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Portland’s KayelaJ Is Spending Quarantine Writing Raps About COVID-19

“Y’all backwards, scavengers/Buying up all the tissue going batshit/Diarrhea ain't even one of the symptoms/Why the fuck you buying that shit?”

WW presents "Distant Voices," a daily video interview for the era of social distancing. Our reporters are asking Portlanders what they're doing during quarantine.

KayelaJ might be the only Portland rapper who can write blistering bars that also double as an effective PSA.

After about a month in quarantine, the local MC, born Makayela Johnson, decided to release her first new verse since lockdown on Instagram. She decided to rhyme over the beat for Kendrick Lamar's "Look Out for Detox." She called it "Look Out for COVID."

"Y'all backwards, scavengers/Buying up all the tissue going batshit," she raps while looking straight into the camera. "Diarrhea ain't even one of the symptoms/Why the fuck you buying that shit?"

More recently, Johnson also released a breakneck freestyle to Megan Thee Stallion's "Savage," and says she plans to churn out more standalone verses on social media. But while sheltering in place, Johnson has also been working on a much bigger project—the follow-up to her emotional debut album, D.Y.K.E.

D.Y.K.E. displays the raw lyricism that earned Johnson a spot near the top of WW's Best New Band poll, and addresses heavy issues like depression, abuse, racism and sexuality. Johnson's currently untitled sophomore album will be no less candid, but far more upbeat.

"I'm still going to carry on the themes of talking about social issues that are important to me, that'll never stop," she says. "But this project is going to be more uplifting, more fun."

Johnson talked to WW about why she's turning to upbeat music during such an unsettling time, social distance collaborations and her precursor to "Look Out for COVID," which she called "Look Out for Chickenpox."

See more Distant Voices interviews here.