Kehlani Parrish’s rise to fame in the R&B genre has been a vicious journey and deserves a round of applause. The Oakland, California, native comes from humble roots, born to a drug-addicted household and raised by her aunt after her mother was imprisoned. Her initial aspirations were to become a professional dancer, but soon, those ambitions turned into a music career after a serious knee injury.
Kehlani’s first public debut stretches back to 2011 when she appeared on season six of America’s Got Talent with her former band, Poplyfe. Since then, Kehlani has established her name by releasing a series of mixtapes, signing with Atlantic Records in 2015, receiving a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Album in 2016 and delivering her groundbreaking debut album, SexySavageSweet.
The R&B princess is raising the bar even higher with the recent release of her sophomore album, It Was Good Until It Wasn’t. The 15-track album is lifted up with a variety of credible features, such as Megan Thee Stallion, Jhené Aiko, Tory Lanez, Masego, Lucky Daye and James Blake. Throughout the album, a story is told as Kehlani reflects on the toxic relationships of her past, the blind eye she turned when caught within them and the sabotaging behaviors that occurred thereafter. Here are the top five tracks from Kehlani’s It Was Good Until It Wasn’t:
Within her time in the spotlight, Kehlani has publicly dated Jahron Anthony Brathwaite (PARTYNEXTDOOR), NBA player Kyrie Irving and co-parents her daughter with former boyfriend Javaughn Young-White. However, the inspiration of the first track has been speculated to be aimed at her most recent breakup with rapper Keenon Daequan Ray Jackson (YG).
The album opener, "Toxic," details the fraughts of relationships and the toxic cycles that accentuate the pain. After a cheating scandal in 2019, Kehlani explains through lyrics the problems that come along soon after. She describes their relationship as an addictive drug — wanting to repair a love that can no longer be saved and is tainted with damage and toxicity.
The songwriter reflects on the burning embers of her past relationships as she sings: “All this love is toxic / And all this love is toxic / All these kisses and hugs is knock sh**/ You a damn a drug, you’re toxic.”
Kehlani has abandoned her previous sugar-coated choruses and beats to delve into deeper lyrics while taking her vocals to uncharted waters. The singer channels her sensual side on "Water," which flows with sex appeal and confidence. The fifth track taps into astrology within the first verse: “Swimming with a Pisces every night / Head like a Scorpio / Shy like a Cancer.” The song not only contains the sexual reference of water, but also has a dual meaning by describing the water signs of the zodiac: Pisces, Cancer and Scorpio.
Kehlani is a Taurus herself but systematically chooses to sing about the water signs who have a special sensitivity in relationships that blow hot and cold behaviors. She utilizes the signs to channel her emotive side on the album while also exposing her flakey tendencies. The two meanings meet in between to become a deep, soulful astrological seduction track.
“Hate The Club” (feat. Masego)
The ninth track, "Hate The Club," is the centerpiece of the star-studded album. The song is destined to be a bar-favorite, as it glistens with a jazzy vibe and slow saxophone improvisation by Masego. Her angelic vocals shine through as she describes hating the club atmosphere, forcing herself to go, in hopes of seeing a particular person, but always being too nervous to approach them.
Kehlani displays her high strung, anti-social feelings as she sings, “Tired of going out, scared I’ll run into you / Damn, you know I hate the club / But I came 'cause I knew you’d show up / Maybe if I drink enough / I’ll make my way over to ya.”
“‘Change Your Life” (feat. Jhené Aiko)
The album’s tone changes from reflection on regret to hope on the future with "Change Your Life." Jhené Aiko and Kehlani collaborate in a convincing ode to a love interest into being a part of their life. Similarly to Kehlani, Aiko has also been open with her past toxic relationship with rapper Big Sean and channels the pain into her own songs, such as "None of Your Concern" and "Triggered."
"Change Your Life" shows the growth both West Coast artists have experienced since, as they sing toward healthier situations with new people: “I’m not sayin’ that you incomplete / Just imagine what we’d be if we became one / Just open your heart / I’m tryna get you right, take you to the other side / Baby, let me change your life.”
As one of the final songs of the album, "Open" displays one of the repercussions of a previous toxic relationship: unable to be open in the future. The track explains the insecurities of becoming emotionally naked when someone new comes along: “And what if I slip up? / What if tequila grabs my neck and say, “Don’t b**** up”? / What if I wanna shoot my shot and load the clip up? / And if I do the same, will you play the victim? / Do you got me too open to be open?”
It’s clear that the songwriter is in the midst of starting a new chapter in life — leaving gaslighting, manipulation and toxic antics behind and working toward becoming open to a new beginning.
The entire album feels like a cleansing that chronicles the stages of healing. In the end, Kehlani is open to the truth: It was good until it wasn’t.