Kelli Williams has always been ahead of her time. At age 16, when most girls' minds are racing with thoughts of driver's licenses, dream dates, and the perfect dress for the Junior Prom, Kelli was recording her first major label album. Before her 20 th birthday – with a second hit album, a top single and a coveted slot opening a 100-date tour for superstar CeCe Winans to her credit – it was obvious that Kellli was anything but your average adolescent.
But that was then, and her third and latest release, In The Myx, is most definitely now. Kelli, now 21 and married last year, is no longer a child prodigy. But having been nurtured through her youth by some of Gospel music's greatest talents, she emerges on In The Myx as a mature artist with a rock-solid grasp of who she is and the music she wants to make.
And she's still a striking, unmistakable step apart from the pack.
“In The Myx allows me, first and foremost, to express myself as a Christian,” says Kelli, “but also as a young person who wants to reach other young people with a message they need to hear, delivered in music they can relate to. I'll always draw from my traditional roots in different ways, but I think God is really doing a new thing in the way He's using contemporary music to reach the world.”
Under the sure hand of acclaimed R&B producers 5.0 and T.Boy – better known as recording artist Tonéx, who also wrote most of the album's cuts – In The Myx brings a solid, cutting edge mix of urban, groove and dance music to the modern Gospel table. The title song, as well as the hard-hitting “Fall Down 2000” and “Remyx Me”, might strike chords of recognition with fans of Janet Jackson, TLC and others , while the title song, “Over and Over” and “The Greatest” are powered by smooth-but smouldering funk and R&B. But as Kelli is quick to point our, each in its unique way resounds with messages of timeless Gospel truth.
“Fall Down” was a huge R&B hit for Tramaine Hawkins in the 80s” Kelli says, “and it hasn't lost a single bit of its impact and power since then. It's about God coming into your life and cleansing your heart. I just sang my heart out, and Tonéx added his own creativity to make it funky in a ‘2000-kind-of-way.' I've always loved the song, and I want a new generation to hear it. Plus, it's my tribute to Tramaine who has always been one of my major heroes.
“We went into the studio well-prepared for this album,” Kelli continues, “and I felt a sense of peace and assurance from the Lord about what we were undertaking. That turned out to be an even greater blessing than I'd realized at first when we cut ‘Remyx Me.' It's definitely out on the edge compared to anything else I've done before, and it's not a song where I use my ‘proper' voice. It demands performance with an attitude! It made me truly see that I have grown. I'm not ‘little Kelli' anymore…and that's a good thing. God wants us to grow! So we just went for it, and it came out very cool.”
“Over and Over” brings out a light-hearted side in Kelli and her producer. “This kind of R&B, ride-in-your-jeep, summertime song,” Kelli explains. “It's a good and godly thing to just look around you and take joy in the world and the life God has given you.”
The title cut carries a dual meaning that only serves to heighten its power musically and spiritually. “The actual mix of the song is crucial to the impact it has when you hear it,” Kelli says, “and being right in the mix of whatever God is doing in your life is crucial to your walk with Him. This was the first song we picked for the project, and it kind of set the tome for what was to come.”
Kelli was raised in a family that made music an almost inevitable career course. Her parents were in a touring Gospel group called the New World Singers, and after Kelli's birth her father led a popular act called Eddie Williams & Co which toured throughout her youth and make a number of successful Gospel recordings in the 70s. Kelli grew up wide-eyed and star-struck by the music business, and when her father gave her the mike during a break in one of his group's sessions, Kelli knew she found her destiny.
Singing in church and around the house for as long as she can remember, Kelli make her professional debut in 1988, at age 10, sharing a stage with Take 6 and Larnelle Harris, among other Gospel and pop luminaries. By her mid-teens Kelli had already been a featured artist on a number of high-profile recordings, and logged an impressive three consecutive wins on Ed McMahon's Star Search '93, which led to her own recording contract, and her self-titled debut album in 1995.
Today, even as In The Myx ushers Kelli into a bold new phase of her career, she freely admits that her strength has come from a source much bigger than herself. “I'm just like anybody else, “ she concluded. “My natural tendency is to pretend to be in control. But in my lifetime alone I've seen more that enough to know that God will never forsake me…that He loves me , and that love is unchanging and eternal. Above anything else, that's what I wanted to tell people when I was 16, and it's still what I want them to know now. The music may change, but His love goes on and on forever.”
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