Blu Cantrell (born Tiffany Cobb; March 16, 1975) is an American R&B and soul singer-songwriter.
Cantrell rose to fame in 2001, with the release of her debut single, "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)", which peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and topped the US Mainstream Top 40 chart, along with charting across several countries and being included in her debut album, So Blu. The song earned Cantrell a Grammy Award nomination. In 2003, Cantrell released her second album, Bittersweet, which was nominated for a Grammy Award and resulted in the single "Breathe" (featuring Sean Paul). Written and produced by Ivan Matias, "Breathe" was a major success worldwide in 2003, topping the European Hot 100 Singles and the UK Singles Chart for four consecutive weeks and also reaching the top ten of several other charts across the world.Tiffany Cobb was born in Providence, Rhode Island. Her father is of Narragansett, Cape Verdean and African American ancestry. Her mother, Susi Franco, a former "Mrs. Rhode Island", was an actress, and jazz vocalist. She also has French, Scottish, English, and German ancestry. Cantrell's parents split when she was a child, and she and her five siblings—Adam, Tino, Nick, Kelli, and Summer—were raised by her mother.
In the late-1990s, Cantrell established as a professional backing vocalist for artists such as Sean "Diddy" Combs. In 1999, she became member of the girl band 8th Avenue, a protegé of singer Teddy Riley. While the band recorded several songs and appeared on Blackstreet's 1999 album Finally, their material was left unused after Riley left Blackstreet to reform his previous group Guy and Blackstreet were subsequently dropped by Interscope Records, also leading to 8th Avenue's disbandment. Soon after, Cantrell was introduced by both a dancer friend and R&B singer Usher to Red Zone Entertainment head, music producer Tricky Stewart. Stewart originally wanted her to became a member of his girl group 321, but soon offered Cantrell to work with her as a solo artist following a fruitful recording session. Cantrell subsequently moved in with Stewart and his girlfriend in their Atlanta house, and was promptly placed with Arista Records head Antonio "L.A." Reid who offered the singer a contract with the company after hearing one song she wrote and sang in front of him and his staff. After a bidding war with several different labels, Reid's bid was the highest, prompting Cantrell to sign with them.
2001-2004: So Blu and Bittersweet
After her signing with Arista, Cantrell went straight into recording sessions with Dallas Austin and Stewart as well as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. In July 2001, her debut album, So Blu, was released. The record earned generally favorable reviews from critics and became a commercial success, particularly in North America, where it peaked at number eight on the US Billboard 200. It was eventually certified gold by both the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and Music Canada. The album's lead single "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" became a top ten hit in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the Netherlands and peaked at number two on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song earned Cantrell Grammy Award nominations for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance and for Best R&B Song, as well as an American Music Award nomination for Favorite Soul/R&B New Artist, both in 2002. Also in 2002, Cantrell was featured in a small cameo role in the Charles Stone III's musical comedy-drama film Drumline, where she could be seen singing the American national anthem, while her song "It's Killing Me (In My Mind)" was included on the soundtrack of the 2002 action comedy film Bad Company.
In 2003, Cantrell released her second album, Bittersweet which featured production from musicians Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs, Mike City, Soulshock & Karlin, and Shep Crawford. As with her debut, the album garnered a positive reception from critics, even earning her a Best R&B Album nomination at the 46th Grammy Awards, but was less successful in the United States, peaking at number 37 on the Billboard 200. The album was released to bigger success internationally, where sales were boosted by its hit single "Breathe", a collaboraton with rapper Sean Paul. Her highest-charting single yet, it became a number-one hit in Ireland and the United Kingdom and reached the top ten of the majority of charts it appeared on, ranking among the biggest-selling release of the year. "Breathe" was followed by the top thirty single "Make Me Wanna Scream". That same year, Cantrell was slated to appear in Playboy magazine, but decided against it at the last minute.
2005-presentCantrell in 2008.
In 2005, following the formation of the joint venture of BMG and Sony Music Entertainment, Arista merged with J Records and began operating under the newly formed RCA Music Group. At about the same time, Cantrell's recording deal was up for renewal and though she was in a position to re-sign with the label, the singer chose to leave the company following the resignation of her mentor L.A. Reid. The following years, she toured intensively as a free agent. In 2007, Cantrell starred alongside LisaRaye and Kenya Moore in the musical stage play Gossip, Lies and Secrets which ran from September until November 2007. The following year, she appeared in NBC's Celebrity Circus. Cantrell became the first celebrity to be eliminated from the show in the season's second week.
In 2012, Cantrell confirmed that she was working independently on her third studio album. In December 2016, she told Fuse that she was still working a new album.
Cantrell was taken into custody by police for a psychological evaluation on September 3, 2014. She was seen running around the streets of Santa Monica at around 2 am, screaming that someone had "poisoned her with gas." Cantrell, according to witnesses, went 'berserk' and referred to herself as a "one-hit wonder," questioning authorities if they recognized her; when her "erratic" behavior failed to cease, someone called the police. She was taken to a nearby hospital and was evaluated by medics.
DiscographyMain article: Blu Cantrell discography
- So Blu (2001)
- Bittersweet (2003)
Awards and nominations
- American Music Awards
|2002||Herself||Favorite Soul/R&B New Artist||Nominated|
- Grammy Awards
|2002||"Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)"||Best Female R&B Vocal Performance||Nominated|
|2004||Bittersweet||Best R&B Album||Nominated|