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It has been speculated that Beyoncé's dubby, disembodied new album was inspired by, among other things, American-Ethiopian newcomer Kelela. Raised in suburban Maryland and based in Los Angeles, she announced her arrival late last year with a self-released mix tape, Cut 4 Me. Sometimes slippery, often strident, the collection sounded like R&B from the far future (the parallels with another wizard of wooze, Frank Ocean, are clear). As writer and arranger, Kelela is selfevidently a talent – but it's her voice, smokey and smoldering, that truly bewitches. In interviews she has revealed that Cut 4 Me is a break-up record, albeit one that rejects pro forma simpering and self-pity. "I… avoided a few templates and asked myself, ‘How can I talk about heartache without sounding like a damsel or a victim?’ I want other girls to sing the song and be like, ‘That’s exactly it.’ I don’t want you to feel defeated, like, ‘Oh boy, why do you do this to me?’ We have too many of those songs."

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