When a boy bander parts ways with his original crew, it's often difficult to predict just how successful their solo career can be. After all, for every Justin Timberlake, there are a dozen former boy band heartthrobs who fail to top the charts or even score the lead in a TV movie post splitting with their band. If the success of Zayn Malik's new single "Pillowtalk" is any indication, he'll avoid the slump that many other ex-boy banders fall into — that is, if the rest of his album can compete. Malik's album Mind Of Mine dropped on March 25, and, among these highly-anticipated things is a single featuring singer Kehlani, titled "wRoNg." So who is Kehlani, the songstress getting a ton of buzz for her association with Malik? She's a lot more than just the name next to his on the track.
The now 20-year-old Kehlani may be young, but she's been working hard to make a name for herself in the music industry long before Malik decided to part ways with One Direction. Kehlani first hit the scene in 2011, when she appeared on America's Got Talent with her group PopLyfe. Though the group didn't take home the grand prize, Kehlani was offered encouraging words from the not-always-encouraging Piers Morgan, who told Kehlani that she "had real talent" — so much that she should strike out on her own. That's exactly what Kehlani did. The Oakland native dropped her R&B mixtape Cloud 19 in December of 2014, which scored her a slot on Complex's "50 Best Albums Of 2014" list — a list that also included established artists like Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, and St. Vincent.
In 2015, Kehlani released her second mixtape, this one titled You Should Be Here. From there, she went on a worldwide tour, even selling out multiple concert venues. But it's more than just performing for Kehlani: the artist also writes her own music, something that her fans clearly admire. In an interview for Nylon, Kehlani talks about how surprising it has been to connect with fans over her music:
People would say, “You had the courage to tell your story and you saved my life.” At first, I said, “There’s no way. I made this song in this random room and I just thought it was tight, and it saved your life?” But it just kept happening. People started telling me I fueled their weight-loss journey, or their coming out to their parents, or things like that. So, once I got the feedback and I knew that I was doing good for other people, then I realized I could only keep going.Kehlani may be getting attention for her connection with Malik right now, but with or without him, she's primed to be the next big thing in music. Check out their collaboration below.