Keyshia Cole is officially back. A month after Instagramming her signing of a long-term contract with Epic Records, the Grammy Award-nominated singer-songwriter is now promoting her first single with the label. “You,” featuring Remy Ma and French Montana, was released last Friday (Jan. 27). And tonight (Jan. 30), fans can watch Cole perform the single for the first time on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
The mid-tempo “You” finds a determined Cole declaring, “You just played me for the last time / I’m done f@#king with you / You picked the wrong one, baby.” It’s not a far leap to think perhaps that Cole is referencing past issues with her former husband Daniel Gibson. But “You” is just one of several semi-biographical tracks that the artist recently let Billboard listen to in a Hollywood studio as she completes recording of her yet-untitled seventh album.
“I feel like I’m just now getting over the fact that my marriage didn’t work,” Cole explains as she checks periodically on her young son playing in the next room. “I’m healing, however. And I’m not looking for any kind of substitute — another man, or alcohol — to help the healing or mask the pain I’ve been experiencing. I stopped drinking seven months ago, which is purifying my vocals. And” — she concludes with a laugh — “there’s been no sex either.”
Instead, the refocused singer has been busy collaborating with various songwriters and producers. Among the names Cole ticks off are: Elijah Blake (Rihanna, Usher), Harmony Samuels (who produced Cole’s top 10 R&B hit “Enough of No Love”), Gabrielle “Goldie” Nowee (Chris Brown, Christina Aguilera), Verse Simmonds (Brown, Justin Bieber), Detail (Beyoncé, Wiz Khalifa), Eric Bellinger (Usher, Selena Gomez) and Sam Hook (Mary J. Blige, Bieber).
“I’m trying to put everything into this album,” says Cole. “This is serious music; not something to just throw out there.”
Cole first gained national notoriety in 2005 with her RIAA-certified platinum debut album The Way It Is. That album, as well as the five after that, all debuted in the top 10 on the Billboard 200, while three hit No. 1 on Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, including Just Like You and A Different Me. Since her last project for Interscope/Geffen/A&M, 2014’s Point of No Return, Cole to date has sold 5.3 million albums, according to Nielsen Music.
The singer has also racked up 29 hits on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, including 12 top 10s and three No. 1s: “Let It Go,” featuring Missy Elliott & Lil Kim, “I Remember” and “Heaven Sent.” Over on the Billboard Hot 100, Cole has scored 15 entries, including three top 10 hits — as a featured artist on Sean Paul’s “(When You Gonna) Give It Up to Me” and Diddy’s “Last Night,” and as a lead artist on “Let It Go.”
Following Cole’s performance on Kimmel, fans can catch her next guest appearance on The Real on Feb. 7. In the meantime, the singer/reality show star (Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is, Keyshia & Daniel: Family First and Keyshia Cole: All In) says she’s appreciating this forthcoming album more than her last few.
“Those last few … People didn’t know how miserable I was,” Cole relates. “I was broken and pissed on my last album and had to get a lot of that out. As I work on this album, God is doing a lot of altering in my life. I’m just moving with the flow, living my life as I sing and create. And I have my son, so I’m good.”