they seem cool

The R&B Singer Who Makes Her Own Beats

Meet KeiyaA.

Oscar De La Renta dress. Fernando Jorge ring. Cathy Waterman ring. Beads Byaree bracelet and shoes. Photo: Lia Clay Miller
Oscar De La Renta dress. Fernando Jorge ring. Cathy Waterman ring. Beads Byaree bracelet and shoes. Photo: Lia Clay Miller

Earlier this year, R&B singer and producer KeiyaA released her first album, Forever, Ya Girl. Filled with soulful vocals and beats she makes on her own, it’s the kind of album that sends healing vibrations through your whole body. Her songs deal with topics of vulnerability, love, and freedom, challenging the listener both sonically and emotionally.

KeiyaA says her work is fueled by her lived experience as a Black woman, as well as the work and lives of other Black people. “I’ve been in a deeply introspective research period these past few months, and I recently watched a documentary about Detroit techno and the Black innovators of electronic music on YouTube that flipped my world.” The Cut spoke with her about Maya Angelou, spirituality, and how a mortar and pestle changed her life.

What does “cool” mean to you? 
I think we often use “cool” as an adjective to describe things or people that we admire or that tie in to certain trends. But beneath the surface, it highlights those that are true to themselves in a way that defies norms or sets new standards.

What creative people have had the most impact on you and why?
Maya Angelou and Ntozake Shange, especially their poems. In retrospect, I’ve realized that their writings have covered me and found me in almost every stage of my life, starting from when I was a small child.

What are the last three songs you listened to?
“Reverse Running” by Atoms for Peace, “Try Me Again” by Kim Burrell, and “Your Only Friend” by Phuture.

What kind of animal would you be and why?
Probably a sea animal, because that’s a whole universe that I find to be beautifully complex and fascinating. I love that dolphins are incredibly emotionally intelligent — some suspect at a high enough degree that they do divination.

What superpower would you have and why?
I’d only want to enhance gifts that humans already possess. Like the power to make the imagined real. Telekinesis would be incredible, but you can learn how to do that.

If you could master any skill (that isn’t related to your current job), what would it be and why?
I love to make things with my hands — like cooking, plaiting hair, sculpting, drawing. It’d be incredible to master any of those arts.

What are you doing for fun right now?
All of the above!

Are there any causes or organizations you are supporting?
I deeply appreciate For the Gworls, a Black-led organization that raises money for Black trans people’s rent and medical expenses. I also deeply appreciate the Free Black Women’s Library, led by Olaronke Akinmowo, who is such a special person! It’s a pop-up library featuring exclusively Black women’s writings, where they allow you to take a book in exchange for donating a book. It’s also a social art project of sorts that conducts workshops, film screenings, performances, book discussions, literary games, and radical conversations.

What are your favorite local businesses to support? 
Sol Sips in Bushwick is one of my favorite places to grab a quick bite. They have amazing plant-based foods and do some awesome sliding-scale brunches with local Black and queer DJs performing. I also love Cafe Con Libros, though I haven’t gotten a chance to swing by since they’ve reopened. It’s a coffee shop and bookstore, but they also have readings and discussions and other cool events there sometimes.

What goals are you working towards at the moment?
I’m always working toward developing my spirituality. Aside from music projects I’m working on, I’m always just working on how to be my truest and best self.

What are you excited about right now? 
The future of art, and seeing folks from every walks of life get radicalized.

Do you have a self-care routine? If so, what does that look like? 
Rituals are super important. I must create something daily, express gratitude daily, stay hydrated, keep up with my skin-care routine, and prioritize being able to communicate and open with my peoples.

What piece of advice has had the biggest impact on you and why?   
“If she could feel deeply, she could be free.” It’s from Saidiya Hartman from Wayward Lives, Beautiful Experiments: Intimate Histories of Social Upheaval. This isn’t necessarily a piece of advice, but take it as so, because it has impacted me deeply.

What is one item that has made your life better?
A mortar and pestle. It’s so simple, but grinding fresh spices for meals has made such an impact on my quality of life during such chaos.

Photo: Lia Clay Miller
The R&B Singer Who Makes Her Own Beats