Moe Lincoln isn't going to let anyone typecast her.
"Being black in any city has its moments when you think, 'This can't be happening, 'cause it's 2019,' but it is in fact happening," says Lincoln, who performs under the moniker Kingsley.
Her debut EP, I Am Because I Am, was inspired by a local producer telling her to stick to neo-soul and R&B because of how black and Aretha Franklin-like her voice sounded to him. "I created this EP with five different genres in one, just to prove a point that musicians don't have to stick to one genre, and the color of your skin shouldn't determine which one," she says.
Lincoln, who moved to Portland from Chicago a few years ago, did include elements of R&B, hip-hop and soul on I Am Because I Am. But she also infused folk, pop and EDM into the album, which includes "Ghost," a pop-driven debut single she released as a direct response to the aforementioned producer. The result is a record rife with incredibly danceable tracks, and a work musically driven by rebellion, and lyrically driven by Lincoln's personal experiences. "I write songs about how I perceive things," Lincoln writes in her biography on her website. "I never write songs that aren't true to me, so I'll never write a love song because I don't believe in love."
What she does believe in, though, is the power of movement and dance. This week, Lincoln will release I Am Because I Dance, which comprises six of her favorite songs from the original I Am EP remixed for greater danceability. The new release is imbued with a sense of fun inspired by Lincoln's love of Demi Lovato and the Jonas Brothers—"Shout out to all the peeps from Disney!" she says—and showcases her ability to balance heartfelt lyrics with gyrating grooves.
"I like the things I like and that's that," she says. "Hence the name of the first EP—there's no need to feel bad for what makes you you."
Lincoln channeled the carefree joy of a night of out at the club with your girls into her new EP partly to combat a bout of "musical depression" that she experienced after her debut was released. "I had worked so hard on that EP," says Lincoln. "It was out, and I was like, 'What the hell am I to do next?'"
I Am Because I Dance includes more bass drops and trap beats. "You," Lincoln's favorite track, hits a straight booty-bouncing beat just before the one-minute mark that anyone would want to twerk some stress out to. The song's carefree sound belies its subject matter. "The words still cut deep when I sing them," says Lincoln. "But it's also dancy as hell, and that's what I love about pop music."
"You" was written after Lincoln's disbelief in love was challenged when she did, in fact, fall in love. "He told me he wanted nothing to do with love, yet made me fall in love with him. Then, he didn't fall in love with me back," she says. "I get hella emotional singing it because it reminds me of how foolish I was."
The remix album wasn't Lincoln's only idea to fight those career-based doldrums. She came up with a plan to release content through a project she calls the "12 Months of Kingsley." On the 23rd of each month, she'll drop a new creation, be it a music video, an EP or merch. The release date holds significance to her in two ways—the original I Am Because I Am came out June 23 of last year, and 23 was her lucky number as a basketball player in high school.
Lincoln's No. 1 priority is sharing her music with the masses in every way possible, and she feels like living in Portland has helped her reach that goal. "I can say Portland has been a great place to incubate and grow in the beginning stages of being an artist," Lincoln says. "I am sure it feels like you're drowning in a sea of amazingly talented people when you go to cities like Los Angeles or Chicago to start out, but in Portland you can work together and not feel like someone is using you in a bad way."
Incubation has done Lincoln good, and Kingsley will only flourish further thanks to her unabashed approach to self-expression.
"It's really disappointing to look at someone's skin and determine what you think they should sing like," says Lincoln. "I think I reached a point in my young adulthood where I stopped giving a damn of what people thought of me."
SEE IT: Kingsley plays PDX Pop Now's compilation release party at Lagunitas Community Room, 237 NE Broadway, with Martha Stax and Babytooth, on Sunday, March 31. 6:30 pm. $8, includes a copy of the compilation. All ages.