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The Way It Is

These days, a major-label R&B album debut can be a predictable enterprise. Former M.C. Hammer backup singer Keyshia Cole certainly nails all the basics on The Way It Is: big-name guest talent (Kanye West, Eve) and husky ballads lamenting those tricky matters of the heart. But Cole’s street-savvy Oakland, Calif., upbringing gives her vocals depth and her songs a genuine, lived-in feel.

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