Soul fans have long believed that to authentically sing the blues, one has to have lived them. Listening to R&B singer Ketara "Keke" Wyatt, 28, wail on Who Knew? (Shanachie), the Indianapolis native's first full-length project in nearly a decade, it's apparent that the statuesque performer has survived a few trials since her 2001 debut, Soul Sista (MCA). In the ensuing years, much of Wyatt's suffering has been fodder for gossip blogs – from domestic violence to Wyatt's adamant, and technically accurate, demands that she be identified as a "mixed race" woman.
Unperturbed, Wyatt has continued to push forward. "What God has for you is for you; this is what God has for me," says Wyatt, who despite the nine-year stretch between albums, "always just knew it was a matter of time."
Plenty of time – and two failed record deals with TVT and Cash Money Records – has elapsed since fans last heard Wyatt's pipes. She was an overnight sensation at 18, when she and crooner Avant recorded two platinum-selling duets, including "Nothing in this World." A protégé of famed producer Steve "Stone" Huff, Wyatt had the proper backing, looks, talent and the hits needed to realize pop success.
But shortly after the release of her gold-selling debut, everything collapsed for the 21-year-old Wyatt. In an apparent act of self-defense, Wyatt stabbed her husband/manager, Rahmat Morton, five times during an argument on Christmas day, 2002. The case was dismissed and Wyatt stayed with Morton eight more years, bearing him two more children despite claims of persistent abuse.
"I was a young girl, dumb, blind and in love. I had a child and did what I thought was best," says Wyatt, who's since changed her tone. "It took me 10 years to realize that's not how a lady should be treated. If you can get out, get out."
With a new record deal and buzzworthy performances, like her recent outing at NYC's Sol Village, Wyatt says she's relishing her second chance at life and a music career. A wiser Wyatt may have learned how to sing the blues, but she's no longer living them.