Almost two years since she garnered YouTube fame with her gritty single, “Gangsta,” this week Cuban-American singer-songwriter Kat Dahlia will finally drop her debut studio album, My Garden. An impressive showcase of her smoky alto and no-nonsense rhymes, her new album boasts production credits by Timbaland, Missy Elliott and Salaam Remi (who has also produced Amy Winehouse, Nas and The Fugees).
Kat Dahlia’s style is undoubtedly homegrown in the 305, otherwise known as the vibrant, Caribbean landscape of Miami-Dade County. But the genealogy of her sound spans time, space and heritage; she cites musical influences from blues to reggae, classic rock to Jamaican dancehall. In an interview with NPR’s Alt.Latino, Dahlia recounts the time an industry rep pressured her to cater more specifically to the Latin pop market, by flavoring her R&B-cultivated sass with a little more sazón. She, therefore, penned the song “Tumbao,” giving nod to her Afro-Cuban predecessor, the late salsa queen Celia Cruz. “La blanca tiene tumbao,” she bellows in Spanish, attesting to both her own impeccable sense of rhythm and reverence for her musical and cultural roots.
The new album also features songs from her self-released 2013 mixtape, Seeds, including the overcast, cautionary tale of “Gangsta” and the slow burning trap jam, “Clocks.” Despite her big deal with Epic Records, she hardly loses her edge. She has a knack for bookending even the most sentimental hooks with a little bit of spitfire. Take in the rugged romanticism of the following lines of her most pop-friendly (albeit rated R) ballad, “I Think I’m In Love Again”:
I make fun of your belly
And tell you to do some crunches
And you say ‘well, yeah your ass jiggles’
‘Go do some lunges’
I say ‘fuck you’
While I’m thinking of you as my husband.
My Garden is set for release January 13 on Epic Records.