Kierra 'Kiki' Sheard
At only 18 years old, Kierra “Kiki” Sheard is both wise and talented, far beyond her years. The granddaughter of the late Dr. Mattie Moss Clark, roundly credited as one the defining influences in the history of Gospel music, and daughter of Rev. J Drew Sheard, and Karen Clark-Sheard, a founding member of Gospel legends the Clark Sisters, and a celebrated solo artist for the last decade, Kiki is not only the first of the “next generation” of Clarks, but one who is, of even greater significance, reshaping the very face of modern Gospel, just as her mother and aunts did before her.
The title of her second and latest release, This Is Me, speaks quite well for itself. While giving a reverential nod of respect to her forebears, and delivering a couple of knockout, R&B ballads (the album’s title cut, and “Hear This”), Kiki moves into a very hip, urban pocket, delivering her messages through the modern, up-to-the-minute R&B and hip-hop language of today.
Under the sure, hit-making hands of several producers, including Dark Child Production’s Fred Jerkins (Brandy, Destiny’s Child, Michael Jackson, Kirk Franklin, Trin-i-tee 5:7), Warryn Campbell (Dru Hill, Queen Latifah, Mario, Sisqo, Brandy, Mary Mary), and her younger brother, J. Drew, Kiki and This Is Me delivers a sound that will captivate ears, minds, hearts and souls—as well as capture the airwaves—for a long time to come. The CD is also being released in a Special Edition format, which will include the entire album plus five bonus cuts and an alternate mix of the title song.
“I called the album This Is Me because it’s more of the music me and my friends listen to,” says Kiki. “I grew up in the church, hearing and singing traditional Gospel, which I still love and will always be a big part of who I am. But when the Clark Sisters, then later, artists like Kirk Franklin, and Mary Mary stepped out and put the Gospel message to a contemporary sound, a lot of people, particularly the young, realized this was music they could relate to, and when they were then willing to give it a listen, the message started getting through as well.”
Other This Is Me stand-outs include “You’re the Only One,” a slammin’ slice of hip-hop with a bone-rattling bottom end, which, in Kierra’s own words, “Basically says, `Lord, you are the one who always keeps me, and sustains me, and I’m going to praise you for all the miraculous things you’ve done in my life.’”
“Faith,” masterfully produced by Kiki’s extraordinarily gifted producer, J. Drew—her 16-year old brother—sports a cool, retro-soul vibe. “I love that neo-soul sound… Tye Tribbett, Jill Scott, Balil, ” says Kiki. “I got the idea for this song from one of my father’s messages on faith. It really hit me, and sunk in, and this song just arose from that.”
Kiki had an exciting surprise when a copy of her debut album, I Owe You, was passed from someone in the international division of her record label, EMI, to a disc jockey in Japan. Her song “Let Go” became a national hit, leading to a gold album in Japan, setting a precedent in the gospel music industry and embarking on a career of a international dimension.
Kierra was born and raised in Detroit, into a solid, Godly household, surrounded by great music, teaching and preaching. When she began singing in church at the age of six, the full and extraordinary extent of her talents became immediately apparent. With both technique and a presence extraordinary in one so young, Kiki made her recording debut landing her first Stellar-award ,when she was nine, singing a duet with her mother on “The Safest Place,” from Karen Clark-Sheard’s chart-topping album, Finally Karen.
The popularity of “The Safest Place,” and the warmth of the mother/daughter interaction conveyed in the accompanying music video, led to Kierra’s stage debut when she was only 10, as she would often travel with her mother on tour to join her onstage for the song before audiences that numbered in the thousands. It’s hardly surprising that by her teens, Kiki was pointed toward a career in music of her own, though academics have also always been high on her priority list.
Dividing her time today between her musical career and studies as a freshman at Wayne State University in Detroit—where she plans on majoring in law, and perhaps specifically criminal law—Kierra’s calendar is more than full, which is just the way she would have it be, with a heavy emphasis on ministry and outreach in anything and everything she does.
“My highest hope, in ministry and music, is simply for it to continue and grow,” says Kiki. “I want to be able to travel around the world, and draw people not because `Kiki is coming to town,’ but because I hopefully have a powerful ministry, and the Lord is using me to reach out to people who haven’t yet found Christ.
“I want people to know I go through the same things they go through,” she concludes, “ and that’s why I’m able to write and sing the songs I do. And I want to go wherever I’m called to go. I hope people will always think of me, and one day remember me, as someone who always did her best to accomplish the Lord’s work.”
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