ARTIST WATCH: Kierra Valencia “Kiki” Sheard


Kierra Valencia “Kiki” Sheard (born June 20, 1987) is an American gospel recording artist. She is the daughter of gospel singer Karen Clark Sheard (member of gospel singing group The Clark Sisters) and the granddaughter of gospel choral director Mattie Moss Clark.

Born in Detroit, Michigan and raised in the suburb of West Bloomfield, Sheard spent her formative years surrounded by the influences of her family, their faith, and their music. At age 6, she began singing in the choir at Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ, pastored by her father Bishop J. Drew Sheard. Even at a young age, Sheard had a preternatural grip on the signature “Clark sound” pioneered by her mother and aunts, executing high and fast melismas, riffs, runs, and deep, throaty growls sometimes referred to as “squalls” (the latter is prominently displayed on “Done Did It”, a traditional gospel leaning track from her album I Owe You).

Sheard made her professional stage debut at the age of 10 performing on two tracks on her mother’s debut solo album Finally Karen in 1997. One of those songs was “The Will Of God”, penned by Evangelist Richard “Mr. Clean” White as the standout closing track. The song won a Stellar Award for Best Children’s Performance the following year. In the years following, she honed and matured her skills as a performer and vocalist. Kierra started singing as a background vocalist for her mother, her aunt Dorinda Clark-Cole, and The Clark Sisters. In 2002, Kierra was featured on her aunt Dorinda’s self-titled debut album. The following year, she performed two tracks again on her mothers’ third album, The Heavens Are Telling. On The Heavens Are Telling, she was featured with her mother on a popular cover of Jill Scott’s He Loves Me (Lyzel In E Flat). In 2003, EMI Gospel won a bidding war between several record companies to sign Kierra to her first recording contract.

Her debut album I Owe You was released on September 7, 2004. The 11-track set included production and songwriting from such notable music luminaries as Rodney Jerkins, Warryn Campbell, Erica and Tina Campbell of Mary Mary, J Moss, and Tonéx. The album also functioned as the production debut for her brother J Drew.

The following year, EMI commissioned a collection of remixes entitled Just Until… on August 2, 2005. The title of the stopgap release was abbreviated from its working title “Just Until The Next Record”. The album had a surprise international hit in The Godson Concept remix of “Let Go”. The upbeat gospel single, released only in Japan, raced to the top of mainstream R&B charts and remained there for several weeks.

Shortly after graduating high school, Sheard readied her second album This Is Me. It debuted at #1 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart when it was released June 27, 2006. A midtempo fan favorite, the Fred Jerkins III-produced “Why Me?” was chosen as the lead single for the album. Sheard shot her first music videos for two subsequent singles from the album, “Yes” and “This Is Me”. The album was Grammy Award-nominated for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album in December 2006.
In addition to performing at the 2007 Stellar Awards (“Why Me?”), Sheard appeared on BET’s Celebration of Gospel standing in for pregnant Faith Evans in “Endow Me” (as popularized by Sheard’s aunts) along with Coko, Lil’ Mo, and Fantasia. Sheard also sang with her mother for A Tribute to Aretha Franklin.

In October 2008, Sheard released her third album, Bold Right Life. The album spawned the two lead singles “Praise Him Now” and “Won’t Hold Back”. Sheard was also featured on what would be the biggest single of her career to date, “God In Me”, from Mary Mary’s The Sound album.

In January 2009, Sheard appeared at the BMI Trailblazers performing “Jesus Is a Love Song” as a salute to her aunt, Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark.

Sheard released a greatest hits EP entitled KiKi’s Mixtape on September 22, 2009. The EP included 3 new unreleased songs, 2 remixes, singles from previous albums and “This Christmas” with Marcus Cole.

Kierra had a role in Preacher’s Kid (starring platinum-selling R&B artist LeToya Luckett, Durrell Babbs, Clifton Powell, Gregory Alan Williams, Sharif Atkins) which was released in theaters across the U.S. on January 29, 2010 and was released on DVD and Blu-ray disc on May 4, 2010.

Kierra Sheard’s fourth album, titled Free, was released on October 18, 2011. This, being Kierra’s 1st album on her family’s gospel label, Karew Records (pronounced Kuh-Rue). Originally scheduled for a July 2011 release, the album was leaked and subsequently pushed back and reformatted with a different tracklisting. The album features Kierra’s BRL (Bold Right Life) Choir.
Personal life

Kierra Sheard is a graduate of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan where she received her bachelors degree in English with a minor in Psychology. Though her touring schedule has been curbed to accommodate her academic goals, Sheard did embark on a Japanese tour with her mother Karen Clark-Sheard in August 2006.[citation needed]
Discography
Albums

2004: I Owe You
2006: This Is Me
2008: Bold Right Life
2011: Free

Compilations

2005: Just Until…
2009: KiKi’s Mixtape

Artist Watch: Andy Mineo

At just 17, Andy Mineo was living a dream; he had money, local fame and the respect of his peers. But while attending college in NYC, he finally faced the music—neither was the key to life.

Andy, formerly known as “C-Lite,” grew up in a single parent home in Syracuse, New York. Without any positive male figures around, at a young age, he struggled with profanity, submission to authority and physical aggression. With his conduct becoming uncontrollable, Andy was removed from the public school system and placed in behavioral modification centers. But change was on the horizon.

The summer before entering the 8th grade, Andy attended a Christian camp where his sister served as a counselor. While there, he heard the gospel preached clearly, cried out in desperation for Jesus to forgive him and experienced “some pretty unforgettable prayer sessions that really rocked [him].” Andy came home with a love in his heart for people that he once hated, and knew he was changed. But, he also came back to no home church, no community, no bible study and no mentors. So, as he rode his spiritual high into the ground and neglected to fan the flame that had begun, his relationship with God was compromised. His heart wasn’t set on pursuing Christ; instead, music and status had become his focus.

While in middle school, he began recording in his mom’s house and was buying new pieces of equipment with birthday money. Eventually, he started selling studio time out of his closet; before long, he was a sophomore in high school running a lucrative business out of his mother’s basement recording and producing hundreds of artists in Upstate New York. He had also started a rap group with a few friends that led to a deal with Syracuse University’s Marshall Street Records, which gave them the opportunity to open up for the major acts that performed at SU. As a solo MC, Andy became well known in the underground freestyle rap scene for winning battle competitions during high school and his freshman year in college. Adding to his resume, he also excelled in athletics—thriving in football, basketball and lacrosse throughout high school.

Unfortunately, all of the success and recognition only led him away from God and towards greater sin. Headed for the big lights of New York City to attend college, stardom and rebellion seemed inevitable. But while taking a piano class his freshman year, Andy met Alex Medina (producer of “Background,” “The invasion (Hero)” and many other Reach tracks) who invited him to check out T.R.U.C.E. (an urban ministry that focused on evangelism via performing arts). He soon got connected with others, was discipled and the Lord began to deal with him more deeply concerning sin patterns in his life. After hearing Da Truth’s “Price Tag” song, he vowed to shut down his recording studio and never use his gifts to help record music that did not honor God. He lost all his business and income, but he found his new identity in Christ.

Armed with a new purpose, Andy spent several months traveling with T.R.U.C.E. and sharing the Gospel in some of the most poverty-stricken and drug-infested neighborhoods in the U.S. He went on to release Sin is Wack Vol. 1, which caught the attention of Lecrae and many others. To his credit, he has since been featured on Rehab, Flame’s Captured, Tedashii’s Blacklight, Ambassador’s Stop the Funeral and many other notable projects. While his introduction to a larger audience came through his vocals on Lecrae’s “Background,” and he continues to pen melodic choruses, rapping remains his passion and focus for future projects.

Entering a new season in his life, Andy decided to drop his stage name, C-Lite, in favor of his birth name; it symbolizes his aim to live out everything off stage that he pours out through his art on stage. He recently graduated from City College of New York and currently serves on the board as a leader of a new church plant in Washington Heights. He is also leading weekly small groups and men’s groups at his apartment, traveling on the weekends to minister and working on his highly anticipated debut album. Once divided in his ambitions, Andy has resolved to love the Lord with all his heart, soul, strength and mind—no compromise.