Who Is K. Michelle?

The 2023 CMA Awards came to a resounding close when Jelly Roll and K. Michelle took the stage belting out The Judds‘ classic, “Love Can Build a Bridge.” While Jelly Roll’s passionate vocals were a standout, he also allowed his duet partner to shine. The performance was a highlight of the show, with Michelle letting her powerful voice fly during her CMA Awards debut. Though she’s spent more than a decade building a career in R&B and hip-hop, Michelle plans to commit her focus to country music full-time. So who is this powerhouse vocalist?

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Singer & Reality Star

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Michelle’s life path has been anything but straight and narrow. During childhood, she was trained by professional vocal coach Bob Westbrook (whose previous clientele consisted of Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake), in addition to learning to play piano and guitar. Interestingly enough, her yodeling abilities earned her a music scholarship to Florida A&M University and she originally had plans to attend law school before dedicating her focus to music full-time.

In the mid-2000s, she established her career in R&B music with “Fakin’ It,” a collaboration with Missy Elliott which was released as a single off her 2010 mixtape, What’s the 901? It was followed by singles “Fallin'” and “I Just Can’t Do This” in preparation for her debut album, which was ultimately scrapped when Jive Records was absorbed into RCA Records in 2011.

Michelle found her big break when she joined Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta in 2012 during the first season and quickly became a fan-favorite cast member. She was a mainstay in seasons one and two, her popularity on the show revitalizing her music career. In 2013, she dropped her debut album, Rebellious Soul, via Atlantic Records. The album debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart. Both singles, “V.S.O.P.” and “Can’t Raise a Man” were Top 30 hits on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart.

[RELATED: Review: Dolly Parton, Lainey Wilson & More Shine on ‘A Tribute to The Judds’]

After two seasons on Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, Michelle appeared on the fourth season of Love & Hip Hop: New York before returning to Atlanta for season five. Amid her reality TV show career, which includes her own show K. Michelle: My Life, and stints on Love & Hip Hop Live: The Wedding and L.A. Hair, Michelle has released half a dozen studio albums. Her first three, Rebellious Soul, Anybody Wanna Buy a Heart? and More Issues Than Vogue all occupied the No. 1 position on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and the Top 10 on the Billboard 200.

Her latest endeavor, I’m the Problem released in September 2023, marks her departure from R&B and hip-hop before pursuing a full-time country career. The move to country isn’t completely shocking, as part of Michelle’s musical identity was shaped by the legendary duo The Judds, who she’s been a fan of since childhood.

Michelle and Jelly Roll teamed up with the legendary Fisk Jubilee Singers on a cover of “Love Can Build a Bride,” the closing track on the 2023 album, A Tribute to The Judds. According to producer Brent Maher, Jelly Roll expressed genuine excitement about working with Michelle, citing himself as a longtime fan who’d been wanting to work with her for a while.

“I am a writer and I think people really love me as an artist for my writing. I started to hear the stories that were being told and just how they work,” Michelle explains of how country music and The Judds impacted her as a songwriter. “[The Judds] reminded me of me attitude-wise. Being a writer, you pay attention to lyrics and what they do and how they make you feel.”

Over the years, Michelle has also appeared on songs by Jason Derulo, Nick Cannon, Trina, and others.

Photo by Terry Wyatt/Getty Images

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