At just 22 years old, Kiana Ledé has landed starring roles in TV shows like Scream and All About the Washingtons, opened for artists like Jessie J, and is now making waves as an R&B artist, with her song “EX” currently at No. 15 on the Hot R&B Songs chart. Now, Ledé is preparing to embark on a headlining tour of her own after dropping her EP Myself today (June 7).
The six-track EP has been in the works for about a year, with soulful and catchy tracks that show off the singer’s silky, gorgeous vocals. The project touches on a spectrum of emotions and topics — from Ledé detailing her struggles with anxiety in “Heavy” to her wanting to be with someone she shouldn’t in “Can I.” Ledé tells Billboard her two favorite songs — “Heavy” and “Bouncin” — are “polar opposites” of each other.
For the latter, the “Fairplay” singer recalls working in the studio on a particularly rough day, when she was struggling to put difficult feelings into words.
“I couldn't get my brain to face where I wanted to write about something that was really emotional that day,” Ledé says. “I was just too close to it in the moment and I was just like, ‘You know what, let's just fucking write something fun and get our brains off this and not even think.’”
The result was just that: a light-hearted, upbeat track that has turned into something of an empowering anthem for Ledé. The song also features a verse from Georgia-based rapper Offset, who agreed to collaborate on the track almost immediately after Ledé sent it to him.
In contrast, the acoustic-backed “Heavy” is a deeply personal song, written at the end of last year when Ledé was struggling with a relationship and her mental health. The lyrics, Ledé says, come from an “honest, true” place that captured “exactly what [she] wanted to say.”
“I don't got my priorities straight/ Don’t know who I'm gonna be today/ I'm no victim, but I deal with shit on the daily,” she opens the track. “Something pullin’, I can't get away/ Never livin' outside of my head/ I don't like showin' weakness, so I always fake it.”
Citing musical inspirations like Alicia Keys, Beyoncé and Usher, Ledé says she’s always known R&B was her true calling; however, it hasn’t always been an easy road establishing herself in the genre. The Scream actress was originally signed to RCA Records at age 14 after winning Kidz Bop’s 2011 KIDZ Star USA talent contest. However, when the company attempted to mold her into a “mainstream, bubblegum” pop singer, Ledé refused and was subsequently dropped from the label three years later.
“I don’t want to look back on my life or perform a song that I hate over and over and over again every night so I really try to be as authentic as I can,” Ledé explains. “My real passion is people, so if I can do that using my own situation and be an example for people who are also going through something similar, that’s the most important thing.”
After being signed to Republic Records, Ledé released the EP Selfless in July 2018, which featured standout tracks like “EX,” “Wicked Games” and “Take It All.” Reflecting back, Ledé says she’s grown tremendously as a person in the last year, which has undoubtedly impacted her new music.
“I’m just really focusing on me and focusing on what I want from my life,” Ledé says. “I think that inner confidence and that decisiveness was always there but I never trusted myself enough to just follow through with it… I’ve been taking a lot of courageous steps to grow and become who I really want to be without anybody else involved.”
That growth is actually what inspired the artist’s newest EP’s simple yet empowering title: Myself. Ledé says above everything else, she hopes listeners take away that they are the most important person in their life.
“Myself is such a strong word. Putting yourself first, it’s so hard to do that. It’s so hard to take time out of your day to think about yourself for at least 10 minutes and meditate or do yoga or whatever you like to do,” Ledé says. “I hope this EP also helps people understand that… it’s OK to feel vulnerable and just be in the moment and live your life.”
Listen to Myself below.