Songs In The Key Of… Chicago

Kaina. Photo: Dennis Larance

Drawing from her home city’s heritage of blues, soul, house and hip hop, Kaina takes us on a musical journey

A Chicagoan’s favourite thing to talk about is how much we love our city – so I will keep my description of the innovative and inspiring musical scene short to let the music do the talking! Chicago has a rich, deep musical history and lineage. Whether it is house or blues, hip-hop, soul or a blend of all those in-between – Chicago is an iconic city that often gets overlooked but is a source of inspiration for many.

When I reflect on the music scene of Chicago I can’t help but notice all the ways the current generation of musicians and artists mirror the same spirit of hustle and creativity of those who came before us. It inspires me to think that we are mirroring the same efforts because we have this desire to prove that we are quality talent not to each other but to the rest of the world. We are a city of doing what we do because we love to, because we work hard towards our crafts and goals, and because we’re good at it. This city has incredible community, culture and a classic Midwestern spirit – we will welcome you with open arms but only if you’re willing to appreciate and uplift the community we have built and are building, not bulldoze it.

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Jean Deaux is an incredible songwriter, rapper, director, etc, etc! I love this track because I feel like the production is really specific to the city and Jean Deaux’s lyricism really shines. She has helped co-write incredible songs for other artists and is a true utter force. She is completely underrated!

Kara Jackson is undoubtedly up next and one of the best songwriters ever. NNAMDÏ, Sen Morimoto and I have been assisting Kara with their debut project and it has brought us all a very magical experience and journey into Kara’s songs. I cannot wait for the world to hear Kara’s music. It is truly very special. Crush is one of my favorite songs by Kara – it is such a beautiful, vulnerable and clever song.

Akenya is another person in Chicago that I think is just completely underrated and overlooked. Akenya is meant to be a star – they’re an incredible musician, composer, songwriter and astrologer! Decay is a beautifully written song and Akenya’s production is always so fresh and innovative.

Saba is probably one of my favourite artists of all time which is why it was such an honour to be on his project Care For Me (2018). He just came out with a new album called Few Good Things and just continues to prove that he is one of the best writers and producers. Every new project he puts out is an incredible evolution from the previous one – there is truly no limit for Saba! I aspire to be as good of a storyteller as him.

Semiratruth is an incredible performer and a captivating lyricist. Semiratruth is absolutely up next in my book – there is something nostalgic about her music but refreshing with her own voice and twist to it. She is opening up for me for my headlining release show in Chicago and I am beyond excited to share the stage together.

NNAMDÏ is one of my best friends and an absolute legend. It is hard to explain his music because it is so eclectic and can vary not only between projects but also songs. He is someone who is amazing at everything – performance, writing, production and eating shrimp!! I love this track – the production is thrilling and the songwriting is vulnerable. NNAMDÏ is also a co-owner of Sooper Records which is the Chicago-based label that put out my debut album. They specialize in finding really special and unique music (a lot of it happens to be from Chicago) and putting out amazing and strong debut albums.

Kaina. Photo: Dennis Larance

Kaina: “ We are a city of doing what we do because we love to, because we work hard towards our crafts and goals, and because we’re good at it.” Photo: Dennis Larance

Chaka Khan is an icon! I love disco music and this song is a staple. I wanted to throw this song in a mix because it oozes a sensual and empowering energy in the writing but it is also just super fun to dance to!

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Chicago. House. Music. Any good Chicago house party will play this track and I have very fond memories of some of the first parties I went to, this song blasting on the speakers and everyone dancing the hardest they could. Chicago is known for its house music and this is a classic record.

Macie Stewart is a Chicago legend!! Macie has been part of a lot of influential Chicago music and is currently in a band named Ohmme but recently came out with a solo project that has been very anticipated. I am obsessed with this track Finally – Macie’s arrangements and production are absolutely incredible and the songwriting is so vulnerable and honest. The melodies are refreshing and always take a pleasantly unexpected turn. Macie is another person on this list who can play a million instruments, produce, compose, write, sing, perform, etc, etc exceptionally.

I can’t talk about Chicago music without bringing up Noname. Noname’s writing is next level and the specificity in which she writes about Chicago at times is endearing and makes me feel very seen. Besides her incredible music, Noname has started her own book club which aims to uplift the voices of people of colour and send books to incarcerated people. This track also features Ravyn Lenae who is a genius vocalist, producer and vocal arranger.

Sen is my co-executive producer and also part-owner of Sooper Records. Sen is from Western Massachusetts but has been based in Chicago for years and is the perfect example of someone who adds to Chicago in a very positive and uplifting way. Besides being such a champion of so many incredible artists from Chicago, he is an incredible producer, writer, singer and performer. Sen’s music is a breath of fresh air – every time you think you know where the music is going it switches up. Sen’s work has inspired me to always push myself and think outside the box – it’s an honour working with him and getting to listen to his unreleased work (hehe).

Had to throw myself in the mix <3 I hope that all of these wonderful musicians and songs can show you how along with Latin music, early-2000s pop, Motown and classic rock – Chicago music, culture and people are my greatest influences.

The new album It Was A Home is out now and Kaina is currently playing shows in the UK, Europe and the US – dates and tickets can be found at

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