In previous posts you may remember me writing about the difficulty of navigating within the music industry. Well, it is complicated no matter the level of your achievement. I can remember in years past speaking with so many aspiring artists working hard in order to get the attention of record executives, and subsequently sign a recording contract. I’ve had the vantage point after a period of over twenty years of seeing changes in aspects of the music industry. Some still chase the record contract, but for many others technology has provided additional avenues into the music industry. Nonetheless, the road to success, and the quest to maintain a musical career remain problematic. When speaking to the young aspiring artist, he or she may feel that the end of the quest is the signing of the contract. However, there is much evidence that proves the opposite. One great example is this weeks’ featured artist Keke Wyatt.
Ketara Shevon Wyatt began her musical journey like so many other well-known artists today. Born in Indianapolis, IN on March 10, 1982 Keke grew up in church, and gospel music was dominant in her household. Her mother Lorna Wyatt – a powerful church vocalist, and father Keever Wyatt II, a Pastor, organist, and vocalist gave Keke her early musical roots. She started singing in church with her family at the age of two, having her first solo performance at the age of 5. She recorded her first gospel song “What If” by the age of 10.
During adolescence Keke Wyatt became a protégé of Chicago-based producer/songwriter Steve “Stone” Huff, famous for his work with the Isley Brothers, Joe, Avant and other successful R&B artists. Huff eventually produced and shopped a few of Wyatt’s demos in hopes of landing a record deal. During her mid-teens she performed demo songs for various gospel labels, earning around $1,500 per recording. Shortly after meeting R&B singer Avant at 16 years old, they together recorded “My First Love” a duet, becoming Keke’s first hit single peaking at number 4 on the Billboard Top 100 charts.
It was at this time that I took notice of the young singer/songwriter. Like many other young singers, Wyatt successfully recorded several more duets with Avant that became hits. Keke signed her first solo album deal with MCA Records by the age of 18, and with help from her good friend Randy Jackson (American Idol) she recorded her first solo album within two weeks. The album Soul Sister produced her first platinum selling album and another Billboard top 5 hit “Nothing in this World”, which peaked at #4. With worldwide sales Soul Sister broadened Keke’s fan base to tour in Japan, Korea and Europe.
With all the success Keke Wyatt achieved as a result of her first album, most would think that a follow-up album would be inevitable and soon released. It would seem that MCA would strive to strike while the iron was still hot. Keke Wyatt at this point developed a worldwide audience that surely would buy more of her music. However, this is the part of the story where we get to discuss the reality of the record business. Even though an artist may have signed a recording contract, there may arise consequences that prevent the album from release to the public.
By 2004, Wyatt had departed from MCA Records. After signing a recording contract with Cash Money Records, her second album Emotional Rollercoaster was set for release May 31, 2005, but was postponed for release early 2006. The albums first single, “Put Your Hands on Me”, became the number 1 most added urban track to radio in April 2005. However, the single failed to chart or gain radio airplay, and her album was subsequently shelved. In 2006, Wyatt was released from her contract with Cash Money Records, citing conflict with management as the reason for her departure. In 2007 Wyatt, after signing with TVT Records, completed her third solo album Ghetto Rose which was set for release October 27, 2007. After another postponement in early 2008 the record company filed for bankruptcy, which meant for a second time in her career Keke Wyatt’s album was shelved.
The good news is that one of the words that can be used to describe Keke Wyatt is resilient. After signing with Shanachie Records in 2010, Wyatt released the single “Who Knew?” which served as the title track for her album, released on February 23, 2010. In 2011, Wyatt released a remake of the popular 1980s single “Saturday Love”, featuring Ruben Studdard, and video for her album Unbelievable, also released on the Shanachie Records label. In 2012 she was cast in the TV One’s R&B Divas which features the lives of five 1990s chart-topping R&B singers originally including Wyatt, Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert, Monifah and Syleena Johnson. The show documents the singers living in Atlanta, Georgia as they work towards rebuilding their careers. As of the publishing of this post, there is word that Wyatt may be leaving the show for a spin-off reality show.
Personally, after viewing the show I feel that even though Keke is enduring her own issues made public by reality television, she appears funny, witty and caring. Her personality might be a factor as to why she has worked with so many in the music industry. That fact, coupled with her incredible vocal talent has drawn a plethora of top music executives toward her. In May of this year, Keke Wyatt released a 5 song EP entitled Ke’Ke’ that is exceptional, and a full CD release scheduled this fall. “People will finally get an opportunity to experience “The Real Keke Wyatt” says Keke. “I have so much to share with my fans who have been there over the years, and Lords willing some of my newer music will captivate and bring new fans as well.”