New Artist Alert: Kris Kelli Infuses Trap & Pop With Carribean Vibes


Nicki Minaj isn’t the only one with a boss ass bitch mentality. Enter Kris Kelli, a Jamaican-bred songstress by way of the Atlanta-based Block Entertainment and Roc Nation Records.

Infusing island vibes with pop on trap steroids, the artist also known as Hurricane Kris, delivers more than just chain-heavy swag. Growing up in her Kingston household latching onto her dad’s old school tastes a la Stylistics and Delfonics, Kris used to bring home trophies for karaoke competitions across Jamaica, even opening up for the Stylistics at 15 years old. Here, she unleashes a new record, aptly titled “Dutty Mind,” reps hard for the Islands and details her plans to take the industry by storm.—Samantha Kennedy

VIBE: How did you become the First Lady of Block Entertainment?
Kris Kelli: I met Block through Twitter. It’s crazy cause social media makes the world so small. I really was just sitting there, sending out my music to a whole bunch of people. I had a new single out in Jamaica and I think it was his assistant that actually came across me and was like ‘I think Block would be interested in this person.’ I think it was about two weeks after she seen me on Twitter that Block started following me. I told him that I was moving to Atlanta in a month and he said, ‘That’s crazy cause you know I’m in Atlanta right?’ IWe’ve been working ever since

You also champion a ‘Warrior’ movement on Twitter and named your mix tape as such. What message are you trying to send?
The Warrior movement came out [from] just being a female in the music business. Being a woman in the music business, you gotta be a warrior and have the mindset of a warrior. It’s really a state of mind. It’s not going out there, being aggressive and fighting nobody, it means the opposite to me, where you use a kind of silent, inner strength that I think we need as women in the music business because it’s a male-dominated game.

What do you attribute your independence to?
I’m so used to it now because coming from Jamaica. I mean it was definitely challenging [being the only female on Block Entertainment] but at the same time, I had a good support system with my friends and my family who were there to make sure that I stayed grounded, motivated and focused. So, it’s really no different for me being relocated. Yes, it’s all men, but I’m such a force myself that it’s like I mean business. Everybody knows I mean business.

You’ve worked with a mix of who’s who? in the business including MIA, Gorilla Zoe and Young Scooter. What other collaborations can we expect?
One of the main reasons I came to Atlanta was to do a record with [songwriters] Rock City. I’ve done records with them, where they’re on the record like “A Million Rich” and “I Got Your Man.”

On my last EP I Am Kris Kelli, Ne-Yo actually wrote a record called “A Wonderful Woman”, which is like a soft slow ballad and kind of shows a different side to me that people probably aren’t used to hearing. There’s an upcoming writer that’s going to take the world by storm. His name is J Real and he’s going to be the next one to really blow. He has three tracks on the I Am Kris Kelli EP too.

Other than that, I would love to do a record with Rihanna. I think two Caribbean girls linking up together would be amazing. It would be my dream to do a record with Gwen Stefani because I look up to her so much. There’s also Damian Marley, who’s also from Jamaica, who I’d love to do a record with.

How important it is to you to embrace your roots and embrace where you’re from?
It’s very important to me. Jamaica is the third largest country in the Caribbean. It’s a small country, especially compared to the United States but it’s a force to be reckoned with. So many things have come from Jamaica, the culture is super rich and colorful. There’s so much depth to Jamaica and me being born and raised in Kingston, it’s just naturally in my blood to represent that and go hard. You know we have Usain Bolt, who is a top sprinter, Bob Marley, who came from Jamaica and invented Reggae music. I’m proud to be a Jamaican and I just feel like even if I do a record up here and no matter who I work with, I always naturally try to infuse that, my culture, in it. It’s very important for me and I wave the flag very, very high for my people.

Which artists have influenced your sound?
I grew up listening to a lot of old school stuff. My dad listened to Stylistics because he’s influenced by them. I listen to the Stylistics and Delfonics and I love Jazz. I love Nancy Wilson, Shirley Bassey and I grew up listening to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, so it’s kind of a unique blend of all these sounds together that influences me.

You have a very edgy style as well. How does your sense of self into your fashion sense?
Even if I wasn’t an artist, I would still probably rock the blue Mohawk or the green, or purple Mohawk, cause that’s just my personality. I don’t like being regular, predictable and safe, especially in the music business. These days, you gotta be extra edgy to stand out and I do that naturally. It’s not just about getting up and cutting off your hair and dying it blue, it’s just expressing your own self. My barber and I always collaborate to tell a story when he carves out things on my head. The last time I did it, he did a silhouette of a warrior Indian where he actually spat out fire and then on the other side of my head it turned into roses.

What are you most excited for to come in your career for 2014 and what do you think fans should be most excited for?
I’m working on the official release of the I Am Kris Kelli EP. I’m super excited about the release of a video that I just did with a fellow label mate, his name is 48 Slim, who’s an amazing rapper from Atlanta, and with Young Scooter on a video called “Hustla.” I’m also looking forward to just getting myself out there. I have teamed up with Ciroc a lot and I have my own drink called the Tingston. I’m working on putting together a “Ciroc On The Block” tour where we just go out and hit the streets hard, go to the clubs, mingle, meet people, take pictures, and get my drink and my music out there.

Last question: where did the nickname “Hurricane Kelli” come from?
{Laughs} That’s an inside joke. The people at Block ENT say I’m “Hurricane Kelli” because I came through and I shook the place up. They saw my uniqueness. I’m kind of crazy, kind of off the wall, so they call me “Hurricane Kelli.” I took the name and ran with it.

For more from Kris Kelli, check out her official site

Tags: Kris Kelli, pop