Kandi Burruss: From Xscape to 'Housewives'

"The Real Housewives of Atlanta" newcomer Kandi Burruss achieved success long before her foray into reality TV. As the Grammy-winning performer prepares to say her final goodbye to former fiance Ashley "A.J." Jewell, we trace her journey from singer to songwriter to television star.

ESSENCE.COM Oct, 07, 2009

1 of 23 Jennifer Cooper

“The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s” Kandi Burruss achieved success long before her foray into reality TV. Here, we trace her journey from singer to songwriter to television star.

2 of 23 Columbia Records

We first met Kandi via the Atlanta R&B quartet Xscape. Through Jermaine Dupri’s So So Def label, the group released their debut album, “Hummin’ Comin’ At ’Cha,” in the fall of 1993.

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Xscape’s first single, “Just Kickin’ It,” led by Kandi, bumped from coast to coast, making the ladies bonafide music stars. “Lay back, kick it, and enjoy the ride.”

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“Off the Hook,” the group’s sophomore album, introduced a sexier, more mature Xscape. The throwback ballad “Who Can I Run To” peaked at No. 8 on the Hot 100 charts in 1995.

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The ladies returned to the scene in 1998 with the release of “Traces of My Lipstick.” One of the album’s best tracks, “My Little Secret,” an ode to infidelity, peaked at No. 8 on the Billboard charts. Many people don’t know that was Kandi hitting those high notes.

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After “Traces of My Lipstick,” Kandi left Xscape to focus on her songwriting career. She has penned songs for Mariah Carey, Destiny’s Child, Alicia Keys, Boyz II Men, NSYNC, Usher and Whitney Houston.

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Doing her own thing, Kandi released her solo album, “Hey Kandi,” in September 2000 on Columbia Records. Though the album wasn’t a huge success, it gave Kandi a taste of solo stardom.

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Having penned such hits as “No Scrubs” (TLC) and “Bills, Bills, Bills,” (Destiny’s Child), Kandi nabbed the ASCAP Rythm & Soul Music Award for Songwriter of the Year from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers in 2001. She became the first woman in history to achieve the honor. Here she is speaking at an ASCAP event with Ludacris and his manager Chaka Zulu.

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The singer, songwriter and single mom enjoys a night out on the town at the 1st annual Dirty Awards in November 2005 in Atlanta. Kandi’s daughter Riley is 9.

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Kandi catches up with Avant at an event in Atlanta in 2005. A respected songwriter, Ms. Burruss is often sought out by some of music’s biggest stars.

Kim Zolciak says “Housewives” vow to be there for Kandi »

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Kandi and “Law & Order” star Anthony Anderson say cheese at Snoop Dogg’s “Ego Trippin’” album release party in NYC in March 2008.

12 of 23 Bravo

Fans were surprised to hear she joined the cast of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” She told ESSENCE.com she was already considering reality TV when producers of the show called. “It was a strategic move [to build buzz around my upcoming projects],” she said.

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Kandi with Sheree, NeNe, Kim and Lisa at the launch party the second season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

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On the show, we watched Kandi and Ashley “A.J.” Jewell’s love grow, despite her mother’s disapproval. Sadly, on October 2, 2009, A.J. died after a fight with a business associate. “I’m devastated by A.J.’s death,” Kandi wrote in a statement to ESSENCE.com.

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Kandi faced trying times late last year, but as she says in her song, “I fly above it all.”

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Kandi quickly became the crowd favorite on “Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Perhaps it’s her easy breezy nature.

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Kandi swapped her blonde for red earlier this year. Love the new look!

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We love the berry colored dress on Kandi.

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Kandi Burruss walks the red carpet at the 2010 BET Awards.

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Kandi’s latest single "Leave You. is released exclusively on ESSENCE.com. Tell us what you think…

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ATLANTANOVEMBER 27: Left to Right: Rasheeda and Kandi attend the Laced Up and Prriya and Chintans Diamonds, Solitaire Kicks event at the Prriya & Chintans Boutique on November 27, 2007 in Atlanta, United States. (Photo by Moses Robinson/WireImage)