Kele Le Roc: Comes Out Swinging
- Words: Tomas Palermo
Born in 1978 in London's East End, UK singer Kelly Biggs walked home with two MOBOs (British Grammy) for best newcomer and single (the garage burner "My Love") by her 21st birthday. Known by her stage name Kele Le Roc, Biggs is used to the fast pace of success and the tribulations that come with it. "I wanna be successful for myself," she says, "because I'm an ambitious person."
Ambitious is hardly an exaggeration for a singer whose multi-stylistic approach to music has thoroughly impacted both Britain's underground and mainstream charts. Following her hugely successful Polydor album (Everybody's Somebody) in 1999, Biggs collaborated with a host of underground heavies, including soul man Omar, drum & bass producers Shy FX and T-Power, jazz musician Courtney Pine, and Basement Jaxx (on hit track "Romeo" off Rooty).
In June, Biggs went back to her family's Jamaican roots and dropped the lovers rock reggae 7" bomb "Even Though You're Gone" (Curtis Lynch Music). "I enjoy singing, and I don't think it's fair for people to pigeonhole me," Biggs explains.
Vocally, Biggs incorporates the power of Chaka Khan with the grace of Patti Labelle. You can hear it on the wobbly Sticky-produced 2-step track "Things We Do" and on her latest funky house single with Fanatix, "Lesson Learned" (Osirus Records). The latter proves she can belt out vocal house as good as Martha Wash or any of the major divas. "I tend to write about love a lot," she explains, "'cause I think its something that everyone can understand. I don't think there's enough love in the world. [The songs] are my way of subliminally touching people."
Biggs took time while getting out her record contract to launch a clothing label called Funkin Bitch ("My mum's a designer, so I've always made my clothes from quite young") and to assemble her next album, which spans rock, soul, funk, and electronic genres. "Out here in the UK, [the varied styles] are causing me a problem 'cause people are like, 'Well, you know, it doesn't have a theme.' Why does it need a theme? I like to sing, and these are songs," she says tersely.
The first track, "Naked," from the unreleased album (working title: Kelepy) is making the rounds on white label. Produced by Denmark's Maximum Risk, the song blends her explosive soul vox with organic elements–banjo, live flute, and bongos. "The problem in this country is that it doesn't sound like anything they've heard from America, whereas when I went to America [and played it for labels] they were like, 'Yeah, we love it.'"
Maybe Biggs, a huge fan of eclectic Americans Andre 3000 and Gwen Stefani, will soon find a home for her music on these fair shores. The talent is there, along with the drive she's shown time and again. "I've achieved so much," she muses, "but I'll never be satisfied because I'll always want to take it to the next level."
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