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Meaning of the song ‘Can I’ by ‘Kehlani’

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Released: 2020

Alright, let’s dive into Kehlani’s “Can I”, a sultry pop-R&B anthem steeped in sex, passion, and the bold assertion of female power. At its heart, it’s an unabashed invitation to an intimate, sexual rendezvous, showcasing Kehlani’s vocal dexterity while also celebrating her sensual prowess and unapologetic confidence.

In the opening lines, Kehlani playfully uses sports and gaming metaphors to express her sexual satisfaction. The lyrics “Hit the backboard like a free throw / You next level, you a cheat code” infuse athletic prowess into her depiction of their sexual encounter. The “cheat code” metaphor vividly captures her partner’s exceptional sexual skills, a signifier of intense pleasure.

Her carnal enthusiasm extends to the following verses with cheeky lines like “Sweet lil’ bih’, fuck like a pornstar / Next day, act just like your road dog”. Here Kehlani underlines the duality of her character – a wild sexual partner, yet someone cool to hang out with. Her comfort in expressing her sex-positive angles mirrors an ongoing shift in pop, where female artists openly articulate their sexual desires and experiences.

The chorus, “Can I come over? / (Can) Can I (I) stop by (stop by) to see you (see you) tonight?” reads like a straightforward request for a lascivious tête-à-tête. But, considering the broader context of the song, it emerges as an assertion of feminine sexual power, turning the classic ‘booty call’ trope on its head by having the woman explicitly initiate it.

In the second verse, she continues to articulate her sexual desires, intermixed with humorous lines that add a playful undertone. The lyric “Sextape crazy, need the bloopers” exudes a sense of comic, flirtatious mischievousness, while the imagery of an interrupted Uber ride (“Tell the Uber driver to revert / Flip that bitch and make a u-turn”) underlines the urgency and irrepressible nature of her longing.

Matching the rawness of the theme, Kehlani doesn’t hold back in the bridge either. Lines like “If these walls could talk / They’d tell you don’t pull out / Make me proud, thug it out” unabashedly underline the lovers’ raw, unrestrained passion. Yet, there’s a softer note struck in “Switched it up enough to tell me I’m your star”, hinting at a deeper emotional connection beneath the lust.

Overall, “Can I” is not just a sexually charged pop hit. It goes beyond that. It’s a powerful demonstration of a woman owning her desires, cherishing sexual pleasure, and breaking societal sexual norms in pop culture. Fierce, relentless, and extraordinarily confident – that’s Kehlani’s “Can I” for you.

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