Don’t be fooled by Chrisette Michele’s bubbly demeanor. The Long Island, New York, native takes her music seriously, handpicking projects based on their content, not their ability to generate money or airplay.

Michele, who once sang backup for India.Arie and did the hook on Jay-Z’s “Lost One,” has had countless offers to do hooks for other artists who covet her infectious vocals. But, faithful to her Christian upbringing, the deacon’s daughter has turned many of them down.

“Not everyone gets the chance to speak their mind and have people listen,” Michele, 24, says. “What’s the point of talking about subjects that aren’t going to uplift?” On I Am, her debut disc which was released last summer, she tackles such topics as love, relationships and even abstinence, with the help of überproducers Babyface, and Kanye West.

Loading the player...

“My music isn’t preachy, but I won’t make anything that’s uncomfortable for young girls,” she says. “I want to be a role model.”

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Def Jam