ESSENCE: Were you always going to be a solo artist?
KEYSHIA COLE: Well, actually, I was gonna be in a group with these two girls. We were in Los Angeles and we were working with Damon Elliot, who is Dionne Warwickâ€™s son, and he was like, â€œKeysh, if you wanna sign with the girl group, you can; but Iâ€™ll sign you solo.â€ And I was like, Iâ€™d rather be solo because I do everything in the group anyway. Theyâ€™re just pretty. We were gonna get, like, a $30,000 advance and split it ten/ten/ten; but I figured, “Why should I give them my $20,000 when I can get it myself?” So I told them, â€œIâ€™m sorry, but I canâ€™t.â€ Then I recorded a couple songs with Damon and one of them was (the hit single) â€œLove.â€
ESSENCE: Early in your career you went to Los Angeles and met legendary music producer Suge Knight and Tupac Shakur. What was that like?
COLE: My brother was close with Pac, he got records with Pac and everything. And Pacâ€™s mother is really cool with my brother and me. So to me, Pac was just like a big brother. That time was like one of the biggest moments in history, and I saw everything. I was with them in Malibu and Vegas and I stayed in the â€œbig houseâ€ by myself. I knew the world, the whole industry, everything. I was only fourteen.
ESSENCE: You recently got out of a serious relationship. Howâ€™s that been?
COLE: After my ex-boyfriend told me to go on and live my life, I saw him at a place with another girl. I was pissed! I tried to rip her head off. Then he was like, â€œDude, you broke up with me.â€ But thatâ€™s just what it is.
ESSENCE: Your sister, Neffeteria, who plays a big part in your BET reality show, The Way It Is (premiering October 30), seems to have had a pretty difficult life. What advice do you give her?
COLE: Iâ€™ve told her, â€œYou need to work on you.â€ After going through so much, you really gotta worry about yourself first. Everything else is secondary. Everything else. Husband, kidsâ€¦well, not the kids, â€™cause she takes care of those babies very well. But really, you gotta work on yourself first. If you donâ€™t, you ainâ€™t gonna be able to deal with people.
ESSENCE: How do you feel about constantly being compared to Mary J. Blige?
COLE: I feel like we are very similar based on everything weâ€™ve been through in our personal lives. Itâ€™s helped make us sing the way we sing. Because she didnâ€™t have a vocal coach, and neither did I. And when I met her I told her, â€œYou winning all those Grammyâ€™sâ€”congratulationsâ€”it gives me inspiration to this day that maybe I can do the same thing.â€ You know, itâ€™s just a real big life circle. I think there are a lot of things that she could tell me thatâ€™d help me. Iâ€™m not trying to take nobodyâ€™s place or nothing like that. But Iâ€™m just saying, as a womanâ€”as a young Black womanâ€”if she knows some of the answers, Give â€™em to me!â€ (Laughing.) But she said that I could call her anytime. I just havenâ€™t done it yet.