Multi-faceted and divinely innovative are just a few of the many ways to describe Kali Uchis, the woman paving the way towards modern American consumption of Latin music. With two studio albums and two EPs, Uchis has proven just how capable she is of redefining what it means to be an intersectional artist. The duality within her is hard to ignore; as a Colombian-American woman, she transcends major trends from both regions. This creates an intriguing edge to her music that listeners cannot get enough of. Her song “Telepatia’’ was on Billboard’s Global Top 200 chart for twenty-six weeks. This hit was what brought her to the mainstream culture; however, her musical prowess can be traced much further back in her career.
Her discography ranges from acapella to full orchestral soundtracks, and her first widely released project, an EP titled “Por Vida,” is a beautiful introduction to her work. Full of flowing lyrical narratives and soft beats, it’s an introspective glance into what womanhood is to Uchis. The second album, called Isolation, is a clear example of the development of her voice as a musician; she had an incredibly polished sound and the project as a whole was more cohesive than seen previously. Featuring acclaimed artists such as Tyler the Creator and Steve Lacy, this album was appreciated in the same spaces as other 2018-era indie music. Her latest album, Sin Miedo (del Amor y Otros Demonios), is what launched Uchis’ spiraling success in connecting American listeners to Latin music.
Uchis’ Colombian heritage is a huge part of who she is: she even sports a tattoo of her father’s passport signature, forever reminding her of where she came from. She grew up in Virginia, but during her high school years, her father went back to Colombia and she began living two lives: one during summers with her dad in South America, and the other here in the US. She speaks of Colombia as a community like no other. This ambivalence she has towards the US comes through in her music; this country is her homeland, yet it’s missing something close to her heart. In the beginning of Isolation, on a track called “Body Language (Intro),” the lyrics, “There’s no me for them to find,” show her conflicted feelings. Her lack of connection to where she grew up divides her identity. This message is a hard one to convey, yet Uchis is punctual in her deliverance.
Uchis cares about staying true to herself whilst exploring who she is as an artist. In an interview, she said, “I was raised to believe that taking care of people and taking care of yourself and your soul was a lot more important than fame and money.”