The first time I saw Colombian-born alt-R&B singer Kali Uchis, she had a line down the block to see her play a show at The Echo. Three years later, she’s on the third line of Coachella 2018’s Friday lineup, just dropped her much-anticipated debut album Isolation, and sold out DTLA hotspot The Novo.
When I first saw her all those years ago, Uchis had already garnered a cult fandom. I wasn’t sure if her musicianship matched the fanfare yet, and gave the show mixed reviews. I bumped into her at the FADER Fort a week or so later at SXSW, mentioned I saw her LA show and wrote a review, and she said, “Oh yeah, I read it” — with a look in her eye that suggested she didn’t agree with my assessment and I was one of many doubters she planned to prove wrong.
In 2018, I’m here to say she did in fact prove me wrong. Isolation is one of the best albums of 2018 so far, let alone one of the best debut records I’ve heard in years. It features an all-star cast of supporters, like Tyler the Creator, Thundercat, BADBADNOTGOOD, The Internet’s Steve Lacy, Jorja Smith, Bootsy Collins, and even Damon Albarn. Lacy even joined Uchis on stage for a song together.
When the Coachella 2018 lineup dropped in January, I questioned whether or not her name belonged that high on the lineup without a debut album or many of the credentials that come with that high of a booking. But clearly Coachella’s bookers knew better than me and perhaps they had an advance copy of the record, because now it’s as clear as day that her trajectory is only going to continue upwards.
Her performance chops have also very much improved over the last three years. She’s more than earned her fervent fanbase and has more than enough material to headline a show in a place as big as The Novo.
Opening the show was fellow Coachella 2018 performer Cuco — a 19-year-old from Hawthorne who only started releasing music two years ago. He’s blown up and has a largely Latino fanbase like Kali Uchis who turned out early to catch his set. I have a feeling 2018 is going to be a massive year for the singer.
Overall, as someone who identifies as half-Latino, it’s pretty stellar to see two of them sell out a show in DTLA and prove that you don’t have to assimilate into mainstream pop to be a success. Representation is so huge, and Kali Uchis and Cuco will certainly be considered inspirations for many future crossover pop stars.
Photos by Thane Fernandes