K.Michelle fans are ride or die. The light raindrops didn’t hinder a crowd of mostly women from lining up outside of New York City’s B.B. King Blues Club & Grill two hours before last night’s show was scheduled to start. And that’s all without having an album or single on the Billboard charts.
It was clear last night that while much of the world became familiar with “K”–as she’s affectionately called–through Love and Hip Hop Atlanta, her diehard fans have been down since 2010’s “I Just Can’t Do This” and “Fallin.” With the hopes of a summer release for her debut album Rebellious Soul (Atlantic), the three years they’d patiently waited for a complete project finally seemed to be paying off. Women who reached every corner of the small, sold-out venue screamed when K.Michelle walked on stage, clad in a black leather jacket, white tank top, stonewashed jeans and black thigh high boots. Her long curly tresses swung side to side as she walked to greet the audience. Her co-star Ariane and Love and Hip Hop’s Yandy were there to show her love. K.Michelle may have had to learn the hard way about many things, but she knows that her fans are everything. “I promise to never disappoint y’all,” she says in her Southern accent as she tears up at the full house.
Backed by a phenomenal band, she sung the upbeat “You Gonna Learn,” which you’d only know if you’d been a fan since the beginning. “We gon’ sing a lot of songs and have fun,” she says cheerfully. The early part of the show was all about paying homage with a riveting rendition of Monica’s “Before You Walk Out My Life” and Brandy’s “I Wanna Be Down” and Mary J. Blige’s “Be Happy.” The crowd soaked up every word. And after covering one of Mary’s hits, it’s easy to see why the Memphis, TN singer is compared to the Queen of Hip-Hop and Soul. On whether she minds the comparisons–why would she?
“I used to but not really anymore because I think once people get into the musicality of the album and see different things because I am somewhat different,” she told us in an exclusive interview after the show. “How can you get mad about being compared to someone whose sold millions of records?”
The raw honesty K.Michelle pours into songs like “Can’t Raise A Man” are reminiscent of “Ain’t Really Love.” But before she launches into “Can’t Raise A Man,” two flat screen projectors displayed a photo of NY Knicks star J.R. Smith. Knowing the very public status of their relationship (or lack thereof), one could only laugh at the hilarity of the bold move.
One of the night’s standout moments was her performance of “I Don’t Like Me,” from her forthcoming album, a track that she describes as being “the most touching and sentimental” song she’s ever done. It’s about how a woman feels when she’s suffering from low self-esteem. The energy is palpable and the emotion in her voice gives you goosebumps.
“I think we all go through that,” K.Michelle confessed. “It doesn’t matter how happy you are, you have those days where you feel like you don’t like yourself…I wanted to touch on something that people aren’t bold enough to talk about.”
By the time “How Many Times,” “Can’t Do This” and “Kiss My A–” are crooned, the crowd was hype. With the exception of the latter, these are the songs that made them fans in the first place, the songs they stand up for if they were sitting down and the ones they proudly sing every word to. As a singer, K doesn’t take herself so seriously that she just sings her setlist and then exits stage left. She likes to joke, have fun and talk to the people. For fun, she sung a quick opera song and later said, “Thank you very much. That was the coochie symphony.” Although she was joking about the faux symphony name, the operatic notes she hit were no laughing matter. The chick has pipes for days. “Oh, I can do better than that,” she said backstage. “I started out doing opera and country music, doing yodeling.” Believe it or not, this southern woman has lots of love for country music. “Country music is my favorite genre.”
As a shoutout to her mother who was in the audience, K took the crowd to church with her cover of Mary Mary’s gospel song “Yesterday.” This writer raised in the Baptist church was ready to shout–something you’d only understand growing up in a Baptist church. After giving mom dukes her due props it was time to retire the heartbreak songs and move on to intimacy sans the love portion of the night. “F– love I want sex and the money/Watch me you can learn something from me,” she sang.
K.Michelle’s music is relatable to the women who can no longer relate to MJB (whose pain in the music disappeared once she married), and they’ve given up on Keyshia Cole making another “Love.” She’s been through some real life trials leaving for loads of material for the songs she mostly pens. “I don’t like singing about stuff I don’t know about. That’s like preaching people to people and you never went through it to preach about it.” To the core she’s a soulful R&B artist. But her versatility as a vocalist is why the fans see through her antics on TV (which seems to make them love her more). But they stay because of the music. To the ride or die devotees she is just like them. She sings what they can’t sometimes find the words to express but have felt. And that’s why they’ll stand in the rain two hours before showtime for a woman with no album.
[Photos: Jennifer Marigliano/VH1]