Raised in a strict Pentecostal household, Kelly Cherelle Price started singing as a youngster in church, where her mother was a musical director. First heard on Candi Staton's gospel album Standing on the Promises, the Queens native made greater inroads through secular music, beginning as a background vocalist for George Michael at Madison Square Garden. That 1991 performance led to several years of supporting Mariah Carey on-stage and in the studio, from Carey's 1992 MTV Unplugged performance up through the 1997 release Butterfly. At the same time, Price recorded background vocals for the likes of Frankie Knuckles, 112, the Isley Brothers, Puff Daddy, and the Notorious B.I.G. -- including "Mo Money Mo Problems" -- and stayed connected to gospel with supporting work for Sounds of Blackness and Keziah Jones.
Signed to the Isley Brothers' T-Neck label, which at the time was under the Universal-distributed Island label, Price emerged as a solo artist in 1998 with "Friend of Mine," more specifically with its soapy remix featuring R. Kelly and Ronald Isley. It topped Billboard's R&B/hip-hop chart and was a crossover hit, peaking at number 12 on the Hot 100. The single pushed the parent album Soul of a Woman, executive produced by Isley, to number 15 on the Billboard 200. Price was then featured (with Faith Evans) on Whitney Houston's "Heartbreak Hotel," a number two pop hit that was subsequently nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
As a consequence of the Universal-Polygram merger, Price moved to the roster of Def Jam's Def Soul subsidiary, and in 2000 returned with Mirror Mirror. That album yielded three Top 20 R&B/hip-hop singles, including an update of Shirley Murdock's "As We Lay," Price's second Grammy-nominated recording -- her first for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. Like the debut album, Mirror Mirror went platinum within months of landing. Price's Def Soul phase concluded after the 2001 holiday release One Family: A Christmas Album and the 2003 Top Ten album Priceless. The latter set's "He Proposed" was up for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. Also in 2003, Price was cast in the original stage version of Why Did I Get Married?, her first collaboration with Tyler Perry.
Price has gone on to record a mix of contemporary gospel and R&B with longer gaps between LPs. She set up her own label under GospoCentric to release the primarily self-produced 2006 album This Is Who I Am. Another revered gospel label, Malaco, supported her 2011 LP Kelly, which garnered four Grammy nominations: Best R&B Vocal Performance ("Tired"), Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song (both for the Stokley Williams collaboration "Not My Daddy"), and Best R&B Album. Next was Sing Pray Love, Vol. 1: Sing, which arrived through eOne in 2014 and became Price's sixth Top Ten entry on the R&B/hip-hop chart. A couple years later, Price was among the many voices of Kanye West's "Ultralight Beam," resulting in her eighth and ninth Grammy nominations. Instead of continuing the Sing Pray Love series, Price cut Grace, an EP, released in 2021 on Motown Gospel. ~ Andy Kellman, Rovi
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