Keyshia Cole - Biography
By Joanna Ricco
Keyshia Cole is an American R&B/Hip-Hop singer with roots in Oakland, California. Cole has been nominated for several Grammy Awards during her career, which only began professionally in 2005. Cole’s style has been likened to that of Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, Aaliyah, and Kelis, finding a common ground between sultry sexuality and street-smart sophistication.
Born to mother Frankie Lons on October 15, 1981, Cole spent only her baby years with Lons before being adopted by Yvonne Cole at the age of two. Lons has been open about her inability to care for the young Cole citing her addiction to drugs, which has led to more than 30 arrests. While Cole and Lons have shown that they have begun to work through the damage caused by home life in the early 1980s, Yvonne Cole and Lons have infamously behaved belligerently toward one another.
As a child of no more than 12-years-old, Cole took advantage of her Bay Area surroundings and tapped into the scene by singing backing vocals for MC Hammer and on Messy Marv’s remix to his hit “Nubian Queen.” She also appeared on the soundtrack for the film Me & Mrs. Jones, which was scored by Dwayne Wiggins of Tony Toni Tone.
At the tender age of 16, Cole left Oakland for Los Angeles after finding out that her boyfriend was cheating on her. With only $200 to her name, Cole knew that she had to stay focused and get to work fast at making herself known to the people who mattered in the recording industry. Young, broke, and with no place to really call home, Cole had the cards stacked against her.
By 2004, Cole had come into contact with A&M Records executive Ron Fair. Fair saw potential in the young singer and set to work on making her debut album, The Way It Is (2005 A&M). Cole’s debut catapulted her to the top of the R&B charts and quickly made her a household name. The Way It Is features the singles “I Changed My Mind,” “Love,” and “I Should Have Cheated,” all bearing the sense of reality Cole is known to bring to love songs. Cole is often referred to as being one of the most authentic female R&B singers of our time, namely for her no-nonsense approach to writing about what makes love both so wonderful and so horrible without over-romanticizing either perspective.
Cole’s sophomore album arrived in 2007 to great critical acclaim. Just Like You (Geffen) features P. Diddy, Missy Elliott, and Lil’ Kim. Singles from Just Like You include “Let It Go” (with Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim), “Heaven Sent,” “Last Night” (with P. Diddy), “Shoulda Let You Go,” and “I Remember.” Debuting at number two on the Billboard 200, the album proved to be yet another success for the songstress. The album was nominated for two Grammy Awards – Best Contemporary R&B Album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration – at the 50th award ceremony in 2008. In 2009, the album was again nominated for two Grammy Awards for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and for Best R&B Song for “Heaven Sent.”
In mid-December of 2008, Cole released her third album, A Different Me (Geffen). Thus far, the album has attained gold status by the RIAA. As the album title suggests, A Different Me moves away from the pain of Cole’s first two albums and comes across as a celebration of perseverance. Cole takes at least partial writing credit on every song on the album, making it once again a very personal creation. Guest appearances on A Different Me include Monica, Nas, Amina, and a posthumous collaboration with Tupac Shakur on “Playa Cardz Right.” This duet from beyond the grave became the lead single off of the album, but the original had first appeared on Pac's Life, the sixth album to be released after the rapper’s death.
Besides taking the music charts by storm, Cole has also starred in one of the highest rated shows on the BET cable television network – a reality show documenting her life called Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is. Cole’s famously difficult upbringing is highlighted in the show, focusing on her relationship with her business associates and her family. Cole is often seen struggling to help her older sister Neffe, who battles a drinking problem. Neffe has four children that Cole helps care for by buying them a house and seeing to their needs. The show is filmed in Atlanta and also features both Cole’s birth mother and adoptive mother.
Cole continues to collaborate with other musicians and songwriters. She worked with Trina on her 2008 album Still Da Baddest ( Slip-n-Slide), for which she adding her vocals to “I Got a Thang for You.” She also lent her talents to C-Side for their EP Class In Session (2008 – Universal Republic) on the track “Boyfriend/Girlfriend.”
Most recently, Cole graced the cover of the March 2009 issue of Vibe magazine. Two different covers were produced, one showing only Cole and one with Cole and her birth mother, Frankie Lons. The process of coming to terms with her disjointed childhood and the clearly cathartic creation of A Different Me seem to have put Cole in a prime position to become a significant power in R&B songwriting.