Michel'le Is The Portrait Of A '90s R&B Star

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Michel’le
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 04: Singer Michel'le Toussaint attends the premiere of WE TV's "Marriage Boot Camp: Hip Hop Edition" at Liaison Restaurant on February 04, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Paul Archuleta/Getty Images)
A trailblazing powerhouse vocalist and unsung survivor.

The ‘90s is often referred to as the golden age of R&B, and for good reason. However, with so much quality music being churned out, maintaining a high profile isn’t easy. Nonetheless, it is entirely impossible to disregard the caliber of R&B talents that saturated the scene in that era. Take the alluring songstress Michel’le. Although she’s flown under the radar in recent times, her impact in the 90s was indelible. 

The R&B superstar had a successful career throughout the decade. The albums she dropped between 1989 and 1998 speak loud and clear. This is also despite not releasing any new albums since 1998. It is also unsure whether or not the music scene can wholly welcome Michel’le’s return. Regardless, she still continues to perform live. It has been nine years since her last single though, but her time in the spotlight was marked with great success.

Background

WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA - JANUARY 14: Michel'le Toussaint performs at Celebration Of Life With TV One's R&B Divas LA at House of Blues Sunset Strip on January 14, 2015 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Charley Gallay/Getty Images for TV One)

Michel’le Toussant was born on December 5, 1970 in Los Angeles, California. The singer grew up in Compton where she faced a challenging upbringing. During her early life, she had to deal with living in a tough neighborhood and working her way out. Michel’le's interest in music served as a form of escapism. She was determined to chase a career as a singer and leave Compton despite her limitations. At the age of 16, her world was positively upturned when she was discovered by rapper and record producer, Dr. Dre.

The Rapid Rise Of Michel’le

Michel’le caught the attention of Dr. Dre when recording a vocal part for his group World Class Wreckin' Cru, and her life changed from then on. In the late ‘80s, she became the first female artist signed to Ruthless Records, a label founded by Eazy-E. Under Dr. Dre’s guidance, Michel’le released her self-titled debut album in 1989. The album spawned several hit singles including “No More Lies,” which peaked at number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Other successful singles on the album include:  “Something in My Heart,” and the sleeper hit, “Nicety.” Michel’le was felt throughout the ‘90s and was certified Gold in the U.S. six months after its release.

She was also a featured artist on 2Pac’s song “Run Tha Streetz,” from his acclaimed 1996 album, All Eyez On Me. She also appeared on several other projects before taking a hiatus. Michel’le marked her return to the music scene with the release of her sophomore studio album in 1998, nine years after her debut. The album, Hung Jury, did not enjoy the level of success Michel’le did, however.

Michel’le & Dr. Dre

(Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Michel’le and Dr. Dre began dating soon after they met. They share a son, Marcel, born in 1991. However, it wasn’t all rosy concerning Michel’le and her relationship with Dr. Dre. Indeed, he changed her life by giving her a platform for her talents, but she also suffered a strained and abusive relationship with him, which included multiple instances of domestic violence. In an interview with VladTV, the singer spoke about his infidelity, as well as his physical violence.

“I was getting dragged on the floor… shot at,” she said. “He shot at me… and I left the bullet in the door.” While she admitted "he never tried to shoot her anymore," she did refer to the beatings as “a lot.” When asked about the movie Straight Outta Compton, which was widely anticipated at the time, Michel’le insisted she would probably not make it to the biopic. “Why would Dre put me in it?” she said. “I was just a quiet girlfriend who got beat up and told to sit down and shut up.”

Shortly after the movie was released, Dr. Dre shared a statement to the New York Times, apologizing to the singer. However, she felt as though it wasn't genuine. "He apologized to the public. I don't think that was an apology to me, because if it was, he would've either called me without the public and said 'Michel'le, I am so sorry for what I did to you 20-something years ago,' that's an apology," she told the Huffington Post. The following year, she narrated Lifetime's documentary, Surviving Compton: Dre, Suge & Michel'le, which explored her relationship with both West Coast moguls.

Vocal Style And Impact

Michel’le’s unique speaking style, characterized by her high-pitched and childlike voice, set her apart from other artists in the genre. Nonetheless, she could tame any audience with the vast size of her singing voice. Her vocals added a distinctive touch to the West Coast Hip Hop and R&B sound of the era. Consequently, that increased the appeal and intrigue of her sound, and music even further.

Her career may not have enjoyed the level of longevity she had the potential for. After her first child was born, Michel’le took time off from music, which was detrimental to her career. Despite it all, Michel’le definitely made her mark in the R&B music scene. She will always be regarded as a trailblazer in the genre, known for her unforgettable voice, and memorable songs.

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About The Author
Demilade Phillips has been a Features Writer for HotNewHipHop since 2023. The self-proclaimed music fanatic deals with most things Hip Hop and RnB, while also covering film, television, and the entertainment industry at large. When he’s not working, the International Relations graduate is either binging anime, immersing himself in the underground EDM scene, or crafting up original pieces.
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