We ride or dies have been waiting for Kelela for some time now. It’s been hard to forget about her the past few years. Her name has popped up on many lists, and she’s graced the covers of multiple magazines. And, of course, there’s her consistent, festive presence on Solange’s Instagram Stories. However, save a few features (including an especially arresting performance on Knowles’s A Seat at the Table), the sonically intrepid R&B singer hasn’t given us much in the way of new music. This is nothing unfamiliar, of course. Kelela’s last offering, 2015’s Hallucinogen EP, demanded a fair bit of patience from fans as well. The Maryland native has never been one to oversaturate.
Still, Kelela is undoubtedly a busy woman. Between releasing an acclaimed mixtape and an EP within a two-year span, touring, maintaining a troupe of famous, art-making friends, and serving “Has anyone seen my asthma pump?”–level looks on her own Instagram, she’s got a lot on her plate. You can understand, then, why she wouldn’t be one for wasting precious time with timid admirers. This much is clear on “LMK,” the lead single from her forthcoming debut album, Take Me Apart.
The Jam City–produced track, which premiered Tuesday on Zane Lowe’s Beats 1 show, highlights the reclusive singer’s impatience with a potential lover: “I ain’t gonna wait if you hesitate, so let me know,” she croons lithely. Her invitation may be earnest, but it’s also conditional. It’s late. I’ve got a full day tomorrow. Are we doing this or what? Still, she is both coy and direct: “It ain’t that deep by the way / No one’s trying to settle down / All you gotta do is let me know.” These are the intonations of someone who has the music world’s attention, a new album on the way, and no time to play games.
Kelela’s aesthetics have always been ethereal, but Take Me Apart seems to project a more terrestrial, sensual version of the singer. The album cover, which she shared ahead of the single’s release, features her seated on a pedestal, her skin bare, locs spilling out of the frame. In the corner of the image, Kelela’s name appears in Ge’ez letters, the script used to write Amharic, the official language of her parents’ native Ethiopia. It’s an homage to her roots and a signal that she’s as ready as ever to give us a genuine version of herself. Take Me Apart, which is out October 6 on Warp Records, already seems like it will be worth the wait.
An earlier version of this piece misstated the producer for “LMK”; it is Jam City, not Arca.