April 3rd marked two years since R&B singer-songwriter Kiana Lede released her critically-acclaimed debut album KIKI. Despite dropping an album at the height of COVID-19, KIKI debuted at #30 on the Billboard 200 and #7 on the top R&B Album charts.
Releasing a major body of work during a fairly new global pandemic could be looked at by some as a risky move, but Kiana is fearless. Not only in her songs, but in the way she carries herself and how she speaks as well. She speaks in a way that is honest and transparent. She’s funny, quirky, a little awkward (but who isn’t?) and her confidence follows her in to every room, towering over her 5’2” frame.
Today, Kiana is still riding on the high of her first album, dropping new songs here and there and performing at festivals. Her most recent stop was in Atlanta, where we caught up with her before her performance at The Tabernacle during the Strength of a Woman Festival and Summit. Organized by R&B legend Mary J. Blige, Live Nation Urban and Pepsi, the 3-day weekend included a Friday night concert with an all women lineup.
Before she shared the stage with Rubi Rose and Omerettá the Great, singer Inayah, pop duo Emotional Oranges and MK XYZ, we caught up with Kiana to talk about her love for Atlanta, the importance of therapy and where she finds her strength from.
The Knockturnal: How’ve you been? How are you enjoying Atlanta?
Kiana: I’ve been great, thanks for asking! I love it here. I always love it here. I can’t wait to see some titties.
The Knockturnal: Is that like, a normal thing when you come here?
Kiana: Yeah, what?!
The Knockturnal: At your shows?!
Kiana: Strip clubs. I hope [that happens] at my shows!
The Knockturnal: I haven’t seen you live yet but do your shows get crazy?
Kiana: I mean, I might have to tell [my fans] to show me their titties now.
The Knockturnal: I know you’re from Arizona, does the heat in Atlanta compare to back home?
Kiana: I love the heat here cause it’s humid and I love humid! It’s good for your skin. Dry is just… ugh! It’s like your face is cracking. I love when my hair is curly from the humidity, I just like when my hair is crazy.
The Knockturnal: You recently dropped a single titled “Unpredictable” with Destin Conrad, how did you guys link up?
Kiana: I’ve known him for a really long time, since I was 16. We’ve always kept in contact and he’s a really sweet dude. I saw he was taking music seriously and how incredible he is. He’s an incredible writer and an incredible singer. I think he’s, like a really rare singer that we have right now and people are just finding out. I just wanted to support him! He sent me the song, I loved it and we just went from there.
The Knockturnal: It’s been about 2 years since your debut album KIKI dropped. Are we getting new music soon?
Kiana: You… are getting new music before the end of the year.
The Knockturnal: Is there anything else you can tell us about it? We’re in Atlanta, there’s a lot of producers here. Have you been working with anyone we may know?
Kiana: I have…
The Knockturnal: Can we get a hint?
Kiana: (Shakes head) Mm-mm. The hint is that they’re from Atlanta. You can guess but I’m not gonna tell you, though!
The Knockturnal: Switching gears to a more serious topic, you made a post on Instagram back in December about people calling you underrated and how, in spite of where people may think you should be career wise, where you are right now as an artist and a person is enough and you’ll only get better. I think that’s something a lot of people can relate to so what do you have to say to those who may feel like their progress just isn’t enough?
Kiana: It’s hard because I’m still figuring it out every single day. One of the things that makes me feel good is what my therapist told me, “you are exactly where you need to be at the time you need to be there.” Something she told me recently was, “today, you are the person that you needed when you were younger.” So you’re always growing. No matter what it is, we are always growing and getting somewhere. We may not know where that somewhere is cause we don’t know where we go after this but it never ends. We just have to enjoy every single second and realize, wherever we are, we need to be grateful.
The Knockturnal: I think that’s very interesting because I’ll always see people on social media say “my therapist said…” and I wonder do I need a new therapist? Because mine just stares at me like I’m crazy for an hour.
Kiana: They’re important, therapists are really important. I ran away from different therapists that I was talking to. I got diagnosed with Bipolar [Disorder] during COVID, almost 2 years ago. I had that diagnosis before by a couple of people and I ran away from it because I didn’t trust it. I didn’t feel safe. But, I found a black female therapist and that is where I felt the most protected and safe. I felt like she would understand some of the cultural things I’ve been talking about, you know? When it came to family and just culture in general, and my experiences as a black and mixed woman. So, I didn’t have to explain shit, she just got it and that’s what made me feel safe enough to accept the diagnosis and move forward from there.
The Knockturnal: This is the Strength of a Woman Fest so I have to ask, where do you find your strength from and what is your greatest strength?
Kiana: There are so many things I work on feeling strong in. Even my work, even writing songs. That’s where I should feel the most strong and I almost have to convince myself to feel strong in those areas. But, I think where I feel the most strong is in conversations like this. Being open enough and opening up other people that probably wouldn’t be able to talk about these topics, by opening up myself. I think that’s something really beautiful. That’s actually a strength that I have and when I feel the strongest.