By: Herbert Duran
Kali Uchis paints herself a little bit like Barbie's estranged cousin. With long platinum blond hair, porcelain skin, lip liner and big curled eyelashes, she's almost a dead ringer for the Colombian version of the Mattel princess. Like Barbie, Uchis holds many titles: singer, songwriter, visionary director, and designer. But even with her career split into so many different directions, when she says she knows what she wants, you can't do anything but believe her.
Uchis' image is due to a blending of Colombian mysticism and East LA Sad Girl, with a sprinkle of LA Billboard queen, Angelyne. Her careful curation of imagery bleeds through her music as well. Her voice is subtle, mellow like Sade or Astrid Gilberto but she can interchangeably spit out a verse with confidence. When she sings, there is a glaze of gloom that coats her voice, capturing the soulful sound of Motown inspired singer, the late Amy Winehouse. Uchis also purrs in Spanish, adding to her already image-heavy nod to late Tejano singer Selena. The amalgamation of these nostalgic visuals and sounds, allows for her to easily translate onto image-obsessed mediums such as Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest.
Uchis is the perfect example using these platforms to elevate her career, constantly producing new material and updating her fans. In 2012, Uchis garnered attention with the hip-hop, R&B mixtape Drunken Babble, only to release a more soulfully refined, studio-recorded EP Por Vida, in the first quarter of 2015.
Uchis touts herself as a visionary director, self-producing a lot of her videos. Her best being her Tarantino-inspired "I Know What I Want" video, complete with an 'inside the car trunk' shot. Uchis oozes girl power by kidnapping her man, tying him up and putting him in the trunk of her convertible only to leave him stranded in the desert, but not before she grinds alone, amidst pink smoke, almost like some sort of 'bruja' ritual.
She played five shows at this year's SXSW festival and sung a cover of Selena's "Si Una Vez". She recently revealed tour dates, extending her reach to the east coast and eventually London. The self-made star has had studio time with Snoop Dogg on the funky "On Edge" and with Tyler the Creator, who produced two songs off Por Vida, "Call Me" and "Speed." Uchis has even been given a thumbs up from Rick Rubin.
What makes Uchis all the more authentic and honest is her social media presence; there is no doubt that she's still behind all her network accounts. After Iggy Azalea quit social media and allowed her management team to fully take the wheel, it's refreshing to see an artist be so transparent and accessible to her fans. She constantly writes open letters and thank you notes to her fans. This is what she wrote on Facebook, a couple weeks before the release of Por Vida:
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I want to thank all of you for you're support on this journey. coz of you, i don't have to be a hippie living in a barn, selling art on the highway. i will keep putting all my blood & guts into this & build a higher platform for myself so that i can use it to raise awareness of a higher level of consciousness, devote myself to charity, education, & bring up people.
Kali Uchis has steadily proven herself to be more than a Colombian Barbie doll. She's got all the complexity of a Quentin Tarantino character come to life. It has been wonderful watching her rise above the Internet's vast ocean of fakes and wannabes.