Kalisway Is Moving to the Sound of Her Own Funk  [Q&A]

Toronto's latest musical prodigy Kalisway is spearheading the revival of funk, and she's doing it completely her way.

Mastering multiple lanes as an MC and producer, her debut album Hit 'Em With The Funk is groovy, psychedelic, and takes very minimal effort to enjoy. Directed by Mikayla Gamble, "Like That" is the project's first visual and a subtle nod to early 2000s stank, proving Kalisway is just as much of a visual artist as she is a musical one.

What makes Kalisway so infectious is her cool, calm, and collected confidence. She's not trying to convince us why she's the moment; her swag exudes from how comfortable she is grooving to her own tune. She's making music that she wants to hear and isn't wasting any time concerned about whether or not we like it, which is exactly why we do.

It's hard to believe that we're only just now being introduced to Kalisway, because of how familiar her music feels. Not because it's been done before, but because it pays homage to the music our soul knows, the music that embedded itself in the walls of our upbringing. Her sound is reminiscent of Erykah Badu, KIRBY, and even Pharrell, while remaining true to her own unique take on the timeworn genre. The beauty of this new era of funk is that its modernization doesn't dilute its roots.

A vibrancy that emerged from a city deemed melancholic, what a pleasure it is to witness an artist be self-liberated and just as in love with the art as they are with themselves. We had the honor of sitting down with Kalisway to talk about her journey, the flavor of her music, and her personal definition of funk.

Ones To Watch: I think what makes people resonate with your music as much as they do is that fact that one can tell you're having fun and actually enjoy the music you're making.

Kalisway: Yeah, one of the things I wanted to do once I started creating music was to always be true and authentic with my sound, and once I was able to achieve that, it made me feel happy every time I created something that I was able to just get out of my head. So, every time I create something, if I'm not jumping and dancing myself, I most likely won't put it out. I want everyone to feel that energy but I first want to feel it myself. Whenever I make my music I want to be in the right mindset, have the right vibe. I want to be as involved as possible, because the more that I'm involved in it, the more people can feel that I'm involved in it.

Oh, totally! Many probably don't even realize that you're playing a producer role as well. Walk me through how you put on those different hats when you're creating.

I don't think those hats ever separate! Ever since I've been creating music, I would always start by singing first and then the beat would come in my mind as I'm singing. I'm very blessed to have that gift, because whenever I'm making something, I can hear everything at once. That's special to me because a lot of times when I'm making music, it all comes from my vocals. I see what kind of colors that song feels like and then I'll put all the chords together, the little beats. I like when things flow, I don't like when things feel like we HAVE to make it this way.

Your music is definitely fluid. Can you describe your music in a flavor?

It's cool that you say flavor because a lot of my tracks taste like candy, a little buttermilk, a little cornbread. Whenever I'm making my music, sometimes my songs taste citrusy! Sweet or sour, spicy, I really do think that way with my music.

You're currently gaining momentum and gaining people's attention. What's been the most surreal moment of your career thus far?

I think it was me being on the billboard in my own city. For me that was like, "Okay! We're getting recognized!" When I came into this with my team, my goal wasn't to instantly get all these numbers. I knew it was going to take time and it's still taking time, but I'm so appreciative of seeing people notice what I'm able to do. I get questions all the time from people shocked that as a black female artist I'm making music entirely by myself. I'm writing, recording, and producing it by myself. I'm very proud, I'm very confident, and I hope that getting love from my city is just a staple of what's to come.

I think it's especially important that as a black female artist people are witnessing you in the fullness of yourself. Being that you're spearheading this new funk revival, who were some musical influences that inspire how you show up in this industry, and what does funk mean to you?

My dad always sold me g-funk, my mom was showing me Erykah Badu, and I would have Timbaland behind Aaliyah and Missy Elliot going in the back, so I always had blends of all different types of sounds that brought me to where I am today. I listened to Bootsy when I was younger, James Jameson just to listen to the way that bass was played. Nothing was really in sync or quantized to a perfect sound. It was off, it was funky, swingy, and that's what made me feel like, "Well damn, if Bootsy can play like that, not even on time but just feeling the energy, that's what I want to feel in my music, too." I took little parts from that, little parts from Pharrell, little parts from Erykah. I heard them and I wanted to make them my own, that's how I found my sound.  

For me, funk is soul, energy, happiness. When you hear it you think, "Oooh that's groovy, I wanna get up, rollerskate, move with it." That's what I want to make! When you press play, no matter if it's sexy or happy, I just want you to move. That's what funk is. Grooving, moving, having fun. Serenity.

And you're doing so beautifully. Lastly, who are your Ones To Watch?

Benita! Really good vocals, great at songwriting, that's someone for me that I can see building and I think she's going to do amazing.

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