By Natalia Kopelman

Music has always been at the center of Kay Kay’s life. “It’s like food, it’s something you bond over.”

The first songs she learned were the National Anthem and "Amazing Grace." Her grandma taught them to her when she was little and singing is something Kay Kay has always been good at. Having seen her natural aptitude, her parents allowed her to explore it and at the age of 8, she was on the Tyra Banks Show. At 9, she performed in The Lion King on Broadway. As a teen she wowed audiences with her performance on American Idol. She says, “I’ve never really felt the difference between doing something I loved and doing it professionally.”

Kay Kay is from New Orleans, so Lil Wayne was always a part of her childhood. He was a part of her parents’ life, they listened to him…and she’s not sure how, but Mack Maine knew about her and reached out. “I think that’s when I knew things were getting serious, when I started getting label interest.” Kay Kay says she was awed by Young Money’s legacy, but their belief in her, was really the big thing.

“They’ve done everything they said they would. I like when people in the business show that they believe in you and are willing to take a leap of faith on your talent. It’s makes you more confident in what you’re doing.”

Since signing with Young Money (founded by Lil Wayne and presided over by Wayne's lifelong friend and fellow rapper Mack Maine), she says things are the same but different. She’s doing what she was doing before, but at the next level. Now instead of writing songs in her bedroom, she’s in the studio.

Kay Kay hadn’t collaborated with other artists much before, but she’d always wanted to, so working on the YM compilation album was different and exciting. “It was dope. We all clicked up instantly and it was just back to back to back. It was definitely tiring…we were there for two straight weeks at time. Everyday in the studio for 12-16 hours. Just cutting tracks, up all night. Sleeping all day and heading right back to the studio, but that’s what I enjoy. I love waking up and knowing I’m going to make a new song. We were all just as excited as each other. It was really fun.”

Now Kay Kay is working on her first album and says she’s old fashioned in the sense that she likes a complete, well rounded project with a comprehensive story. As she speaks about it, she gazes off and her eyes shine like she’s looking at a treasured family album. So you just know it’s gonna be good.

She named "Summer Affair" and "Baby, I Do" as two of her favorite songs in the vault. “I love romance, but it’s not really in my life right now. So I think what this project speaks about is that time in between, when you’re kind of bored and feel like you’re not living life to it’s fullest because you don’t have someone.”

She describes her vocal style as soothing, yet powerful. Having grown up on old school R&B, that’s something she’ll always incorporate. She loves to belt out a tune like Whitney or Mariah, but she also loves the soft, chill vibes of singers like Jhene Aiko. “I love mixing things and making unique, different sounds.”

When writing songs, she tries to make the process easy on herself. “I can be so critical and it’ll take forever to finish the song, so my whole thing is, just go with the flow. The first thing is always the right thing and whatever the first words to come out of my mouth are, that’s the title of the song.”

This intuitive approach is something she’s had to consciously allow for. There were times when she judged herself so harshly, she stalled her own progress and wasn’t enjoying what she was doing.

“I got too caught up in what people were going to think and I’ve gotten to a point where I truly accept myself for who I am. I’ve learned that you really are the author of your life and negative thoughts are always going to cross your mind, but you can choose what to believe, you can choose what to indulge in and what to move forward from.”

Kay Kay likes to stay in the creative bubble. Her phone is filled with voice memos of random melodies that popped in her head and she gets much of her inspiration from other people. “Just having conversations with people sometimes, they say something that would sound beautiful as a song. I like to catch those moments and they don’t even realize that they wrote the song. I was just able to translate it.”

Kay Kay thinks her friends would describe her as adventurous, welcoming, maybe a little goofy…and also very hard working. She believes there is room at the top for everyone. “Top tier is a mentality. The top is not the peak of a mountain…it’s not a point that only one person can stand on. Not everyone is there mentally, but anyone can get there.”

She also knows that it’s not a race, and this helps her focus on what’s in front of her. She says the most exciting part of what she’s doing, is that it has no end. She’s been on this road her whole life.

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A version of this article first appeared in Honeysuckle's 420 print edition, featuring Lil Wayne and Young Money. Get your advance copy!