Kali Uchis Shares How N.E.R.D. Inspired Her Debut Album : Alt.Latino The Colombian-American singer recalls her favorite childhood memories tied to music and plays some of the songs that inspired her debut album Isolation.

Guest DJ Kali Uchis On How Astrud Gilberto And N.E.R.D. Inspired Her Debut Album

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FELIX CONTRERAS, HOST:

From NPR Music, this is ALT.LATINO. I'm Felix Contreras, and this is Kali Uchis.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TYRANT")

KALI UCHIS: (Vocalizing).

CONTRERAS: The Colombian American vocalist is someone we've been playing on the show for quite a while, and she's been slowly but very surely building a fan base with a combination of mixtapes, EP's, singles and collaborations with A-listers like Miguel, Tyler, the Creator and Juanes. And now she has her first full-length major label album called, "Isolation." And we have her with us this week to talk about the album and also to be a guest DJ talking about some of the music she grew up with. She joins us from NPR West in Culver City. And also joining us here in ALT.LATINO world headquarters in Washington, D.C., is Sidney Madden, my colleague from NPR Music. We'll jump right into the conversation. But first, this is the new single from the album, it's called "Tyrant."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TYRANT")

UCHIS: (Singing) Keep spinnin' me 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round. Wanna seize the throne, but what would you do with all that control? I don't wanna come down. Keep spinnin' me 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round. Word on the street, you got hoes. I disappear like El Chapo 'til you said you would cut off the whole world if little old me would be yours. Well, mira, mira, míralo, papi está rico, papi está guapo. The world's been asking us to lose control. All we ever do is French like Brigitte Bardot - Brigitte Bardot. All around we go. Your lovin' is like a kaleidoscope. I don't wanna come down, keep spinnin' me 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round. Wanna seize the throne, but what would you do with all that control? I don't wanna come down, keep spinnin' me 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round. Dímelo, dímelo, dímelo. Dímelo, dímelo, dímelo.

JORJA SMITH: (Singing) Boy you're driving me crazy, although I say nothing can phase me. Place the spark in my life back. Now I want to show you how I thank that. Don't think you can lie. I can see through your mind. Don't lose this. We have it all.

UCHIS: (Singing) All around we go, your lovin' is like a kaleidoscope. I don't wanna come down, keep spinnin' me 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round. Wanna seize the throne, but what would you do with all that control? I don't want to come down, keep spinnin' me 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round and 'round. We're goin' 'round and around and around and around now. We're goin' 'round and around and around, goin' down, down.

CONTRERAS: Kali Uchis, welcome to ALT.LATINO.

UCHIS: Hello. Thank you for having me.

CONTRERAS: And Sidney, welcome to ALT.LATINO - your first appearance here.

SIDNEY MADDEN, BYLINE: Thank you for having me, Felix.

CONTRERAS: OK, so let's just jump right into the music. Kali sent us a bunch of music. And, Sidney, you get the first question. Go ahead and dive right in.

MADDEN: OK, sure. Thanks, Felix. But before we get into all of this influential music - to you, Kali, just give us a bird's eye view of what your new album, "Isolation," is all about.

UCHIS: It's hard to say what it's all about 'cause every song is kind of a different topic, different genre, a different world in its own. And so it's pretty just expressive and telling of my experiences and my lessons that I learned and things that I was going through around the different areas of my life while I was working on the album for the last, like, 2 1/2, three years.

MADDEN: And what are some of the most integral stories you're telling on this new album?

UCHIS: When I kind of looked back on everything, the one thing that really tied everything in was the mentality that I kind of had during the time that I was creating this music, which was kind of isolation in the sense - not just embracing the feeling of the risk that I was taking by making sounds that don't really sound like anything else that's current or trendy right now, but moreso also isolation in the sense of kind of taking the time that I needed to heal and to create and to reinvent and to tap into my intuitive senses and discover so many different things that I was kind of looking for at those times in my life.

MADDEN: I love how you said it was a sense of isolation because you weren't doing things that were particularly trendy at the time in terms of popular music. And I hear a lot of classic and throwback influences within this record. I hear some jazz, funk, reggaeton, bossa nova. So I just want to get into, what are some of your most important musical influences?

UCHIS: I think for me - 'cause growing up, I'd always been such a music nerd. And, you know, I was one of the kids that was at the record store, the CD store, digging through stuff and trying to listen to new things and trying to see different covers and different things so that I could go home and research it - and finding out about artists and finding out about all types of different genres from all over the world and, basically, just kind of being as well-rounded as I could when it came to music because I loved using music as a - as my escape and as my way to navigate the things that I was, you know, going through growing up. It's kind of like music was always my way to control my feelings, to control my - the mood of my setting and to really take power into my own hands of, like, you know, it might have been a shitty day, but now I turn this song on in my headphones, and I'm gone. Like, I'm in a music video. I'm dancing down the street.

(LAUGHTER)

MADDEN: Yes. Yes.

UCHIS: It's just kind of like...

MADDEN: You're in another world.

UCHIS: Yeah. So finding different new types of music for me was just finding different things that were going to make me feel alive. It was like collecting Pokeballs. Like, oh, which one am I going to throw out today that's going to really, like, set the tone for this morning while I'm getting ready or my walk home from school or whatever it is? I think it was just really important for me. You know, music is such a big part of my life. And then I also was involved in band as a kid, in jazz band. And I took alto saxophone really seriously. I was, like, a huge band nerd - and piano. And I was in a lot of, like, poetry contests. So I just always really loved art and the opportunity that we have as human beings to express ourselves through sounds and visuals and writing and music and everything. Just all of it was, like - I needed so many creative outlets to feel really feel alive and really feel like I could take my own life into my own hands and create.

MADDEN: Finding your creative outlet early in life is so key because your emotions can get bottled up. Your thoughts can get all jumbled, and - yeah. So I definitely identify with your idea of finding the different expressions to kind of escape into.

UCHIS: Yeah, and not letting yourself feel like - I think putting a boundary, putting all these boundaries on, like, oh, what types of music do you listen to? Or what type...

MADDEN: Yeah.

UCHIS: ...Of music do you make? Or what - it creates a sense of such a limited dynamic. And I think it's actually totally counterproductive as an artist, or even just as a human being.

MADDEN: And, Felix, you talk about this all the time, how many people think Latin music is just one thing.

CONTRERAS: Yeah. So I'm curious to know, Kali, speaking of that, where did you grow up, and where were these musical influences coming from?

UCHIS: Well, for me, I grew up between Pereira, Colombia, and also between Virginia - like, Northern VA, right outside of D.C. And I was always very close to my family when I was really little. And so those influences were always around me of, like, whether my aunt had Jeanette blasting in the house, or whether we were going out dancing and Celia Cruz was on, or it didn't really matter. No matter what was going on, it was always very, very close to my heart. You know, we listen to everything. We don't just listen to, like, Colombians. We're also going to listen to, like, you know, Brazilians and Spaniards and Mexicans and Puerto Ricans. Like, all the different types of influences and all the different types of music that comes from everywhere that speaks Spanish was kind of music that was playing in my house as well growing up.

CONTRERAS: Well, you mentioned Jeanette, and that's one of the songs that's on your list of stuff that you sent in. Let's play this one. Tell us about the song, and tell us a little bit about the artist.

UCHIS: Jeanette is kind of just - she has a really melodic, mellow-toned voice. It's like air. It's, like - her singing voice is just like fluffy clouds, you know? She doesn't have to do too much with it, but she's always going to give you a feeling. And I think that was a lot of what my aunt would play around her house. And so for me, it's a very nostalgic - it always makes me happy when it comes on.

CONTRERAS: And this track is called "Corazón De Poeta" - and can't help but think that this is going to be very, very poetic, to say the least.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CORAZÓN DE POETA")

JEANETTE: (Singing) Tiene la expresión de una flor, la voz de un pájaro y el alma como luna llena de un mes de abril. Tienen sus palabras calor y frío de invierno. Su piel es dura como el árbol que azota el viento. Y tiene el corazón de poeta, de niño grande, de hombre-niño, capaz de amar con delirio, capaz de hundirse en la tristeza. Pues tiene el corazón de poeta, de vagabundo, de mendigo, y así lo he conocido y así me gusta a mí que sea, que tenga el corazón de poeta. Tiene la arrogancia del sol, mirada cándida. Su piel de nieve se hace fuego cerca de mí. Es amigo y amante fiel de las estrellas. Camina junto a mi soñando con cosas bellas. Y tiene el corazón de poeta, de niño grande, de hombre-niño, capaz de amar con delirio capaz de hundirse en la tristeza, pues tiene el corazón de poeta, de vagabundo, de mendigo y así lo he conocido y así me gusta a mí que sea, que tenga el corazón de poeta. Pues tiene el corazón de poeta, de vagabundo, de mendigo y así lo he conocido y así me gusta a mí que sea, que tenga el corazón de poeta, que tenga el corazón de poeta.

CONTRERAS: OK, Kali, that's a very, very specific sound. It's very pop. It's very - like you said, it's very ligera, very light. I can sort of hear a direct influence on your own music and on your own voice and your own singing style listening to something like this.

UCHIS: Yeah. She's like a feather, you know? She just floats on the breeze. And I think - I have a lot of - I have certain songs that are more punchier vocals, but then I also love just the feeling that a melodic, breezy type sound is because sometimes, you know, life can get really chaotic, and sometimes, you know, personally, for myself, growing up, like, how I was using music was to calm my nerves a lot when I was stressed or when I was scared or when I was angry or upset. And I think a song like that, it gives you nostalgia, but it also gives you a sense of - for me, it was - it gave me a sense of being at home and kind of peace, peace in that moment, no matter what was going on. And so I think that vocal style and even just those instruments and that style of music has always been something that I go back to. She really doesn't have a bad song.

CONTRERAS: All right. So you're in Northern Virginia. Without giving away your age, you were there for your teenage years. What kind of music were you listening to that wasn't from Colombia? What was popular when you were growing up and forming your musical sensibilities here in the U.S.?

UCHIS: No, just everything. I mean, N.E.R.D. was also from, like, not too far from where I was growing up. That was like a huge - I mean, for a lot of people who make music, that was a huge influence in, like, teen years of, like, modern things going on at that moment. But they're not far in VA, and there were a lot of people in VA to look up to musically. Missy Elliott - I think even just outside of people that that were around me, I was just looking at everything, just everything.

CONTRERAS: You remind me of so many other singers that have been in the business for a while, and in particular, somebody like Lila Downs, who's a Mexican and American singer. Same thing, same idea. You come from a Spanish-speaking country, Spanish-speaking background, but your palate, your appreciation of music is so wide and so vast. She's a huge jazz fan, huge R&B fan, huge everything from ranchera to Aretha Franklin, you know? And I think that we hear some of that in some of the selections you brought in today.

UCHIS: I think being Colombian American is something that also, like, really shaped - because, I mean, you know, I'm super proud of my roots and always remember my roots, but then I'm also an American, and I think there's so much that you kind of are exposed to. Especially in the area that I lived in, like, right outside of D.C., it's extremely eclectic. You pretty much have access to every different type of person in the world. The school that I went to was known as, like, one of the most diverse schools in the United States of America. It's the home of the Titans...

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

UCHIS: ...School.

CONTRERAS: Right.

MADDEN: Still got that school pride.

UCHIS: Yeah (laughter). And it was just really diverse. And it was just really, like - it wasn't really, like - it didn't feel like you had to just listen to one type of music or, like, fit into one type of mold.

Well, I think it's really exciting to just kind of, like, take from your inspirations, take from the vintage inspirations that were from before you were born. Take the ones that influenced your family, the ones that maybe were from all the way across the globe that you - that no one knew about, the ones that are current in your, like, town, the ones that are - you know, just everything. Take everything, but then also make it new, make it original, make it you, make it, you know, this giant smoothie, but make sure that you still, like, sprinkle in all the toppings that are you on top of it. And I feel like that's what's so exciting and fresh about, like, having so many different inspirations and not just trying to be like, I'm going to be the next this person.

MADDEN: Yeah.

UCHIS: I want to make a song that sounds like this. It's like, it shouldn't really be about that or else I feel like you're really limiting yourself to just kind of, like, fit into somebody else's shoes. And it's like...

MADDEN: Absolutely.

UCHIS: ...When it comes to music and, like, truly pushing boundaries as a musician, I think, you know, it's like - it's all custom fit. Like if you're talking about trying to fit into someone else's shoes but the shoes are custom, like, you can't do that. Like, everyone is built differently, and everyone's path is differently, and everyone's journey is unique to themselves. And so it's really limiting to be trying to, like, just fit into one type of category of artist or person or brand. It's boring, too. It's like to be on brand all the time is, like, so exhausting and boring to look at and to see. Like, it's just, like, we're not packaged Barbie dolls. We don't have to, like, always be, like, fitting into this fantasy of, like, what - you know, we're human beings, and we're artists.

MADDEN: We're people.

UCHIS: And we're multidimensional beings that are able to correlate with anything and grow. And that's the most exciting part about being an artists is, like, that freedom, not feeling the pressures of having to confine yourself.

MADDEN: Let's get into the next song that you were influenced by that you picked for us today.

CONTRERAS: You know, Tío Felix is going to have to make an appearance here 'cause you mentioned N.E.R.D., right?

UCHIS: Yeah.

CONTRERAS: That's an artist I'm not familiar with. So let's play some of that since it was such a big part of - at least a part of your youth growing up here in Northern Virginia.

UCHIS: You're not familiar with N.E.R.D.?

CONTRERAS: There you go. It's Tío Felix.

MADDEN: Tío Felix.

UCHIS: (Laughter).

CONTRERAS: Yeah. I can't - I'm just...

MADDEN: Ya tú sabes. It's all right.

CONTRERAS: I'm trying to be as cool as I can.

UCHIS: That's Pharrell. You know who Pharrell is?

MADDEN: It's Pharrell and Chad Hugo and Shay.

UCHIS: It's Pharrell's band back in the day. You could play...

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

MADDEN: What's your favorite N.E.R.D. song, Kali?

UCHIS: The one that makes me really dance - they're all good. But one of the ones that makes me really dance is "She Wants To Move."

CONTRERAS: OK. So while all the tíos and tías were upstairs dancing cumbia, you guys were in the basement banging to this. Check it out.

UCHIS: Yep.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHE WANTS TO MOVE")

N.E.R.D.: (Singing) She makes me think of lightning in skies. Her name, she's sexy. How else is God supposed to write? Her name, she's sexy. Move, she wants to move. But you're hogging her. You're guarding her. She wants to move. She wants to move. But you're hogging her. You're guarding her. Damn. Mister, look at your girl. She loves it. Look at her. I can see it in her eyes. She - come here, babe - hopes this lasts forever. Hey. Her offbeat dance makes me fantasize. Her curves, she's sexy. Her ass is a spaceship I want to ride. Her ass, she's sexy. Move, she wants to move. But you're hogging her. You're guarding her. She wants to move. She wants to move. But you're hogging her. You're guarding her. Beat it. Mister, look at your girl. She loves it. I know you love it, girl. I can see it in her eyes. She hopes this lasts forever. Hey. Hey. This is your part girl. This is your part girl. Move, she wants to move. Move, she wants to move. Move, she wants to move. Move, she wants to move. But you're hogging her. You're guarding her.

CONTRERAS: We are in the studio with Kali Uchis, talking about music that I should know about...

(LAUGHTER)

CONTRERAS: ...But don't.

UCHIS: Yes - 100%. Come on, now.

CONTRERAS: It's her turn for - to be a guest deejay. And, Sidney, go ahead. I know you have another question for her.

MADDEN: Yeah, sure. Yeah, we're playing guest deejay with Kali Uchis today and talking about her newest album, "Isolation." So, Kali, you were talking earlier about "Corazón De Poeta" and how light and feathery the vocals were. I want to get into the next song by Astrud Gilberto, "Goodbye Sadness."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRISTEZA")

ASTRUD GILBERTO: (Vocalizing).

CONTRERAS: OK. Now you're playing stuff from my generation.

UCHIS: Oh, my gosh. What - you were in the '60s?

CONTRERAS: I will be 60 years old this year, OK?

UCHIS: But you didn't live in the '60s.

CONTRERAS: I lived in the - like the - like, in 1968, I was 10 years old. So when - as a high schooler...

MADDEN: So you were watching your parents do this.

UCHIS: Yeah.

CONTRERAS: Well, you know, they were listening - I just - my family's Mexican American from California, so they were listening to mariachi. They were dancing cumbia - the Mexican cumbia. And then in the back room, us kids, in '68, we were dancing to the Jackson 5 and all that stuff. I didn't get turned on to Astrud Gilberto till much later when I was in high school discovering jazz because she's probably the most famous singer to come out of Brazil in the late '50s, early '60s, that epitomized the whole bossa nova sound.

MADDEN: So tell us why you chose this song, Kali.

UCHIS: She's another singer that doesn't really have a bad song, but I think this one out of all of them is one that you can really cruise on a sunny day with the windows down. You feel good. You feel happy. You can be riding your bike on the beach, eating your ice cream. It's just a good feeling. And even when you listen to her lyrics, you know, they're so melancholy. They're - she's sad, but she wants to get rid of that sadness. She wants to go into this new chapter of her life where she's free. And I feel like that's a lot of what Astrud writes about. A lot of her writing is about freeing herself spiritually and mentally from how heavy everyday life and the world and all of the different things that are on her mind can be, and trying to be light, trying to be lighter.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TRISTEZA")

GILBERTO: (Vocalizing).

MADDEN: Like I said, that freeing yourself. I mean, I can hear that message echoed a little bit in your song with Tyler, the Creator, and Bootsy Collins, "After The Storm." It's all about being your own hero, right?

UCHIS: Yeah, exactly.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFTER THE STORM")

BOOTSY COLLINS: Whatever goes around eventually comes back to you. So you got to be careful, baby, and look both ways (singing) before you cross my mind.

UCHIS: I think it's really important to it to get rid of the need to assimilate to society, which, you know, a little bit of that is in all of us. And we all wear masks to some extent, and we're all kind of sometimes find ourselves going through the motions of life. And we also live in a world that really profits off of that. And in order to - in order to kind of free yourself, it comes with a lot of the understanding of just really being decisive about what your purpose is and where you stand in this world and what doesn't matter to you and the things that - the everyday things that sometimes get so clogged up in our brain and sometimes make us forget about why we actually came to Earth.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "AFTER THE STORM")

UCHIS: (Singing) Just look in the mirror. Just look in the mirror. No one's gonna save you now, so you better save yourself. And everybody's hurtin'. Everybody's going through it. But you can't just give up now, 'cause you got to save yourself.

COLLINS: Yeah, got to hang on, baby.

UCHIS: (Singing) The sun will come out. Nothing good ever comes easy. I know times are rough, but winners don't quit, so don't you give up. The sun will come out. But we've been struggling endlessly. Someday we'll find the love, 'cause after the storm's when the flowers bloom.

TYLER, THE CREATOR: (Rapping) Kali, what you mean? I take it offensive 'cause I'm the hottest flower boy that popped up on the scene. Feeling better, better than ever, 'cause your umbrella, brella. Sun is beaming on me like headlights beaming on Bambi. Now let's pretend the street is the room and you are a Camry, 'cause you drive me candy - the Tito to my Randy. Now let's produce some thrillers, my chocolate wit' yo vanilla, uh.

UCHIS: (Singing) The sun will come out. Nothing good ever comes easy. I know times are rough, but winners don't quit, so don't you give up. The sun will come out. But we've been struggling endlessly. Someday we'll find the love, 'cause after the storm. I know it's hard, but did you even really try? Maybe you could understand when all you had to do was ask. And just open your mind, when everything is passing by, and all you had to do was try. Yeah, all you had to do was try.

COLLINS: (Singing) Try, try, try, try, try.

UCHIS: (Singing) And all you had to do was try.

COLLINS: (Singing) Try, try, try, try.

CONTRERAS: Let's talk a little bit about what has that climb been like. What has that road been like for you to start your career and reach this point now where it's - this album is your first major label release? How has that journey been in 30 seconds or less?

(LAUGHTER)

MADDEN: Just elevator pitch.

UCHIS: I'm like, uhh (ph). Yeah, I mean, as you can imagine, it's been a journey. It's been a journey, to say the least, you know? I guess just kind of learning myself and learning - not even just learning, but learning and unlearning, you know, having to grow into all these new chapters. That's kind of what life is all about, is simultaneously constantly shedding your skin and growing into the new chapter and all about timing and all about tapping into that consciousness that's going to make sure that you're on the right timing and just kind of - I don't know. I'm really grateful. I'm really grateful for everything that's happened. I have plenty to look forward to. I feel blessed. I feel that I haven't waited for fate to decide what's going to happen to me. I've - I'm proud that I've done what I've done and I've made something that I'm really happy and I'm proud of. And at the end of the day, that was the most important thing for me and for that chapter of my life.

CONTRERAS: And the thing that strikes me about that is that you have a long list of collaborations with a variety of styles and a variety of different artists. And it seems like you look at the process of making music as, like - as communal.

UCHIS: Yeah. This is my first album where I really, like, learned what it was like to collaborate with people. Because when I started, I started by myself just kind of, like, looping things and sampling things. And then for "Por Vida," I was like, oh, now people are sending me beats, but I was still by myself. And then this album is like, now I'm aside an orchestra, and now I'm helping this girl play the flute, you know, and body language and all these little things. You learn about how much all these little contributions to a song musically, like, really make the entire thing full and working with live instrumentalists and live musicians and so many talented people from the new school and from the old school that are all inspiring and in their own worlds. For me, it was just - it was a dream. It was - it came together magically, came together perfectly, and I don't regret any of it.

MADDEN: Let's talk about your next song on the list - La Factoría, "Todavía."

(SOUNDBITE OF LA FACTORÍA SONG, "TODAVÍA")

UCHIS: I love this song, first of all, 'cause I just remember being a really little girl, being in Colombia. Me and my cousins had just got out of school, and this song started playing in the car. And we know all the words. And we're cranking it up all the way. And the sun is going down. And we're getting, like - you know, there's a woman on the side of the street selling, like, arepas with queso on top. And we're just singing it at the top of our lungs.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TODAVÍA")

LA FACTORÍA: (Singing) Me recordaste que existe el amor. Y aunque perdida estuvo mi alma, no volverás junto a mí. Tu mirada no me engañará más. Tus besos ya no saben igual. Otra mujer te roba el sueño, ya. No eres mío pero te quiero igual. No vuelvas a mí aunque te quiero. No vuelvas a mí aunque te extraño.

CONTRERAS: OK. That was the group La Factoría and the song "Todavía" on Kali Uchis' playlist. And that's the first song that we've played today that has an influence of reggaeton or at least a dembow beat. And how big of a factor was that in your musical upbringing?

UCHIS: Oh, my God. Old-school reggaeton is like - it's crack to me. I mean...

(LAUGHTER)

UCHIS: We used to love that. And I know so many of my cousins who are, like - you know, want to be, like, artsy or whatever. They're like, oh, whatever, that's, you know, so basic and blah, blah, blah. But I love it. I love a good old-school reggaeton song, you know? When I was older, I would listen to this song for nostalgic purposes or whatever, turn myself up, whatever. And I'm like, wow, she's actually singing about something kind of sad or kind of - you know, it's not as bright as it sounds. And I think that's really cool to me. I love being able to combine kind of, like, moody lyrics, angry lyrics or sad lyrics and make a song kind of like how I did with "Ridin Round" was like - and...

MADDEN: But it's so lighthearted. It sounds so light.

UCHIS: And it sounds like (vocalizing). Like, it sounds like you're at a carnival or something.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TODAVÍA")

LA FACTORÍA: (Singing) Todavía me acuerdo de ti. Todavía siento que estás junto a mí.

UCHIS: That's kind of similar to "In My Dreams" on my new album where it's like - it's my first song where I was just fully, like, sarcastic the entire song. Probably sounds the happiest out of any song on the album, but it's actually, like, probably the saddest. But I just really like that - to be able to kind of submerge all those different feelings in the same way. It's like, you know, you get your salty with your sweet.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN MY DREAMS")

UCHIS: (Singing) I'm feeling happy inside. I've got no reason to hide. I'm a dream girl. I'm never stressing my bills. Nobody ever gets killed. It's the dream world. My mama's never on coke. This isn't my way to cope, washing my mind out with soap. Everything is just wonderful here in my dreams, here in my dreams. Every day is a holiday when you're living inside your dreams. Why would anyone stay awake after being so sound asleep? Everything is just wonderful in my dreams. He's never messing around. He's always holding it down. He's my dream boy. We bought a house in the clouds, so we can only look down. It's the dream world. Don't ever worry or care except to pick what to wear. Why isn't everyone here? Oh, everything is just wonderful here in my dreams, here in my dreams. Every day is a holiday when you're living inside your dreams. Why would anyone stay awake after being so sound asleep? Everything is just wonderful in my dreams.

MADDEN: Kali Uchis' new album "Isolation" is out now, and she joins us from NPR West out in California. Thank you, Kali.

UCHIS: Thank you guys for having me.

CONTRERAS: And you're welcome back to ALT.LATINO anytime. Bring a stack of records, and I'll keep quiet, and you just play the music.

(LAUGHTER)

UCHIS: Absolutely.

MADDEN: We gone school you about N.E.R.D., though, Felix.

CONTRERAS: OK.

MADDEN: We're going to you. We're going to get you right.

UCHIS: What happened, Tío Felix?

CONTRERAS: (Laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN MY DREAMS")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Singing) Happiest, happiest are the moments that we don't exist, don't exist, don't exist.

UCHIS: (Singing) Everything is just wonderful here in my dreams, here in my dreams. Every day is a holiday when you're living inside your dreams.

CONTRERAS: Before we go, we want to remind you that you can hear all the music we played today on our website at npr.org/altlatino. Thanks again to Kali Uchis, my colleague, Sidney Madden, and to you for listening. I'm Felix Contreras. This has been ALT.LATINO.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IN MY DREAMS")

UCHIS: (Singing) Here in my dreams, here in my dreams. Every day is a holiday when you're living inside your dreams. Why would anyone stay awake after being so sound asleep? Everything is just wonderful in my dreams.

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