Kali Uchis operates like a one-woman chorus. She loves the immaculately plotted backing vocals that were popular in the '60s and '70s, and she reproduces them all by herself -- sometimes putting together a whole song in less than ten minutes. Tyler, The Creator, Kaytranada, and BADBADNOTGOOD all contribute production to Por Vida, but Uchis's voice defines the project. She plays with tone and technique, heaping layers of vocals into smooth, warm waves.
"Music nowadays is all about having no feelings and being too cool," the singer Kali Uchis tells Billboard. She's looking to change that with her latest project, Por Vida, due Wednesday, Feb. 4. In 9 songs, she cycles through soul, funk, and reggae, but that doesn't mean this is a gentle throwback project. Take "Ridin' Round," which tempers an innocent, child-like vocal with a no-nonsense approach: "baby understand, I don't need a man," sings Uchis. "F--- me over, I'll f--- you worse and take off to Japan."
Billboard caught up with Uchis to talk about her song-writing process, working with Tyler, the Creator and stalking the legendary bassist Bootsy Collins on Twitter.