Kayla McCrary, better known by her stage name Slayla The Purpose is a Tennessee State University alumna and singer-songwriter slaying the music scene.
Her name is derived from her college nickname “Slayla,” and “The Purpose” was a name given to her by her late mother. She effortlessly embodies this name, showing the world that she has always been destined for greatness.
Slayla’s journey from an HBCU student to a rising R&B artist started when she came to TSU as a theater major with big dreams of going to Broadway—but everything changed when she lost her mother during her first semester of college. Her mom was also a singer and together they shared a love of music and the arts. After she passed, Slayla took a hiatus from music, changed her major to English, and shifted her focus to her minor, political science.
After graduating from TSU in 2019 she moved to New York to start a career in politics but ultimately felt unfulfilled.
“It wasn’t something that I love to do, however, activism is something that I do enjoy. But the type of work I was doing, it just was not fulfilling.”
During the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, she came back to her hometown, Atlanta, and tapped back into her old passions. Slayla has been singing since she was three years old and got her start singing in the church.
“I’ve always been very spiritual and very musically inclined. It’s something that’s always come very natural for me,” she said.
During quarantine, she began a spiritual journey and fed her inner child, which led her back to music.
“I just kind of started doing the things that I enjoyed as a kid, and so I started writing again and I was fortunate enough to find a team that I could build with,” Slayla remarked.
She was afforded an opportunity to work with a Grammy-nominated artist and also wrote a song entitled “Flowers” for Lindsey Blackwell, the lead character in Netflix’s “13 the Musical.”
For Slayla, songwriting was a cathartic experience, as it forced her to confront certain feelings she harbored and allowed her to truly grieve her mother.
Just two years later, after deciding to pursue music full-time, Slayla released her debut EP Twelve Twentytwo, which has been the proudest moment of her career so far.
Twelve Twentytwo was released in December 2022 and received 12 playlist placements across music streaming services like Apple Music, Pandora, Tidal, Spotify, and more.
This was a special achievement for Slayla as she received pushback from those around her, advising her not to release the EP so close to the holidays. “Everybody told me it was terrible timing,” she said.
It looks like the timing was just right, as the EP reached 100,000 streams across all platforms within the first month of release.
“That was like, mind-blowing to me,” Slayla said. “I grossed 100,000 streams my first month of release with no fan base, no label backing me, no money, just me and my manager grinding and you know, my friends reposting it and sharing it. So that was probably the most rewarding feeling because I listened to my intuition.”
Known for her unique soulful voice, jazzy melodic cadences, and vulnerable lyrics, Slayla is still innovating her sound but knows what she wants her music to feel like.
“My music is authentic, I would say that my music is passionate— it comes from a very passionate place—and it’s creative,” the songstress said.
The Atlanta native is heavily influenced by music icons Beyoncé and Lauryn Hill, as well as legendary southern hip-hop groups OutKast and Three 6 Mafia.
“I love OutKast. When I talk about my music being creative, it’s definitely influenced by OutKast and how you know, being from Atlanta and also being an individual that grew up in the same area as them and attended the same high school as them, I feel very influenced by their swag, their culture, their slang,”
Slayla says the lessons she learned at Tennessee State University helped her on her journey to success.
A very involved student, Slayla tried her hand at everything at TSU. “I feel like I was one of those people that gave everything a shot at my HBCU. I fully lived the HBCU dream, there was nothing I did not do,” she said.
Slayla served as the 2018-2019 Student Government Association President, the Vice President of the Alpha Psi Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., was an intern at the Tennessee State Capitol, and published a children’s book titled, “Dream Girl, Dream” during her time at TSU.
She said attending an HBCU and being involved in leadership taught her confidence and helped shape her into the woman she is now.
“ It taught me to amplify my voice in spaces where people that look like me aren’t typically heard or aren’t typically seen. It taught me to be confident in my choices and to be confident in myself, my talent, and my skill set and to walk in any room and show up as myself.”– Slayla The Purpose on attending an HBCU.
Slayla’s advice to those wanting to follow in her footsteps is to “take up space” and don’t “make yourself small.”
She recalls feeling like she was shrinking herself during her TSU days, and how much she’s grown since then. “I’m definitely in a space where it’s like, I’m not apologizing for being great. I’m not apologizing for being talented, I’m not apologizing for being who I am and I’m gonna show up as myself,” she said.
As for what the future holds, Slayla hopes to be a Grammy Award-winning artist with her own foundation rooted in education and committed to giving back to the community.
“I want my life to be beyond making music and being a great artist. I just want to give back to the world.”
She also hopes to be in a position where she can give back to her HBCU which has given so much to her.
Slayla revealed that the visuals for Twelve Twentytwo are on the way! Click here to stream Slayla The Purpose’s debut EP “Twelve Twentytwo.”