Alternative R&B vocalist and songwriter Kelela was raised in suburban Maryland and didn’t have aspirations as a singer until she started studying jazz. Subsequent obsessions with Amel Larrieux and Little Dragon helped push her toward finding her own style — one she found after she moved to Los Angeles. She connected with Teengirl Fantasy and contributed to the duo’sTracer album on the song “EFX.”
This led to meeting the Fade to Mind label’s Prince William, who exposed her to his associates’ lean yet sharp and deep productions. Knocked out by what she heard, she provided vocals forKingdom’s August 2013 single “Bank Head” (taken from the Vertical XL EP). With contributions from Fade to Mind and Night Slugs producers such asKingdom, Bok Bok, Girl Unit, Jam City, and Nguzunguzu, Kelela sought to make a mixtape of tracks that sounded like remixes. The release, titled Cut 4 Me, was issued in October 2013 as a free download through Fade to Mind. It was one of the year’s more striking debuts.