With a powerful voice, modern production, and a fresh, accessible image, Briana Babineaux (known to fans simply as Bri) represented a younger generation of fans of worship music. Born in Hawaii and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, Babineaux was raised by a single mother and spent much of her childhood in church, where she started singing in a gospel choir at the age of five. Fifteen years later, she was atop the Billboard gospel charts with her debut album. In 2012, she enrolled at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, studying criminal justice. During her junior year, a friend secretly posted a video of Babineaux singing Tonex's "Make Me Over Again" to YouTube. The cover went viral and attracted the attention of Marquis Boone Enterprises. She signed with MBE and released her debut EP, I'll Be the One, in June 2015. Her 2016 full-length debut, Keys to My Heart, included inspirational R&B-tinged gospel, hip-hop flourishes ("Love You Forever," written by Uncle Reece), and even intense rock edges ("Jacob's Song" and "I'm Desperate" with Sha' Simpson). Produced by Korey Bowie (Angie Stone, Casey J) and featuring songwriting assistance from Bryan Andrew Wilson, the album was recorded before a live studio audience of family, friends, and fans at Atlanta's Doppler Studios. It was the first album to debut at the top of the Billboard gospel charts without the aid of radio and television or previous sales, selling 5,000 copies in its first week. ~ Neil Z. Yeung
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