were a more profound answer but now is the time because [Raven] took 2.5 years to make. It would have come out sooner if I didn’t care about post-production and there wasn't a 6-month lead time on vinyl.

How do you maintain a strong sense of self in an industry that sometimes turns its back on Black and LGBTQ+ authenticity?

[I maintain it] through the conversations I'm having with my close circle of Black femme friends, who have extremely sharp reads but also lead with kindness. Being a queer Black artist, who is not light-skinned, requires regular affirming conversations—it’s how we’re all getting through our respective industries.

How do you think your music is progressing the cultural narrative regarding underrepresented groups?

I make innovative music, but I wouldn't say my music alone is where the progress lies; it’s really about making the music I make while talking my shit.

The media machine doesn’t care about what you have to say until you make something that moves people; it’s only then that they pass you the mic. Representation is important, but in this day and age, we need more than inclusion—we need to hear Black artists tell the truth.

In an alternate universe where you don’t make music, what are you doing and why?

I'd probably be doing some sort of social justice work—organizing for marginalized people and/or doing some kind of research as an academic.

Check out Kelela and other talented Black artists on the Frequency content hub only on Spotify.

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