The second generation daughter of Ethiopian parents who emigrated to the US in the 1970s, Kelela Mizanekristos was raised in Rockville, Maryland. Performing under her first name and now based in L.A., Kelela rose to notoriety after releasing her debut mixtape Cut 4 Me on the independent label Fade to Mind in 2012.
This track is a collaboration with Venezuelan producer Arca, who also collaborated with Björk on her Vulnicura album. Kelela recalled: "I met Arca on a boat. For about ten minutes I stood afar trying to think of what to say... and then finally walked up to him. With zero cool I go, 'Oh my God, you're Arca'. To which he replied, 'Oh my God, I've been trying not to stare at you for the past fifteen minutes! Wanna work together?'"
"[We] made an appointment for 12pm the next day but I got impatient on my way home and texted, 'Do you think you could do 11 a.m.? I'm too excited,'" she continued. "And then he said, 'I was gonna suggest 10 a.m. but I thought it was too early!' This is the energy 'A Message' was born out of."
This heartbreaking song is one of the demos that came from Kelela's sessions with Arca. She explained: "It speaks to the despair that I was experiencing at the time. The initial version of the song spilled out of us in about 25 minutes. Since then, it’s been like a sculpture that I’ve come to and refined over time, adding a lyric here, refining a melody there, adding a bridge, etc. It’s a process that is now finally complete with its release and I’m so happy that I finally get to share it with all of you."
Kelela told the story of the song to The Fader. "I wrote it with Arca and then took it to my friend Mocky who I collaborate with a lot; he's an amazing songwriter," she said. "He and I had a conversation about what was going on with me, and how I was feeling."
"It's been a really cool journey with this song," Kelela continued. "Most of the time I'm thinking about who's gonna help me evoke the most feelings. Alejandro (Arca) definitely does that, for sure, and Mocky and I also have that rapport. We can talk about the hardest part of the hard thing to talk about. The taking responsibility part, or 'how did the thing turn out this way?' He's somebody who's able to see beauty and greatness and amazing things in a seemingly sad context. That's how I want the collaborator's position to be."