Show & Prove: Kali
From: Grant Rindner
Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of XXL Magazine, now out.
Explosive, minimalistic, with wonderfully simple call and response hooks, Kali’s The 2021 song, “MMM MMM,” has inspired thousands of TikToks, but there is one song that the Atlanta-born rapper tends to think of first.
“It’s this girl’s video. She was driving a car, she looked crazy, but she was screaming ‘MMM MMM’ with all her soul,” said Kali. like, ‘He wants my number, has to hit him with ‘Mmm Mmm!’ It’s crazy like her man just pissed her off. It just stuck with me because I was like, she really understood it. That’s how I felt when I made the song.”
That clip embodies what makes her brand of hip-hop great and why she makes a difference in a city teeming with talent: it creates a sense of catharsis. Kali’s two biggest hits to date, ATL Jacob-produced “MMM MMM” and 2021 breakout “Do A Bitch,” are songs that fans rapping along to their full breasts. After all, she would never say things like, “I don’t want that nigga, my IG is just on his screen”. Plus, her first official project, This is why they are crazy nowwas released last year, was an opening announcement about the arrival.
But in a Zoom chat in February, Kali appeared welcoming and considered, not exactly the brand that some of her music suggests for her. Kaliya Ashley Ross, 21, born and raised in the northern Atlanta suburb of Roswell, has been rapping since she was ten years old. Her stepfather is a producer, and he helped her record her first songs when she was 12 years old. Also, a successful former young soccer player, Kali talks about her musical career with the directional attitude you’d expect in a professional athlete.
“Since I was so young at making music, I was obviously still trying to figure that out,” she shared. “It took my youth, composing music, teaching myself how to record and sharpening my content to really express who I am in the song. I’ve been taking this seriously for about four years now. From the beginning until now, I was determined to learn my voice.”
She honed that sound, the sound that straddles the Lattos and Foogianos of the current Georgia talent boom, at 19. The rising artist almost got a chance to share her talent with the world. when she was slated to try out for Netflix. rap exploration series, Rhythm + Flow, in 2019. However, the judges suddenly decided to cut the auditions short. That, along with her first project before This is why they are crazy now was removed from the internet, leaving Kali in a difficult position to be surpassed.
“What it’s like for me to spend two months where I live, I don’t know if music is for me,” admits Kali. “My music kept crashing and I was moving around too much. And then with ‘Do A Bitch’, I thought, Let me write and rewrite a song. Incidentally, the first beat she heard from Telly, a producer who had been emailing her packages for years, turned out to be the instrument for “Do A Bitch.”
The Rhythm + Flow debacle had another big silver lining: it brought Kali to Houston MC KenTheMan when they met during auditions. After that, Ken became a close friend and outspoken motivator. “I always tell people, ‘This girl is a superstar. If I had a label, she would be the first one I would sign with,” Ken said.
Ken describes Kali as “the sweetest girl I’ve ever met in my life” and the two have a bond that clearly transcends music. They spent Thanksgiving together in Houston, where they wrote the featured 2021 collaboration track “Ain’t FWM.” Ken is extremely confident in Kali’s future, and it seems the only thing the two will confront is when Kali will quickly roll out her new stuff.
“When I told you that if I could release that girl’s unreleased information, I would,” added Ken. “She has a lot. I was like, Damn, man. It’s crazy how hard this girl works.”
In February, Kali became an artist with Atlantic Records. By March, she released her Toxic chocolate The EP, which she jokes “is bringing out a lot of toxic energy, but in a good way.” The first single, the vibrant duet “UonU” with Yung Bleu, is a song for those who are going through an emotional tune. This time, women’s hypocritical mates are accusing them of the absurd actions they are committing. Then came “Eat It Up” featuring BIA, an X-rated number in a beat reminiscent of “Wait (The Whisper Song) by Ying Yang Twins”. With this eight-song EP, Kali continues to accept a change in her creative approach, actually starting with “MMM MMM” and having stuck with the recent writing process.
“When I started I took [music] Seriously, I would be shy to have everyone in the studio, so I would have to write first,” shared Kali. “I just wanted to make sure I got something done in the studio and I wasn’t really comfortable rapping in front of people, so I was just writing. As the years went by, I taught myself how to be free. Now I’ve taught myself how to go into the studio, pick up the mic and put words together.”
With growing confidence, she works on fleeting emotions and whims of inspiration. It’s a less calculated approach that still delivers focused music thanks to her penchant for precise flows.
“This is why they are crazy now I’m trying to be seen,” Kali said of her debut project. “I am taking this seriously and you need to pay attention. [Toxic Chocolate] like, Oh, she’s coming and she’s here to stay. “
Kali spending this spring on the road opening for Latto on The Monster Energy Outbreak Tour is proving it. Kali also wants to put together her own headline acts when the time is right. For now, rhyme players are enjoying the nominal space between being an artist to watch and a true star, like an athlete waiting to hear their name in the first round of drafts.
“I always tell my team that things haven’t sunk in yet,” says Kali. “Sometimes I would say, ‘Oh really? They want me to perform? Am I on tour? ‘ It’s still so new to me and so crazy, because I’ve shown all of this and it’s all happening to me. ”
Keep making them mad.
Read the cover story with Playboi Carti and see other magazine interviews with Fivio Foreign, Latto, DaBaby, Wiz Khalifa and Juicy J, Joey Bada $$, Denzel Curry, Hit-Boy, Big KRIT, RZA, Saba, Morray, Nardo Wick, Sleepy Hallow, SSGKobe, ATL Jacob, Pink Sweat$, Saucy Santana, Jason Lee, Angie Randisi and Colby Turner in the new issue of XXL magazine, now available in newsstands and in XXL’s online store.
Check out the exclusive cover story of Playboi Carti’s XXL Magazine Spring 2022
https://www.xxlmag.com/kali-interview/ Kali’s Coming and She’s Here to Stay