This week we’re taking a look back at how some of the most popular R&B artists got their start in the music business. Some were definitely luckier than others. Sometimes it’s just about being in the right place at the right time. Everyone’s life journey is different. These artists prove how important it is to be practiced, committed, and prepared for when those opportunities come knocking.
Check out our list below:
1. Toni Braxton
The R&B singer was singing and dancing as she pumped gas at an Amoco station when the man at the next pump introduced himself. He was record producer William Pettaway Jr., and he invited Braxton to record a demo at his studio. “I took my girlfriend in case he was crazy,” says the sensible singer. “He turned out to be legit.” And so did she. With a string of hits behind her, she’s worth $10 million.
Kehlani has been many trials and tribulations. Her father died when she was just an infant and her drug addicted mother left her to be raised by her aunt. After discovering a knack for singing she ended up joining Poplyfe and going on America’s Got Talent. But things didn’t go so well from there as she eventually found herself homeless. That is, until she got a helping hand from Nick Cannon and she slowly built her way to where she is now.
Ne-Yo grew up in Arkansas, and later relocated with his mother and family to Las Vegas. He became a musical performer when he was a child, and as a teenager, he gained experience by performing in the EFX Show at the MGM Grand Hotel. Ne-Yo also started to write songs, and he became skilled at writing lyrics and melodies. He also began to network and make connections with pro producers and writers. Scott Storch invited Ne-Yo to collaborate with him at his studio in Miami, FL, and when Ne-Yo was in Miami a few months later, they got together. During this time they recording “Let Me Love You”, which reached No. 1.
SZA (Solana Rowe) was born in St. Louis, Missouri, and grew up in Maplewood, New Jersey. She attended a Muslim prep school and did not watch much current television or listen to much current music. She was a gymnast in high school – she had no plans of becoming a pro singer. SZA met TDE boss Punch at Kendrick Lamar’s CMJ show in 2011. At the time, SZA was working for 10.Deep, the streetwear brand sponsoring Kendrick’s show. Though SZA didn’t push it on him, Punch somehow ended up hearing one of SZA’s songs, and he liked what he heard. They stayed in touch, and the relationship quickly evolved into a professional one. She was eventually signed to Top Dawg Entertainment and released three successful EPs from 2012 – 2014 before her official debut album Ctrl in 2017.
5. Chris Brown
Chris Brown grew up in Tappahannock, Virginia. He was discovered at age 13 when a local production team visited his father’s gas station. The production team arranged audition with Def Jam vice president Tina Davis. From there, Chris moved to New York and began recording. In 2004, Chris was signed to Jive Records. Chris Brown’s self-titled debut album peaked at number two on the charts and sold more than three million copies worldwide.