Khia Talks Miley Cyrus, Licking Necks and Cracks, and the Universality of ‘The Nasty’

You probably know Khia best from her graphic 2002 breakthrough single “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)” off her album Thug Misses. Currently working on her fifth album Love Locs, Khia is coming to Seattle for the first time ever on Aug 10 at Chop Suey. We caught up with her as she was recording in Atlanta.

Seattle Weekly: Where do you see yourself in the hip hop landscape right now? It seems like a lot of weirder, left-field hip hop is getting more popular. Even with R&B, you’ve got Frank Ocean blowing up with his strange production styles and song structures.

Khia: I write and produce all of my own stuff. Everything is unique and is very “me.” The emotion and everything with my music, whether its hip hop or R&B, it’s real emotion, real life experiences. It’s Khia. Whatever I’m writing about at the time, whether it’s love, whether it’s sex, whether it’s drama, it’s me putting my energy into song. It’s me. When I listen to a lot of mainstream artists, they’re getting writers who are writing songs for them. They’re not really getting all the emotion and the sense of realness that’s important to me. It’s my R&B and it’s my hip hop and it’s my story, so it’s just really Khia and it’s from the heart.

SW: On that topic, a lot of your songs are about sex. When “My Neck, My Back” came out, was it weird for you to have your dad hear that?

Khia: *Laughs* No way. I’m a Scorpio and my dad is a Capricorn, so we were close. We’re nasty, you know, from birth. I don’t know, I just love nasty music, people love the nasty. I’ve been branded by my nasty music. People get a lot of neck licking and crack licking done to my music. I love it. That song is about telling the guys to take their time and find out how how to please me. People will tell me “Oh wow, I didn’t used to take the time to find out how to please my partner,” and they’ll tell me, “Oh thank you Khia for giving us four simple directions on exactly how to do it.” Everyone around the world was like “right on, thank you Khia, I got the best head ever when you came out.” It was just four directions. I was really shocked that older people really loved it too, they must’ve been doing neck and back way before I was born. I’m talking 40+ year old people loooove Neck and Back.

SW: Was it surprising how much that song tapped into that older crowd for you?

Khia: I’ve performed that song with the older R&B crowd, you know, our parent’s age, 50 years and up. They love it. Some of the old mama’s come out there and shake their tailfeathers to that song. That was the biggest shocker. I knew it would be good in the urban community. I knew it would be good in the gay community. But that song transcended age, race, and nations. I’ve been to Greece, the Netherlands, you know, all over with that song. They don’t even know how to speak English, but they know how to say “Pussy” and “Crack” and “Neck” and “Back.”

SW: How’s it feel to be internationally known for this one song? What is it like being known around the world as this sex symbol affiliated with, you know, “nasty” music? Is that strange for you?

Khia: You know, I think people respond to the power and the strength of me saying those words. They see me execute that song and people all over the world love it. It’s good music, great sex, and its fun. I love it. You know a lot of people say, “Oh you’re a one-hit wonder,” and I’m like, “thank you.” I embrace it. To have one hit that’s as big as “My Neck, My Back...” you know, I will tour forever on “My Neck, My Back.” I hit a home run the first time up to bat with that one. I don’t ever have to put out another album if I wanted to. You know, I’m on my fifth album now, but I’ll be in my 50s touring on that song. To be able to have a song like that is wonderful. I’m lucky. That song has so many different histories with so many different people.

SW: Was there any fan that told you a story about how that song affected them that you particularly remember?

Khia: There’s so many. So many little Khia’s running around. People tell me they graduated high school to that song, they lost their virginity to that song, they say, “oh my mom loves that song.”So many different stories.

SW: Tell my about the “We Can’t Stop” Miley Cyrus remix you did.

Khia: I love Miley. She got so much backlash for that, but I love the underdog. I always try to stand up for somebody who is being viciously attacked for no reason. I felt like everybody didn’t like what she grew into, they still thought she was a little girl. They didn’t want to accept her coming into her own self, her own skin, accepting her sexuality. I can remember when I was 19 or 20, we were all young and wild and free. We all wanted to express ourselves and feel free from underneath our parents. Everyone was giving Miley such a hard time, and I was just like, “Oh my god, let Hannah Montana grow up.” She was a fan, and I was like, “You know, just keep working, don’t stop, fuck everybody and just do what you want to do.” When I told her I wanted to do the remix she was like, “Oh my god, I’m a big fan, I love ‘My Neck, My Back.’” So I just went in and did it and her people loved it. I support her 100 percent and everything she does. It was just my way to say “I got your back.”

SW: She got flack from Jezebel for the music video appropriating black culture and using black women as props. People got mad that she seemed to be nabbing the “twerking” trend and making it her own. What did you think about that?

Khia: Well what television doesn’t? What video doesn’t? Who doesn’t do that? I mean come on. They’re just looking for a way to pick, pick, pick at Miley. It’s just like, “no, no, no, no. If she wants to pop it, if she wants to twerk it, it’s her thing. Just back the fuck up.” I didn’t get into the whole color thing because it’s music. It’s colorblind.

SW: You’ve received criticism yourself for your raunchier stuff, did you identify with Miley at all in that sense?

Khia: You know, a little bit. I felt like people didn’t want her putting that kind of stuff out because they were still stuck in her Hannah Montana phase. She’s always been a singer, she’s always been creative, she’s always had an edge. I saw the underdog in her, and I’ve always felt like I was an underdog too. Whatever moves you strive to make, do it. Don’t care about anybody else. That’s what being an independent artist is about. It’s about strength and self love and appreciation. For me it’s always been live and out loud, and I’ve never gave a damn. I don’t know how Miley was affected by it, I don’t know if she was as strong as me, but I know some artists aren’t strong enough. When some performers read negative things about them, it affects them and their performance. It affects their creativity. I just wanted to let her know, all of us are like that. I wanted to let Miley know, just keep going, just ignore it. That’s for anybody too. Whatever you want to do, just go for it.

SW: So you’re coming to Seattle soon. Have you even been?

Khia: I cannot wait. I haven’t been yet. This will be my first night in Seattle. It’s gonna be a fun reunion to do older songs and newer songs. And oh, I love Macklemore to death. I’ve always been a fan. We’ve been tweeting back and forth for a while. Now that I’m going, I definitely have to hit him up and let him know, “Oh you better come to my show and see my shit.”

Khia will perform at Lick at Chop Suey on August 10.

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