K. Michelle is a trailblazer in her own right.
Before Cardi B became the biggest name to come out of Love & Hip Hop, Michelle laid the groundwork becoming the first in the LHHH franchise to successfully use the show to revive her career.
Now that she’s reached album no. 4, the Memphis native is kicking off a self-proclaimed “new era” with, Kimberly: The People I Used to Know.
On Thursday (Nov. 30), Michelle invited a group of her “Rebels” to an intimate listening session at NeueHouse in Los Angeles, Calif. where she indulged in a track-by-track breakdown of the project which drops Friday (Dec. 8). The songstress also went on the record about the insecurities that drove her to change her body, and shared the frustrations of being a black woman in the entertainment industry.
Her upcoming album, The People I Used to Know, is a nicely packaged vocal journal of love, sex, relationship moods, and more. On “Kim K” — which is obviously named after the ubiquitous reality star but is far from a Kardashian diss record (despite the Blac Chyna shout out) — Michelle speaks on cultural appropriation, feeling unaccepted by other black women at times, and being overlooked in the realm of mainstream artists.
“Black girl who’s angry, media can’t stand me,” she sings on the track. “I may never get this Grammy, but I’mma feed my family.”
Like Kardashian, the 33-year-old singer knows a thing or two about flaunting her infamous curves, but her personal quest for a“perfect body” came with a hell of a price.
While other celebrities might not be as forthcoming about the dangers of plastic surgery, Michelle had no problem coming clean about her butt enhancements and the struggle of getting them removed.
“I wanted an a** larger than my personality, and it became heavy. Very heavy,” she told the audience in explaining how the illegal butt injections continue to cause her health problems. “People really don’t talk about it. Like today alone, I had to be at the orthopedic surgeon. I’ve just been having health issues, all because I wanted something that God did not give me.”
“I wanted what was in, I wanted the trend. I wanted a big a** and a little waist,” she confessed. “That’ll make every ni**a want you, but that won’t make them stay.”
And the process of removing the “foreign objects” from her body has been tedious. “I did this sh*t in a hotel room and now I’m at the doctor,” she recalled of a passing thought that inspired the “Kim K” track. “And so I said, ‘I wish I could be a Kardashian so I could be black.’ Because they get to be black, I can’t be black. I can’t wear braids in the workplace. When I wear cornrows, I’m ‘ghetto.’”
Moments of said frustrations are entwined throughout The People I Used to Know, an album where anyone can become her muse. “Make This Song Cry,” for example, is a not-so-gentle reminder to her current boyfriend that she dropped all of her “h*es” for, while “Brain On Love,” penned by Priscilla Renea, is a dreamy ballad that Michelle intends on playing at her wedding (which fans will “get to see,” she teased).
The project also includes guest appearances from Chris Brown on “Either Way,” and Jeremih who joins her on “Takes Two.” And with each cut from the album, Michelle further showcases her ability to step outside of the box of what is expected of, and accepted from, an artist confined to R&B. On “Alert,” the album’s lead track, Michelle raps for the entire record, takes aim at “mumble” rappers and boasts: “I am K. Dot, last name not Lamar.” She merges back into a traditional R&B lane on “Crazy,” transforms into a jazz vocalist for “[I Should] F*ck Your Man,” and gets coquettish on the sexually altruistic, “Birthday.”
But the star of the album is “God, Love, Sex & Drugs,” a song that Michelle described as being closest to her personality. The vocally robust track finds a safe space between the worlds of country and soul music, though it may be a little too unconventional for radio. When fans asked if she’d drop the track as a single, Michelle replied that the record would be too expensive and too risky to release, and better suited for an artist who has played by all of the “rules.”
Though it seems that Michelle feels like an outsider in an industry that she has worked hard to be accepted by, The People I Used to Know, adds another argument to why she deserves a seat at the table of mainstream artists.