The Break Presents: Kali

The road to success requires perseverance. Georgia-bred rapper Kali earned her first viral hit “Do A Bitch” this year, which has over 12 million Spotify streams between its original version, remix with Rico Nasty and club mix, and 3 million YouTube views, but it took time to make it there. Roughly a decade ago, she was a fifth grader, writing her feelings in a journal as she went through the emotions of growing up. Her stepfather had a room in the house where he made beats, but Kali wanted her own bedroom, where she would no longer have to share with her brother. Her dad struck a deal with her: write 13 songs and you can have the room. A month later, she finished, then recorded the songs with his help. She was officially a 12-year-old rapper. Now 20 years old, Kali has fashioned herself into a young rhymer to keep an eye on, and released her first project, This Why They Mad Now, back in January.

After completing those 13 songs early on, Kali made a mixtape by putting six of the songs on CDs, then distributing them at barbershops near her hometown of Roswell, Ga. and to her soccer team. She also made music videos for the tracks, showing how committed she was to pushing her music at such a young age. However, as a teen, she put music on the back burner, and began putting more energy into soccer. Kali also started working at a senior living center, and was still writing rhymes, sharing them with her mother regularly.

Thanks to Kali’s mom, she found the auditions for the Netflix rap competition show Rhythm + Flow, and sent her off. The aspiring rapper made it to the second round, only for her chance to audition to be cut short because the judges were allegedly tired; Kali was supposed to be sent to another city, but was never called back. A fellow contestant, Houston rapper KenTheMan, motivated Kali not to give up on music and to keep pushing, which encouraged Kali to make songs like “Mami,” the first effort she recorded and released two years ago, which subsequently went viral.

After she had to deal with beat clearance issues following the release of her first mixtape, Kali became frustrated. Her manager urged her to continue on, and that she’d make sure her music wouldn’t have to keep being taken down. That same day, Kali made “Do A Bitch,” and the rest is history. She held the song for seven months, and ended up posting a snippet on TikTok in November of 2020. Now, there are nearly 370,000 videos on the platform with her music soundtracking everything from cooking videos to GRWM clips.

“He wanna pop out (Yeah)/I wanna rock out, call when I’m in town (Ooh)/Fuck do you mean?
I don’t want that nigga, my IG just stay on his screen (Yeah),” she raps on the ominous, piano-driven beat. “Yeah, he have it for real but won’t give it up (Give it up)/Put this cake in his face just to shut him up (Shh)/Got him telling his friends that he was my mans/Now I’m calling my mans just to stick him up (What the fuck?)/Finna do him up.”

@kaliyaashleyturn me up y’all ##fyp ##foryoupage ##femaleartist♬ Kali Do a Bitch – Kali

“Do A Bitch,” plus the other songs she made in that timeframe, became her debut tape, This Why They Mad Now, which dropped at the top of the year. The Atlantic Records artist’s winding road to hip-hop since garnering attention for the song makes her a perfect fit for this week’s The Break.

Age: 20

Hometown: Roswell, Ga.

I grew up listening to:Nicki Minaj, Missy Elliott, a lot of Aaliyah.”

My style’s been compared to: “The easier one to answer is who do they not compare me to. Coming out, as a female artist now, people always compare the next female artist to the next one. I get that I sound like Flo Milli a little bit or I’m giving Cardi [B] vibes or Nicki [Minaj] vibes. But I do get sometimes [that] I have my own sound. Sometimes I hear Enchanting, like me and her sound like we have the same vibes.”

I’m going to blow up because: “I’m just staying true to myself and I’m seeing that it’s working. I just have faith in myself if I’m gonna keep doing what I’m doing and being me. It’s working. Everything should work out the way I want it to.”

What’s your most slept-on song, and why?: “My favorite song off my tape is ‘Big Body,’ and I went in there and I really freestyled that. I did not think, it didn’t take me no time to do that song and it’s my fave. People listen to it, but it’s not the fave, but it’s mine. I don’t know why it’s slept-on. I was runnin’ that hoe! I was just like, I need to make something where I was talking my shit. I just needed to say how I feel right now.”

My standout records to date have been: “My song that’s doing great right now is ‘Do A Bitch,’ and I just feel like the song is relatable with the lyrics. It’s just super relatable to females and even males, and catchy and people also like my voice on the song. I have so many ‘Do A Bitch’ remixes now. Those are also going up. The ones with Rico Nasty and Santana and Enchanting.”

My standout moments to date have been: “Just seeing the numbers with my tape, super fast. The first day, like for an independent artist, the first 16 minutes it was like 40,000 streams of ‘Do A Bitch’ and This Is Why They Mad. I was like, Whoa! That was huge. I was just laying in my bed like, Let me see if people are listening. It was like 800 people listening at one time. The feedback was just amazing. That was great. Me dropping my tape, I did the business right. It’s gon’ stay up. I did everything correct.”

Most people don’t know: “I’m Panamanian. My mom’s side.”

I’m going to be the next: “Biggest artist of all time.”

Follow Kali on SoundCloud and Instagram.

Standouts:

“Do A Bitch”

“Do A Bitch (Remix)” featuring Rico Nasty

“Big Body”

This Why They Mad Now

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