Keke Wyatt

KeKe Wyatt (born Ketara Shavon Wyatt, , 1982) is a multi-talented American R&B recording artist mostly noted for her soulful vocal style and exotic looks. She became popular after a highly successful collaboration with R&B singer Avant on his platinum album My Thoughts. This led to her debut Certified Gold album Soul Sista in 2001, and a promising solo career with MCA Records. Her career experienced a temporary halt in 2002, however, after she allegedly stabbed her road manager-husband.


Biography


Born in Indianapolis, Indiana to Lorna Wyatt, a vocalist, and Keever Wyatt II, an organist/vocalist, Ketara Wyatt (who goes by her nickname Keke) hails from a musical family rooted in church music. Despite the family's religious background, the singer's parents exposed her to R&B at home encouraging her to pursue secular music. This musical household cultivated a singer with the ability to perform several genres of music that include gospel, R&B, pop, country and opera. Subsequently, Keke can write music equally as well. The singer has two younger brothers - Keever Wyatt, III, an R&B/Hip-Hop artist working on his first record deal; and Kendall Wyatt, a writer for the Christian Music industry.


Wyatt began singing at the age of two. Belonging to a family of regular church musicians, by age five Keke made her first performance in front of a live audience. The song she performed, entitled "Beautiful", was taught to her by her mother. The young singer later performed a song she learned from her father, entitled "How Beautiful". Growing up in Indianapolis, spending time in both Kentucky and Texas, Wyatt became influenced by the likes of Stevie Wonder, Donny Hathaway and Ella Fitzgerald. Inspired by many preceding musical greats, Wyatt would sing with various girl groups as a teen. She attended high school in Indianapolis where she was a member of her high school's varsity wrestling team.


As a young girl and teen Keke was often recognized for possessing a level of maturity that exceeded her in age. At eighteen she married a man eight years her senior - Rahmat Morton, a former athlete. Morton is also her long-time road manager and they have children together.


Cultural heritage

Although touted as a black/white bi-racial, Wyatt is of multiracial ancestry. Interestingly, despite identifying as a person of mixed race as the singer embraces all of her individual racial ancestries, Wyatt synonymously identifies with the Black Community.


Wyatt's maternal grandfather and grandmother are both white. Together her maternal grandparents had eight children, including Keke's mother - Lorna Wyatt. After divorcing her first husband, Keke's maternal grandmother married an African-American with whom she bore one child named Tony, Keke's biracial uncle. Wyatt's eight (8) aunts and uncles from her maternal grandmother's first marriage were rejected by her maternal grandfather and his family. However they were embraced by Wyatt's maternal step-grandfather's family which resulted in them being raised in an African-American household. In addition to her mother's and maternal grandmother's interracial marriage, two of Wyatt's maternal aunts also married African American men.


Wyatt's father, who is Black identified despite his multi-racial heritage, has ancestral roots in the West Indies, a region recognized for having a, now, native population that consists of varying degrees of mixed racial/ethnic ancestries. The singer's paternal grandmother is part Cherokee. Despite being born to parents from different racial backgrounds, Keke Wyatt was raised exclusively in an African-American household and community setting. Growing up the singer had little to no interaction with whites outside of those related to her.


Career


Early years

Her professional career began at age ten, recording the song "What If" on a gospel compilation album for Indianapolis based R.H. Duncan. With growing buzz surrounding the little girl who could sing, news of Wyatt's talent would lead to a long line of encounters with people like Bill Woodson, Nathan Alexander, Billy Badd, Chris Kelly, and Emmanuel Officer.


The singer started her musical performing career at age eleven auditioning among several other hopefuls for a slot in a Texas based all girl R&B ensemble The Dollz. The group would later evolve into Destiny's Child. She received a call back for her audition, attended a few practices, but eventually opted not to join the group.


During adolescence Keke Wyatt became a student of Chicago-based producer/songwriter Steve "Stone" Huff , famous for his work with the Isley Brothers, the artist Joe of "Things Your Man Won't Do" fame, Avant, and other successful R&B artists. Huff eventually produced and shopped a few demos for the singer in hopes of landing her a record deal. During her mid-teens she performed demo songs for various gospel labels, earning $1,500 per recording. Keke wrote the majority of the lyrics for a hit song of which the title, recording label and name of the performing artist is unknown. As a minor she began paying her dues early on when she experienced one of her first coldly dealt disappointments as a music industry professional, she would not receive credit for her work.


Worldwide Popularity

At age eighteen Wyatt recorded the song My First Love with Avant, which eventually turned into a single, on the MCA Records label for his album entitled My Thoughts. Wyatt gained much notoriety for the remake of the lush 1980s ballad by Rene & Angela. The single was released two years after being recorded. Its success, remaining on the Top 10 for several weeks, resulted in a solo album contract with MCA Records. With the help of the late MCA Record executive Louil Silas, her friend and A&R Randy Jackson (of American Idol fame who she met at age twelve) and former Boyz II Men manager Quadri El Amin, Wyatt recorded her first album in only two weeks time.


Unfortunately, her first single, Used to Love went virtually unnoticed. However the follow-up Nothing in This World, her second duet with Avant, became a huge smash single. Incidentally, controversy surrounding accusations in a domestic dispute between Wyatt and her husband/manager helped propel her debut album Soul Sista into gold-certified status. The album held the Top 5 position for several weeks and sold more than one million copies reaching audiences in Japan, Korea and Europe. The video for her third single, I Don't Wanna, features her real-life spouse, Rahmat Morton, playing her husband as well as their son in the beginning intro.


By 2004, Keke Wyatt departed from MCA Records and signed with Cash Money Records/Universal Motown Records under the management of Cassandra Ware. Rahmat Morton, Wyatt's spouse and long-time road manager, negotiated the contract. Her second album Emotional Rollercoaster was originally set for release on May 31, 2005, but the release date was later pushed back to early 2006. The set's first single, Put Your Hands on Me, became the #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.


Songs slated to appear on her second album included the first single Put Your Hands On Me, Look at What You Made Me Do, Insecurity (written by Bryan Michael Cox), My Man, Six Questions (featuring Avant), Cheaters, Who Knows (written by R&B singer Tank), Peace On Earth (remake of a Rachelle Ferrell single), and the title track (featuring Ginuwine).


Late 2006 saw the release of Wyatt from her contract with Cash Money Records, the singer citing management as the reason for her departure. She has since signed with TVT Records, reuniting with former manager Quadri El Amin. Work for her third album Ghetto Rose is complete. The title track is the set's lead single, which was released to Urban radio outlets late August/early September. Ghetto Rose was written by veteran song writer Franne Golde, Kasey Livingston and Curt Schneider. Golde is known for her work with The Commodores; she also wrote Stickwitu with Livingston for the Pussycat Dolls. The album was originally set to be released on October 23rd, 2007, but bad publicity resulted in the released date being pushed back to early 2008. Incidentally, in February 2008 Wyatt's record label, TVT Records, filed for bankruptcy . TVT Record's founder and president Steve Gottlieb reported - "This is not the end of TVT." As a result, and for the third time, the release of Wyatt's third album Ghetto Rose (originally slated for release in early 2007) has been put on hold. No subsequent release date for that album has been set.


Controversy


Domestic abuse/assault case

On December 25 2001, after local Shelbyville, Kentucky authorities' response to a domestic dispute call, Keke Wyatt was arrested and charged with stabbing her husband Rahmat Morton up to five times with a steak knife at their home. Morton, Wyatt's long-time road manager, was taken to University of Louisville Hospital where he was listed as a patient.


On March 25 2002, Wyatt was indicted on one count of second degree assault by a Shelby County Grand Jury. Despite doctors having to remove part of the knife from his back, Morton did not want police to press charges against his wife. Eventually, police charges were dropped and Wyatt served no time for the incident.


Self-comparison to Beyonce Knowles

In her July 2007 interview with AllHipHop.com, controversy brewed when Wyatt allegedly suggested that her singing ability far exceeded that of the entertainer Beyonce Knowles'. Both Knowles and Wyatt are a formerly affiliated with a childhood all girl group The Dollz.


If you notice, I???m yellow. My natural hair is the color she dyes her hair. I have the little waist with the big booty. It???s all the same thing but I sing better, so . Say I don???t .
???Keke Wyatt, February 2007 AllHipHop.com Interview
Involving race

In her August 2007 interview with Essence Magazine, the magazine quoted Wyatt as recounting not being allowed to watch Roots as a child, her white mother referred to Wyatt and her siblings as niggers:


She didn???t want us to see how White people treated Black people because she probably thought we might start hating White people.
???Keke Wyatt, August 2007, Essence Magazine Interview
Hell, I thought my name was ???n---er??? for a long time (laughs)
???Keke Wyatt, August 2007, Essence Magazine Interview

The magazine cites Wyatt as further explaining the following about her mother:


My mom was raised around African-American people all her life. She can cornrow and everything. All she knows is the African-American way of living, because her stepfather was Black and she was raised by his family. She will use the N-word like it???s going out of style. I say, ???Mama you can???t just go around using the N-word???, and she???s like, ???I don???t give a damn. I say what I want to say. N---a ain???t no color, it???s an ignorant person.???
???Keke Wyatt, August 2007, Essence Magazine Interview

Wyatt states that she embraces her multiracial ancestry and identity, but felt loyal to Blacks/African-Americans. Despite this sentiment, dissension was sparked among readers when the magazine quoted her as referring to Blacks as they. The singer is further quoted as saying that she takes issue with individuals of the lighter spectrum who feel superior to those of the darker spectrum. However the singer was quoted as referring to her own grade of hair as pretty hair, and as referring to the noses of Black people as broad. As a result counter sentiments towards old school negative stereotypes were raised. Many Essence Magazine readers, most of whom are of Sub-Saharan African descent, drew concern over these quoted statements:


I hate how everyone thinks that Black people are beneath them, even Asians, Whites and ...Mexicans. No, I???m not all Black, but I definitely stand up for the Black people. They???ve had it rough, they can???t help the fact that they???re skin is dark, or that their nose is a lil??? wider or that the curls in their hair might be tighter. I don???t think that it???s fair for people who look like me???the light skin, pointy nose and pretty hair ??? to think that dark-complected people are any less than them. Who am I? I???m not better than you. I breathe the same air and I bleed the same blood. Nobody is better than anybody else. We are all in this struggle called life. I think brown skin is beautiful because people like me have to lay out in the sun to try and look like you. My best friends are Black???I mean, Black-Black ??? and I think that???s so beautiful. I think that???s why I decided to make my children Black... could have married a White dude and my kids probably would have looked completely White. That???s not what I wanted. Now, they can go outside and get a for-real tan (laughs). I think Black is beautiful. I stand for the African-American people until the day I die.
???Keke Wyatt, August 2007, Essence Magazine Interview
Essence Magazine interview rebuttal

On a September 25 2007 EURweb.com podcast, Wyatt adamantly denounced the Essence Magazine interview, citing that part of what she shared with the interviewer, Kenya N. Byrd, was off the record. She further suggested that other aspects of the interview were misconstrued. Wyatt disputed that the following was, instead, said in reference to African-Americans:


I think that it's a shame that the majority of white America still views African-Americans (as having dark skin) and wide noses. If you go to any African-American family reunion you will, probably, see (a rainbow of people) ...I don't look like that (in reference to the general stereotype of how African-Americans look). I'm light-skinned with a pointy nose and my hair is not nappy.


???Keke Wyatt, September 2007, EUR web Interview

And in reference to her mother's use of the 'N' word:


I asked her (the interviewer) to not say anything. I was just talking to her; I thought that she was nice, so I was just talking to her. I felt open, she used it all against me; and I think she was very very ignorant for that. My mother is a Caucasian woman and she was raised black...she was called a niggah all her life growing up. That's just what they used in her household. (However) my white granny does not use the word; she doesn't like it. But my mother was always around African-Americans and people who called her that (the 'N' word).


So, if you're used to hearing something in the house all your life growing up as a child, don't you usually use the same words that you heard yourself being called? ...So many African-Americans have been using the word for so long that it's going to be kind of hard to stop that.


I've talked to my mother. She feels very angry, very hurt and very misunderstood. She simply says that "I don't mean any harm; I simply can not help the way that I was raised. I don't see a color thing. I see a family thing and a love thing." Because at the end of the day, the white family turned her away, and the black family took her in. That's how it is, at the end of the day her white daddy and his white family did not want her and her white brothers and sisters.


(In relating to African-Americans the most) That's the way my mother raised her household. I grew up in all black schools; went to all black churches; lived in all black neighborhoods; and went to all black functions. I rarely ever was around white people, unless (they were) my family.


My mother married a black man, both of her sisters (married black men), my granny turned around and married a black man after she had eight white kids.


I'm very attracted to black men; I've never really been attracted to white men. Black men are very very handsome; they're sexy; and their color is beautiful to me.


I pray that (people will be open-minded) and understanding to know that I am not the way that woman made me out to be. It really got personal for me. But at the end of the day all I really want is for people to buy my album. It doesn't matter what color I am (or how I look)... If you love good music and you enjoy R&B, that's what I sing; and that's what I do best. That's all I want.


???Keke Wyatt, September 2007, EUR web Interview

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