Within minutes of catching her boyfriend cheating, Keyshia was in her car driving to Los Angeles in the middle of the night to start a brand-new life. It only took the determined singer a few months of making connections to snag an introduction to A&M Records President Ron Fair, who immediately signed her to her first solo recording deal. For her first album, Keyshia has garnered the support of none other t han reigning hip-hop star Kanye West; producer and songwriter Da Ron of R&B group 112; rapper Chink Santana, whose gruff stylings have graced hits by As hanti and The Inc.; and popular producer E-Poppi. She also got a c hance this past S pring to collaborate with Eve for her debut single, “Never,” on the Barbershop 2 soundtrack.
So w hat's everybody raving about? Check Keyshia's first single with West, "I C hanged My Mind." The tune is a perfect fit for Keyshia's longing so prano and her distinct stance as a performer: Like many young women, she's looking for love, but she's not so desirous of romance t hat she'll sacrifice her own needs. Having been devoted to her man, she quickly realized t hat he is devoted to himself. W hat's a girl to do? She simply c hanges her mind about being involved and walks away.
Keyshia easily admits t hat the song reflects her romantic philosophy. "T hat song was actually about being focused and dedicated to w hat you want and w hat you're trying to be. It's about the things you're trying to accomplish in life and dealing with somebody, a significant other, who comes in between t hat, especially with their ways. I want to be an example for young girls in following your goals and dreams and making it happen and checking him out later if you have to."
A twist on t hat philosophy is on display in "I Should've Cheated," which was crafted by Du Ron, a producer whose songs Keyshia admired so much she c hased him down in Atlanta to work with him. On the track, Keyshia sings of being a devoted girlfriend who is constantly accused of cheating by her man. It seems t hat two can play t hat game, and Keyshia has no trouble letting Mr. Suspicious know w hat's up. "T hat song has a lot of emotion, because I feel every girl and every guy can relate to t hat," she says. "If somebody is doing you wrong or saying t hat you're doing something and you're being the best t hat you can be in the relationship, then you get home and they're like 'Where you been?' "Well, where I could have been is ...' Don't start! It could get real ugly."
At the same time, Keyshia's songcraft reveals t hat the plucky artist isn't afraid to let a man know she's interested. On the flowing "We Could Be," she fearlessly lays out all a former friendship could blossom into. On the mid-tempo "Down N Dirty," she has no trouble ex pressing w hat she'd like to do, while on the spare, deep groove "Talk To Me," co-written by singer Mya, Keyshia lets a guy know t hat his seeming disinterest is just a front. And Chink Santana lends his gritty rhyming skills to "Situations," another love song with a twist.
On the feel-good, old-school-styled ballad "Love," Keyshia's powerful vocal intensifies a straight-ahead plea to the object of her affection, who's involved with someone else. It was a real-life situation t hat compelled Keyshia, who admits ballads are not her favorite style, to come up with the lyrics to "Love" in five minutes flat. At a Malibu restaurant, she spied the same guy who years earlier had told her he wasn't interested in a committed relationship with her dining with his girlfriend. "So I was looking at the girl and I was like, 'W hat is it about her? You know, like seriously, w hat are you thinking?'" Keyshia remembers. "And I just wrote about it, it came out really quick." She immediately headed into the studio with producer Greg Curtis: "After I wrote the song, I went to the studio about 4 in the morning, and by 5 or 6 I was done with the song and t hat's w hat you hear."
Ms. Cole even applies her keep-it-real aesthetic to the tune "You've C hanged," in which she takes on none other t han Jay-Z for the lyrics to his tune "Song Cry." The tune is from the point of view of a neglected wife who's had enough.
The realities surrounding where she was raised and the hurdles she overcame are never far from her mind. She says she recorded the tune "Streets Is A Mot hafucka" because the lyrics reflected some true-to-life scenarios, including crime, drugs, and the hustles t hat come with survival. "It's just different things t hat we see in the 'hood t hat we never see in Hollywood. I liked the contents of the song, because I felt like no girls talked about it," she says.
A self-described " hard worker" who can sometimes be "goofy" and "fun" yet says she would never kiss a guy she doesn't know for a video, Keyshia is passionate about providing inspiration to young girls, and young people in general, who come from troubled backgrounds. "I want to be an example for young people, especially growing up in the 'hood, because it's already hard enough to not be focused, not to be trying, to be doing something," she says, adding t hat hope and faith and holding on to a dream can carry anyone far. The tattoo on her right shoulder -- a cross, a heart, and a star-- truly reflects her belief t hat goals can be realized, despite the circumstances. "It's really possible," she says with a grin. And those are her thoughts -- just the way it is.