AKA Tonya Michelle Johnston
Birthplace: Kansas City, MO
Race or Ethnicity: Multiracial
Sexual orientation: Straight
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Skin Deep
The middle child between two brothers, Solé (born Tonya Johnston) grew up as a tomboy in Kansas City and developed an interest in hip-hop in her early teens, adding a third generation to the line of female vocalists in her family. At 15 she became part of the rap duo Divine and began working the local talent show circuit, eventually resulting in an invitation to the BRE conference in 1989. By the following year's conference, interest had grown enough so that record contracts were being offered to the pair; Solé's father, however, decided that none of the offers were appropriate for such young performers, and so the girls returned home unsigned, continuing for a while as a local act before abandoning the group in favor of college. While continuing her studies, Solé supported herself through a variety of jobs that included stints at the phone company and running a spa for a beatuy salon. Plans to attend Howard University and re-launch her music career were deferred in favor of starting a family, and for the next several years her creative expression was confined to her private life.
In 1997 Solé made the decision to pursue music once again, but potential opportunities in both Los Angeles and Atlanta proved to be false starts. Her ambitions as a rapper were finally given some forward momentum when the latter attempt led to an invitation from producer Chris "Tricky" Stewart to return to Atlanta and contribute to the track Who Dat by J. T. Money: almost a year passed before the track was released, but when it did it became a reasonable hit and resulted in a surge of attention for both performers. A deal with DreamWorks was secured and subsequently resulted in her 1999 debut release Skin Deep. Largely produced by Stewart and featuring numerous guest appearances, the album spawned the single 4,5,6, which was given video form by ex-porn director Gregory Dark and went on to become ASCAP's Female Rap Song of the Year.
Outside of Skin Deep and its associated singles, Solé's output has thus far been restricted to guest appearances on the records of other artists such as Kane & Abel, Tyrese, and Before Dark. Contributions to several tracks by R&B singer Ginuwine -- whom she married in 2003 and with whom she has two children -- have also been made. A move was made from the less-than-supportive DreamWorks to Stewart's label RedZone in 2002.
Father: James Johnston
Mother: Phyllis Poke
Brother: Sean Johnston
Brother: Charles Johnston
Sister: Sierra Johnston
Sister: Tamika Johnston
Husband: Ginuwine (rapper, m. 2003)
Daughter: Story (b. 2001)
Daughter: Dream Sarae Lumpkin (b. 2002)
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