The world is just starting to hear about KAi’, the talented 22-year-old Richmond-raised singer whose new single “My Mind” — performed in collaboration with her cousin, Le’Le — is both catchy and catching on.
What many don’t realize is KAi’ — who you can see perform this Saturday at the Juneteenth Festival at Nichol Park in Richmond — has been an artist nearly all of her life, starting with the church choir at age 5, and her first stage production at age 8.
“My mom played classical music because I was a fussy child,” said KAi’, whose birth name is D’Mekka Joseph.
Some may listen to “My Mind” and wonder where this local artist has been all along. She’s been busy honing her craft, having performed over the course of her young years with the African American Shakespeare Company, The Black Repertory Theater, Gritty City Repertory and Contra Costa College Drama Department.
Aside from theater, she placed third in the National American Miss Teen Pageant for her rendition of Katy Perry’s “Fireworks,” a performance she managed to fight through and salvage despite the song system crashing middway.
KAi’ has also leant her swift and melodic vocals toward a world music project involving a Nigerian group who needed an English-speaking singer with a “little hip-hop sound.” That collaboration churned out a remix of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t no Sunshine.”
“It was really dope, with English and French lyrics, R&B and hip-hop,” she recalls.
Now that she’s begun to nail down her voice and persona, KAi’, a name that means strong and unbreakable, is ready to represent her reality and her roots on larger stages.
She simply plans on doing what she’s been doing her whole life: Sing, act, and consider her influences that include her sister, who performed Spoken Word, her gospel singer uncles, or the musically diverse environments from which she was raised.
“I grew up in an extended family who listened to all styles of music,” she said. “You could walk through the house and hear different sounds coming from each room: gospel, rap, hip-hop, jazz.”
She says she takes whatever is positive from every environment — including anything that will make her stronger.
“Growing up in this city for me gives me the edge to be courageous, self loving, and caring for others,” KAi’ said.
KAi’ said the song “My Mind” speaks to what she and Le’Le are about.
“Being mentally stimulated to accomplish our individual goals,” she said.
Their plan appears to be working.