Wherever there’s love, there’s a chance you’ll find Kelow LaTesha. The PG County riser has always loved music, trying her hand at rap for individual expression and catharsis. Having lived in the DMV area, Kelow wasn’t just influenced by Go-go – which is considered the heartbeat of D.C. Rather, she took to a patterned form of lyricism that became her outlet: a safe space to let go and hold nothing back.
Before Kelow’s badass, ‘do as I will’ energy became part of her identity, she embraced the noise that has become part of her story. If it wasn’t for her “bottom bitch” named Stacy, rebellious spirit, and prayer, who’s to say that she’d be the same. Kelow’s ability to catch the space between indifference and tolerance has proven to be a hard-fought journey, but the mindset she developed over the years was well worth the wait.
“As a youngin being a tomboy, you hear people say different shit,” Kelow tells Dirty Glove Bastard. “I just been tryna become stronger in myself to where hearing certain shit don’t fuck wit me.” She’s a work in progress – just like the rest of us, making it a point to ignore the hate as much as she can. Still, at the end of the day, Kelow is human, too.
Composed of songs that feel like self-affirming mantras mixed with braggadocious rap, Kelow’s sophomore EP, Turbo, showcases the evolution of her artistry. This project marks a new chapter for her sound, underscored by seven tracks that reveal she isn’t afraid to let her well-placed confidence show. No matter the subject.
What made you feel like hip-hop was your calling?
I just really like that when you listen to music, at the end of the day, you can express and be yourself completely. You don’t have to hold back nothing: you can just let go. [Music] just became an outlet for me. I’ve always loved music – it’s just another way for me to be me.
Talk to me about growing up in PG County, Maryland.
PG County is different from anywhere else in the world – it’s surrounded by a lot of people doing different things from different walks of life. Growing up, Go-go was really the big thing, as opposed to now there’s different types of artists and musicians coming out of this area. You had your niche groups of people who were tryna rap and those selective crowds, groups where people performed at. It was a different style of rap back then – real live lyricists, over critical thinking with their bars; it wasn’t too many [people] that were charismatic and fun wit it.
Did you receive any backlash for your style of rap since it wasn’t on brand with that region’s sound?
I don’t know, I don’t pay attention to people that have a problem with me. I pay attention to people who love me. Fresh outta high school, I toured in London and Sweden, so it was like if my crowd ain’t here, my crowd elsewhere. Whoever appreciates me and listens to me, that’s where I’m going. I try to move like that in life: I don’t go where people say bad things about me. I see it but I can’t give no energy to it.
Is that a mindset that you developed overtime?
I can’t hold you, as a youngin being a tomboy, you hear people say different shit. Me looking the way I look, I hear people saying different shit all the time so it’s like I kind of developed that [mindset] early, but I remember once upon a time – I rapped about ‘em before: “My bottom bitch hold me down, named Stacy,” he used to control my Twitter (and he still do sometimes when I’m not on there). I used to respond to people that had negative shit to say but [Stacy] made me realize there’s other people that had great shit to say. At the same time, I’m human. As I got older, I think I became more critical of myself. And then, if someone say something slightly close to what you may think about yourself in a negative way, it may fuck wit you. I just been tryna become stronger in myself to where hearing certain shit don’t fuck wit me. I feel like I’m my worst critic [laughs].
Sometimes it’s hard to look in the mirror. Have you always been comfortable in your own skin?
Um, no. At the end of the day, I can’t say that I have but I’m the one who gave me the strength – and of course prayer. I didn’t have a big cheerleader in my ear, someone always encouraging me growing up. When I meet people with big personalities who are confident, they always tell me that they had to be there for themselves. I’ve been rebellious in that sense – to do what I wanna do and believe that I’m doing the right thing.
Has your rebellious spirit done more harm than good?
Only when I ain’t being real with myself. Sometimes you go against the grain to do something but you know deep down in your heart it’s not something you should be doing. When I say the term “rebellious” that’s not in the sense of doing something wrong – I can be doing a lot of shit that’s right to me but everybody else doing the wrong shit [laughs]. But I’m doing what seems right to me ’cause that’s true to my story, versus just doing what everyone else wants me to do.
Why is now the right time for Turbo?
‘Cause I feel like I’m giving my all before I go, and I don’t know when that’s gonna come but it feels like it could be any moment. I hit moments where it felt like the bottom and I just feel like there’s no other way to go but up. I might as well be the best me I can be and just give my all. Turbo is the beginning of that because there’s so much more to come. For a long time I been holding back; I been in my head; I been overthinking; I been really extra critical. There’s nobody in your way but yourself and I feel like I’m at this point where I’m tryna do better, just appreciating shit for what it is.
Would you consider this project a symbol of your evolution as an artist?
Definitely. [Turbo] is a breakthrough to a deeper side of me. This is high-energy, to the max Kelow. What you done seen before to what you’ll see coming next is an upgraded version [of Kelow] ‘cause Turbo really broke the door down.
What was it like partnering with SoundCloud to release your sophomore EP?
As an independent [artist] I really do appreciate SoundCloud. I come from doing a lot on my own – taking four hour drives to New York and driving right back; then drive to Atlanta for 12 hours; then catching a flight and staying up all night in the studio; going to your job, answering emails – and you still have to do that, but now you got a team to depend on. You got people to root for you and [SoundCloud] understands the art of being independent. It comes to the root of them, when you think about the company and all the different artists that came from it. From uploading music from your home to where you at now. It’s full circle.
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