Keyshia Cole

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About Keyshia Cole

Keyshia Cole has the range. It’s in her style, which bridges R&B’s earnestness to hip-hop’s realness. It’s in her unbridled emotion, which rings true whether she’s wounded or hopeful. And, of course, it’s in her throaty voice, powerful at both a quaver and a wail. The Oakland singer (born in 1981) started her career early, immersed in rap. After cold-calling MC Hammer at age 12, the local hero gave her a shot at studio backing vocals. Three years later, in 1996, she was set to record with 2Pac when he was gunned down. When Cole at last found her own spotlight, it was over a Kanye West beat on 2004’s “I Changed My Mind,” an ex-skewering anthem cowritten by John Legend. But it was the heartrending “Love” that exposed the softer side of her bluntly titled 2005 debut, The Way It Is. Cole explored that duality across her albums while also bringing more women into her circle: 2007’s Just Like You featured a club-ready slice of boisterous female empowerment co-starring both Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim (“Let It Go”), and 2008’s A Different Me included a duetted ode to devotion with Monica (“Trust”). Also on the latter album: a posthumous verse from 2Pac himself, underlining the fact that Cole frequently reversed the typical R&B singer and rapper relationship by featuring MCs on her tracks. She has blazed that trail ever since, commissioning verses from heavy hitters like Lil Wayne, Future, and Young Thug while singing on behalf of women who’ve been treated wrong or cheated on while seeking true love. Yes, Cole has range, but the strength she projects from every end of the spectrum is as unmistakable and unwavering as her voice.

Oakland, CA, United States
October 15, 1981
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