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Artist Feature: keiyaA

Artist Feature: keiyaA - Carhartt WIP Malaysia




This month’s show features the New York-based producer, singer-songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist keiyaA. Born and raised on Chicago’s South Side, keiyaA grew up singing in the Chicago Children's Choir, before studying the alto saxophone. Today, she combines her jazz training with stirring vocals and neo-soul sensibilities to create richly textured, yet introspective music. Her sound touches r&b, hip hop, and jazz, while also venturing into IDM, ambient, and experimental realms. Similarly, while she cites KelelaFKA Twigs, and Partynextdoor as inspirations, their influence manifests in subtle ways.

keiyaA’s multifaceted approach is underpinned by her own talent. Her vocals have a unique cadence, while her poems, from which many of her lyrics are derived, are thoughtful, captivating. Elements of rap, soul and gospel intertwine within her music, which is earnest but never self-righteous, backed by minimal electronic rhythms and tripping hip hop loops.

In 2020, Keiyaa released her self-produced debut album Forever, Ya Girl. Since then, she has worked with artists such as British electronic producer Loraine James and South Carolina singer and producer Niecy Blues, while also remixing the work of London’s Afrobeat orchestra Kokoroko.

For this episode of Carhartt WIP Radio, keiyaA has created a mix that features unreleased tracks, remixes and collaborative works, creating a deep, spiritual flow of experimental grooves, bouncy bass lines, and fourth-world rhythms. As ever, we caught up with this month’s host to learn more about her musical upbringing, the collaborators who have helped shape her sound, and what the future holds.


Artist Feature: keiyaA - Carhartt WIP Malaysia


keiyaA, as a child you sang in a choir, and later learned to play the alto saxophone. But what led you to producing music?

keiyaA: I’m really grateful that all my childhood music experiences came from programming that was free and accessible to kids. I think I naturally have that drive coming from a family full of people who made themselves or had to overcome some kind of adversity just to get the minimum to survive. I started producing in college while I was in music school, playing sax and hanging around a lot of folks in the DIY scene in Chicago who weren’t in college and were making music and performing it on their own terms. Especially the rappers that were producing their own stuff and recording themselves on their laptops. It really inspired me seeing how much agency you could have over your own self-expression, and I figured I could take my music knowledge and try some computer shit, and not have to deal with the stress of my experiences in my school music environment.

Besides the saxophone, do you play any other instruments?

keiyaA: I play piano, a couple of other wind instruments (flute, clarinet), and I’m really excited to be learning guitar right now. It’s been a dream since I was a kid.

What inspires your lyrics?

keiyaA: They tend to come after the melody. I'll form these word-sounds as I’m singing melodies  – similar to improvising on alto – and eventually sit and try and form those sounds into words. Lately I’ve been taking poems I’ve written and trying to shape them to music, which is a nice challenge.

My main inspiration is honestly my thoughts and feelings. I do love poems and emcees, especially those that can tell stories in a way that feels conversational, but the language is a lot more playful and experiential than one would use in conversation. I try to not think about too much when I’m writing though.

Did you have any role models or inspirational benchmarks when you released your first EP Work in 2015?

keiyaA: Definitely. Kelela, FKA Twigs, Partynextdoor, and Muhsinah. All of them gave me different kinds of permissions and showed me what was possible – especially that you can be a woman and talk about experiences from vulnerable places and still have agency and pose questions. Or just be mad and not resolve it. I really loved PND’s sound and tried to emulate his vocal production especially.



Artist Feature: keiyaA - Carhartt WIP Malaysia


"My main inspiration is honestly my thoughts and feelings. I do love poems and emcees, especially those that can tell stories in a way that feels conversational."

You also self-produced your debut album Forever, Ya Girl. How important is total creative freedom for you?

keiyaA:  I’m super proud of making that and doing so really improved my relationship with my voice. Something big I learned when making FYG is how much freedom can come through collaboration. MIKE, for instance, was a big part of the creative process. He made the beat and helped me write “Keep it Real, he made the beat for FWU, and we made Recitifya and Negus Poem together. I was also super inspired by him, and we built a friendship that held a lot of space outside of just music, which I think helped me feel safer in trying things I never have before – especially with sampling and Ableton. And it pushed me to go harder with my pen for sure.

What are your main compositional- and production-challenges at the moment?

keiyaA: Mainly overthinking, and sometimes forgetting what it is that makes me curious about music. I also still judge my own thoughts often, which can hinder my process, but also, I believe strongly in editing, so I like to keep that part of me around. When I can remember or re-orient myself back to my center, most other challenges feel reddit-able.

I’m really getting into my sound design bag these days. I didn’t really think of mixing as an extension of creativity before until lately. It’s a bit of a learning curve for me but it’s exciting more than it’s challenging.

What future projects are you working on right now?

keiyaA: My new album, and a performance art piece called milk thot.

Your music has been described as a mix of Hip Hop, jazz, neo soul, and contemporary R&B. Are you cautious about being put into a box?

keiyaA: Right now, I don’t feel too boxed in. I’ve also gotten lots of “experimental, noise, ambient, IDM,” I welcome it all honestly. My music isn’t exactly any of these genres, but I’m inspired by all these genres, and I’m aware of the racialization of everything. There are so many parts of me, and I’m happy that many of them resonate at once.



You remixed a tune by Nubya Garcia. Is there more coming? What do you like about remixing?

keiyaA: It was so crazy to get asked to remix Nubya, because I’ve been a big fan for a long time. I love remixing because it uses parts of my brain I don’t always access when I’m writing and making my own music. It also makes me learn so much about other people’s music and creative process simply just listening to stems or reharmonizing vocals.

You are also featured on the latest Loraine James album Gentle Confrontation. How did this come about and are you interested in producing more electronic music?

keiyaA: Loraine is one of my favorite artists and people. We were mutual fans and jammed when I was last in London, and she eventually sent me the track and asked me to write to it. I had so much fun making it, it was such a challenge to find a pocket, which I loved, and I also appreciate that she was down for the auto-tune.

What is a contemporary artist you would like to collaborate with?

keiyaA: So many people! Off top I’d love to produce an album and write with Doechii, or produce a tape with Roc Marciano and he raps on it all.

What’s something you’ve learned through music that has helped you in life?

keiyaA: Life keeps going always. Whether things feel like they’re up, or down, you keep moving.

Who is your favorite person to follow on Instagram?

keiyaA: I hate instagram, but I’m on it often. Right now, I’m obsessed with people that make tiny realistic sculptures – especially of food – and sofubi toy makers
 they’re so cool.


Artist Feature: keiyaA - Carhartt WIP Malaysia


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