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Faith Evans

Date of birth : 1973-06-10
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Lakeland, Florida
Nationality : American
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2011-01-05

Faith Renée Evans is an American singer-songwriter, record producer, actress and author. Born in Lakeland, Florida, and raised in Newark, New Jersey, Evans moved to Los Angeles in 1993 for a career in the music business.

After working as a backing vocalist for Al B. Sure, and Christopher Williams, she became the first female artist to be signed to Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs' Bad Boy Entertainment label in 1994, on which she released three platinum-certified studio albums between the years of 1995 and 2001. In 2003, she left the label to sign with Capitol Records.

A multi-talented singer and musician, Faith Evans experienced tragedy when her life was touched by the violence that plagued the hip-hop music community through the mid-1990s. She became widely known as the woman who was married to rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered in March of 1997. Her performance on "I'll Be Missing You," the smash hit tribute to the slain rapper recorded by Evans and Sean "Puffy" Combs, made her voice identifiable even to Americans who were unacquainted with hip-hop. However, Evans had worked hard to develop her music career before marrying The Notorious B.I.G., and her two solo albums gained wide acclaim and garnered strong sales. By the late 1990s, it seemed clear that her solo career would outlast the controversies in which she had become embroiled.

Evans was born in Florida around 1973. Both of her parents had a background in music. Her mother, Helene, was singing backup in a rock band when Faith was born, and her father was a white musician in the same band. When her parents broke up six months after her birth, Evans was brought to Newark, New Jersey, to be raised by a cousin, Johnnie Mae Kennedy. Her mother also moved into the Kennedy house. Both women, as well as Kennedy's husband Orvelt, became important people in Evans's life.

Could Listen Only to Gospel

Evans's upbringing was strongly religious. She told Interview magazine writer Dimitri Ehrlich that she was not allowed to listen to the radio unless gospel programming was featured. It was at Newark's Emanuel Baptist Church that she began to develop her love of performing, singing for the first time there at the age of four. "When she got older and sang, people would just stand up and shout," Helene Evans told Essence writer Valerie Wilson Wesley. Later, Evans would credit the Clark Sisters and Shirley Murdock as the gospel singers who had a major influence on her own vocal style.

Evans was an honors student at Newark's University High School. She studied jazz and classical music and appeared in school musicals. She also competed in beauty pageants and won the title of Miss New Jersey Fashion Teen. Evans won a scholarship to New York's Fordham University and planned to work toward a marketing degree. However, she dropped out of Fordham after one year to pursue a musical career. Evans also gave birth to her daughter, Chyna, during this time.

Met the Notorious B.I.G

As a talented vocalist, Evans was quickly able to find work in the music industry. A distinctive songwriter who has composed many of the pieces found on her own albums, she wrote music and did backup vocal work for such major talents of the early 1990s as Mary J. Blige and Al B. Sure. In 1993, her studio vocal work gained the attention of Bad Boy Records chief executive Sean "Puffy" Combs, whose own career was just beginning its meteoric rise. Evans met with Combs and became the first female vocalist signed to the Bad Boy label. At a Bad Boy event in July of 1994, she met The Notorious B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, and who often went by the name Biggie Smalls. After dating for only two weeks, Smalls and Evans were married.

Evans contributed vocals to Smalls's first hit single, "One More Chance," and her debut album, Faith, was released in 1995. From the start, Evans's romantic stylings were a stark contrast to the combative nature of hip-hop. As Ehrlich remarked in Interview magazine, "her music balances the rawness and aggression of hip-hop with old school arrangements; she makes sexuality elegant in a way none of her peers can." Evans began work on a second album, and her life and career seemed to be firmly on track.

It didn't take long, however, before the problems that plagued the "gangsta" rap community began to engulf Evans. In October of 1995, she worked with Death Row Records rapper Tupac Shakur. Rumors circulated by Shakur and his friend, Death Row chief executive Suge Knight, linked Evans and Shakur romantically. Shakur also claimed that he was the father of Evans's second child, a son. These rumors added fuel to an escalating war of words between Smalls and Shakur, who were the focal point of a much-publicized feud between East Coast and West Coast rap artists. Evans and Smalls saw little of each other, and their marriage soon deteriorated. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas, and Smalls met the same fate on March 9, 1997. It is unknown whether the enmity between Shakur and Smalls led directly to their deaths. Asked by Ehrlich in Interview whether Smalls's murder was related to the feud, Evans answered, "I doubt that very seriously."

Added Voice to Tribute

Stunned by the death of Smalls and the demanding task of managing his estate, Evans put her music career on hold. She did contribute vocals to "I'll Be Missing You," a song created by Evans and Combs as a tribute to Smalls. The recording, an imaginative recasting of the 1982 Police hit "Every Breath You Take," ended with Evans breaking into an old gospel hymn, "I'll Fly Away." "I'll Be Missing You" was one of the biggest hits of 1997, and soared to the top of the black and pop music charts.

Evans slowly began to put her life back together. A blossoming relationship with record company executive, Todd Russaw, brought her the stability she needed. Russaw and Evans married and he became the father of her third child, Joshua, who was born in 1998. A heart-shaped tattoo that read "B.I.G." was refashioned into a rose with her new husband's name. Evans also returned to the recording studio and completed work on her second album, Keep the Faith, which was released in October of 1998.

Keep the Faith, which referred indirectly to the trials Evans had experienced, was a huge commercial success. Critics loved the music and noted a new depth in Evans's voice, with some even comparing her to legendary soul divas Minnie Riperton and Chaka Khan. The album rose to Number Three on Billboard magazine's Top R&B Albums chart and to Number Six on its overall Top 200. In the spring and summer of 1999, Evans embarked on a tour with leading acts Dru Hill and Total. Washington Post writer Craig Seymour reveled in Evans's "angelic yet hearty soprano," and noted that "her rendition of `Soon As I Get Home' was an awe-inspiring melismatic ride that had hands in the air and cries of `Sing it, girl' coming from every part of the hall." Evans's life itself had been an awe-inspiring and often terrifying ride, but it once again seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

Career

Hip-hop vocalist and composer. Performed backup vocals for R&B stars Mary J. Blige, Al B. Sure, and others, early 1990s; signed to Bad Boy label, 1994; released debut album, Faith, 1995; with Sean "Puffy" Combs recorded "I'll Be Missing You," tribute song in honor of Smalls, 1997; released Keep the Faith, 1998.

Studio albums

* Faith (1995)
* Keep the Faith (1998)
* Faithfully (2001)
* The First Lady (2005)
* A Faithful Christmas (2005)
* Something About Faith (2010)
* Faith 2 (2011/2012)

Filmography

* Turn It Up (2000)
* The Fighting Temptations (2003)
* BLONDIE: The Florence Ballard Story (2011)



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