By Sadé Carpenter
At age 7, Kaye Fox already knew what she wanted to be when she grew up – a singer. What she didn’t know though, is she would end up singing background vocals for mainstream artists Nas, Common, Rick Ross and Kanye West.
Fox’s foray into music began at west side school St. Malachy. Overheard in music class, she was asked later to sing at Sunday mass.
“I had to stand on a stool to sing and the response was so, so overwhelmingly good,” said Fox. “I instantly felt like, ‘this is probably what I’m supposed to do.’”
Now 27, Fox is pursuing her passion. Born Kim Jefferson in Charleston, S.C., Fox’s family moved to Chicago when she was 4. She grew up listening to gospel, mimicking her favorite artists to teach herself how to sing.
Fox sang in her church choir as well as gospel and concert choirs at her high school, Proviso West in Hillside. She said she is grateful for being able to attend a school with a diverse performing arts program.
“That was key to giving me an expanded knowledge on music,” Fox said.
In high school, Fox started a professional relationship with Chicago producer No I.D. (Dion Wilson), now Executive Vice-President of Def Jam Recordings. No I.D. wanted to get Fox a songwriting/production deal, she said, but the project fell through because of administrative changes.
While working with his production team Fox gained vocal credits on several albums, including Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (“Lost in the Word”), Common’s “The Dreamer, The Believer” (“Sweet”), and Rick Ross’ “Teflon Don” (“Tears of Joy”). She also provided background vocals for “Daughters” by Nas, which was nominated for Grammy awards in Best Rap Performance and Best Rap Song.
“Her resume is ridiculous,” said Ticara Davis, a Columbia College graduate who assisted Fox with marketing and promotional strategy in 2011. “It’s great to be around someone who’s always working and who is still relevant in music.”
Currently living in Los Angeles, Fox is working on an EP with producers DJ Emmaculate and Shabazz Curtis. She plans to release the project at the beginning of 2014, followed by a full-length album mid-year. Fox is also performing at Mi Casa Holiday, an entertainment event in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, this weekend.
Listeners can expect to hear R&B soul with a hip-hop edge on the upcoming EP. More than a singer, Fox also writes most of her own lyrics. She said it is sometimes challenging to work in an industry where other people attempt to dictate her image or sound.
“When you’re giving your vision…you have to be very adamant about what it is you see yourself doing,” Fox said. “I’ve been blessed to have a team around me that gets who I am and what I want to be.”
DJ Emmaculate (Eric Welton) said he started working with Fox in 2009, and produced her 2012 single, “She Can Have You.” They have a great working chemistry, he said, and he calls Fox the “harmony computer” due to her ability to arrange complicated harmonies quickly.
“I can honestly say she is a pleasure to work with,” said Welton. “She has a great working personality and a very humble spirit. She has her own stroke of genius in what she does.”
Fox has enormous natural talent and the work ethic to match, according to Welton. He said she is disciplined and dedicated, and the lyrical content in her songs has substance.
“I’m just a girl from Chicago who struggled and finally got to the point where I understood that anything I want, I can really have,” Fox said. “I feel like music is going to be the vehicle that takes me around the world.”