Kali Uchis’ long-awaited debut album Isolation shows that the Colombian-American singer-songwriter is in a world all her own.
“Why would I be Kim, I could be Kanye / In the land of opportunities and palm trees,” exclaims Kali Uchis on the slow-mo track “Miami.” “The lyric is mostly a little dash at his ego,” Uchis told Pitchfork, referring to her ex-boyfriend. “Just like, “I’m not the Kim on your motorcycle, bitch.” I’m the one riding the shit.”
While the cinematic storytelling ability regarding the immigrant hustle she’s faced growing up sets the tone of her debut album Isolation early on, the bold exclamation equally sums up her no-bullshit attitude and confidence to put herself out there. Though the 24-year-old is just getting acclimated to the spotlight, Kali Uchis is someone who knows what she wants out of life and Isolation vividly paints the winding journey it took to reach this point in her life, which she achieves through Kanye-like precision and perfection.
Kali Uchis, real name Karly-Marina Loaiza, split her childhood back and forth between her birthplace Colombia and the US. She grew up playing the piano and the saxophone, but it wasn’t until she was introduced to musical production and video editing in high school that she began to take her music seriously.
At 18, she went on to release her first mixtape Drunken Babble from her bedroom as an outlet for her angst, with her genre-defying style and raw talent generating a large enough buzz to catch the attention of future collaborators such as Snoop Dogg and Tyler, the Creator. Kali went on to appear on a couple of tracks off of Tyler’s Cherry Bomb in 2015, while he lent his hand as a producer on her 2015 EP, Por Vida. Fast forward a few years and Kali has worked with numerous high-profile artists, including Diplo, GoldLink, Kaytranada, Gorillaz and Daniel Caesar.
The roster of musical talent assembled on Isolation continues for the young singer-songwriter. Steve Lacy’s smooth hook on “Just a Stranger” is a more than welcome feature, while Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker is behind the production of “Tomorrow.” High-profile features such as Tyler, the Creator and Bootsy Collins on “After the Storm” and the in-demand Jorja Smith on “Tyrant” round out to combine all the best sounds that make Kali tick musically.
At its core, Isolation is a shining example of self-reflection, introspection and personal growth. Her lyrics often look back at some of the toughest events, loneliest moments and vulnerable emotions she’s endured thus far in her 24 years. Whether it’s dealing with the culture shock of coming to America, her ongoing family struggles, or emotionally manipulative exes, each time, Kali comes out shining, with much of the lyricism showing what it took for a vulnerable soul to build up her supreme confidence over time.
“Miami” transports you to the streets of the magic city with the feeling like you are cruising through the city late at night as Kali and Puerto Rican rapper Bia narrate an arriving immigrant’s perspective, whereas the bouncy “Dead to Me” shows that she’s able to turn her supposed weaknesses into strengths. Perhaps no song show off her unique sound as “Flight 22,” bringing an old-school soulful vibe, further fuelling the Amy Winehouse and Lana Del Rey comparisons.
The 15-track Isolation is exactly what an album should be. Each anthem seems to take on a life of its own with emotional depth, emotionally-charged tracks that spare no wasted time with filler tracks. While piecing together musical influences together from a variety of different sources, including R&B, reggaeton and funk, the project maintains an authentic sense of cohesiveness throughout.
Her path to stardom has been anything but conventional, yet here she is. From the opening track, it’s clear Kali has her sights fixated on bigger things and her debut album is just her introduction to the world. Kali Uchis is comfortable with her roots and who she is, and unconcerned with any standards of what it is she should be. She’s a dreamer and femme fatale who has no time for anyone but herself, and Isolation is her glide to paradise.
Words by Braeden Alexander – Stream Isolation on Spotify now.