Keyshia Cole Discusses How Tupac Didn’t Want Her on Death Row Records, MC Hammer’s Involvement in Her Career

R&B star Keyshia Cole has been in the game since 2005. That year, she released her first mainstream single “I Changed My Mind,” a Kanye West-produced track.

Since then, Cole’s dropped seven studio albums, performed around the world, and she remains one of the genre’s most beloved voices. There were a few people who had a hand in her musical journey, including Tupac Shakur and MC Hammer.

Keyshia Cole
Keyshia Cole | Gabe Ginsberg/Getty Images

Keyshia Cole started singing at a young age

Cole didn’t always aspire to be a singer. Before learning she was great at it, she wrote and performed raps as a kid. One of her friends encouraged her to sing and she started getting serious about it at age 9 or 10. Determination led to her meeting MC Hammer at age 12 with the hopes of him helping with her music.

During a 2015 interview with The Bang Box, Cole said she and her best friend used to call his record label daily to request a meeting. After a while, that persistence paid off and he agreed to listen to their demo.

That was the beginning of her entry into the industry, and MC Hammer is the one who introduced her to Suge Knight and the team at Death Row Records. Hammer and Knight were working together on Tupac’s All Eyez on Me album.

RELATED: You Won’t Believe Who Owns Suge Knight’s Death Row Records Now

Cole says Tupac steered her away from Death Row Records

Cole reminisced about working with Tupac during an Instagram Live interview with Fat Joe. She originally met Tupac not long after she met Hammer, and they stayed in contact for a couple of years.

By 1996, Cole had her family’s support and she was interested in signing with Death Row. But Tupac advised against it.

She told Fat Joe that at the time, he was dating Kidada Jones and they both agreed that Death Row “was not a place for kids.” Cole was about 15 or 16 years old. She said that Tupac planned to leave Death Row to sign with Quincy Jones’ label and he wanted to bring her along for a deal.

Cole told Fat Joe she and Tupac had plans to work on music together, and the last discussion they had about it was on the night he got shot in Las Vegas.

It was 1996, and she was there along with her brother (who used to rap with Tupac), friends, and others from Death Row. She later wound up signing with A&M Records.

Cole and Tupac did a posthumous collaboration

Although Tupac didn’t get the chance to team up with Cole in the way he intended, the collaboration still happened. Afeni Shakur, Tupac’s mom, agreed to arrange for his voice to appear on 2008’s “Playa Cardz Right.”

The single was featured on Cole’s album A Different Me, with Tupac’s vocals borrowed from recordings for his All Eyez on Me project. Afeni Shakur also appeared in the video with Cole which featured images of the late rapper.

Cole later sampled some of his lyrics for “Ride,” a track from her 11:11 album.