As she grew up in Providence, R.I., with her five siblings, Blu Cantrell
was toted from one jazz performance to another to watch her mother sing. From that point forward, she knew what she wanted to do, and began auditioning for vocal gigs and displaying her dynamic alto at talent shows. On a visit to Atlanta in 2000, Cantrell
played her demo tape for A&R executive Tab and producer C. Stewart (aka Tricky) of RedZone Entertainment. They were so impressed that they immediately provided studio work to the young singer, and she sang backgrounds for artists including Gerald Levert, Faith Evans, Puff Daddy, and Aaron Hall. Meanwhile, Cantrell
began recording tracks for what would ultimately become her first full-length album. Upon hearing the cut "Till I'm Gone," L.A. Reid, the CEO and president of Arista Records, signed Cantrell
. Before the release of the full-length, the single "Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)" occupied the number two position on the Hot 100 list. The buzz was out and Cantrell
was invited to perform on national television programs. Her full-length debut, 2001's So Blu
, reached the Top Ten on the album charts. Her next record, 2003's Bittersweet, didn't perform as well on the charts but did earn Cantrell
a Grammy nomination for best R&B album.