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Evans, Faith 1973(?)–

Faith Evans 1973(?)

Vocalist, songwriter

Could Listen Only to Gospel

Met the Notorious B.I.G.

Added Voice to Tribute

Selected discography

Sources

A multi-talented singer and musician, Faith Evans experienced tragedy when her life was touched by the violence that plagued the hip-hop music community through the mid-1990s. She became widely known as the woman who was married to rapper The Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered in March of 1997. Her performance on Ill Be Missing You, the smash hit tribute to the slain rapper recorded by Evans and Sean Puffy Combs, made her voice identifiable even to Americans who were unacquainted with hip-hop. However, Evans had worked hard to develop her music career before marrying The Notorious B.I.G., and her two solo albums gained wide acclaim and garnered strong sales. By the late 1990s, it seemed clear that her solo career would outlast the controversies in which she had become embroiled.

Evans was born in Florida around 1973. Both of her parents had a background in music. Her mother, Helene, was singing backup in a rock band when Faith was born, and her father was a white musician in the same band. When her parents broke up six months after her birth, Evans was brought to Newark, New Jersey, to be raised by a cousin, Johnnie Mae Kennedy. Her mother also moved into the Kennedyhouse. Both women, as well as Kennedys husband Orvelt, became important people in Evanss life.

Could Listen Only to Gospel

Evanss upbringing was strongly religious. She told lnterview magazine writer Dimitri Ehrlich that she was not allowed to listen to the radio unless gospel programming was featured. It was at Newarks Emanuel Baptist Church that she began to develop her love of performing, singing for the first time there at the age of four. When she got older and sang, people would just stand up and shout, Helene Evans told Essence writer Valerie Wilson Wesley. Later, Evans would credit the Clark Sisters and Shirley Murdock as the gospel singers who had a major influence on her own vocal style.

Evans was an honors student at Newarks University High School. She studied jazz and classical music and appeared in school musicals. She also competed in beauty pageants and won the title of Miss New Jersey Fashion Teen. Evans won a scholarship to New Yorks Fordham University and planned to work toward a marketing degree. However, she dropped out of Fordham after one year to pursue a musical career. Evans also gave birth to her daughter,

At a Glance

Born in Florida ca. 1973; daughter of Helene Evans, a singer; hnnie Mae Kennedy, and Kennedys husband Orvelt. Married Christopher Wallace, also known as Biggie Smalls, 1994; widowed 1997; children Chyna, Christopher Jordan, Joshua. Education: graduated with honors from University High School in New Yark; attended Fordham University in New York. Religion: Baptist.

Career: Hip-hop vocalist and composer. Performed backup vocals for R&B stars Mary J. Blige, Al B, Sure, and others, early 1990s; signed to Bad Boy label, 1994; released debut album, Faith, 1995; with Sean Puffy Combs recorded Ill Be Missing You, tribute song in honor of Smalls, 1997; released Keep the Faith, 1998,

Addresses: Record label -Bad Boy Records, 8 W, 19th St., New York, NY 10011.

Chyna, during this time.

Met the Notorious B.I.G.

As a talented vocalist, Evans was quickly able to find work in the music industry. A distinctive songwriter who has composed many of the pieces found on her own albums, she wrote music and did backup vocal work for such major talents of the early 1990s as Mary J. Blige and Al B. Sure. In 1993, her studio vocal work gained the attention of Bad Boy Records chief executive Sean Puffy Combs, whose own career was just beginning its meteoric rise. Evans met with Combs and became the first female vocalist signed to the Bad Boy label. At a Bad Boy event in July of 1994, she met The Notorious B.I.G., whose real name was Christopher Wallace, and who often went by the name Biggie Smalls. After dating for only two weeks, Smalls and Evans were married.

Evans contributed vocals to Smallss first hit single, One More Chance, and her debut album, Faith, was released in 1995. From the start, Evanss romantic stylings were a stark contrast to the combative nature of hip-hop. As Ehrlich remarked in Interview magazine, her music balances the rawness and aggression of hip-hop with old school arrangements; she makes sexuality elegant in a way none of her peers can. Evans began work on a second album, and her life and career seemed to be firmly on track.

It didnt take long, however, before the problems that plagued the gangsta rap community began to engulf Evans. In October of 1995, she worked with Death Row Records rapper Tupac Shakur. Rumors circulated by Shakur and his friend, Death Row chief executive Suge Knight, linked Evans and Shakur romantically. Shakur also claimed that he was the father of Evanss second child, a son. These rumors added fuel to an escalating war of words between Smalls and Shakur, who were the focal point of a much-publicized feud between East Coast and West Coast rap artists. Evans and Smalls saw little of each other, and their marriage soon deteriorated. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was murdered in Las Vegas, and Smalls met the same fate on March 9, 1997. It is unknown whether the enmity between Shakur and Smalls led directly to their deaths. Asked by Ehrlich in Interview whether Smallss murder was related to the feud, Evans answered, I doubt that very seriously.

Added Voice to Tribute

Stunned by the death of Smalls and the demanding task of managing his estate, Evans put her music career on hold. She did contribute vocals to Ill Be Missing You, a song created by Evans and Combs as a tribute to Smalls. The recording, an imaginative recasting of the 1982 Police hit Every Breath You Take, ended with Evans breaking into an old gospel hymn, Ill Fly Away. Ill Be Missing You was one of the biggest hits of 1997, and soared to the top of the black and pop music charts.

Evans slowly began to put her life back together. A blossoming relationship with record company executive, Todd Russaw, broughther the stability she needed. Russaw and Evans married and he became the father of her third child, Joshua, who was born in 1998. A heart-shaped tattoo that read B.I.G. was refashioned into a rose with her new husbands name. Evans also returned to the recording studio and completed work on her second album, Keep the Faith, which was released in October of 1998.

Keep the Faith, which referred indirectly to the trials Evans had experienced, was a huge commercial success. Critics loved the music and noted a new depth in Evanss voice, with some even comparing her to legendary soul divas Minnie Riperton and Chaka Khan. The album rose to Number Three on Billboard magazines Top R&B Albums chart and to Number Six on its overall Top 200. In the spring and summer of 1999, Evans embarked on a tour with leading acts Dru Hill and Total. Washington Post writer Craig Seymour reveled in Evanss angelic yet hearty soprano, and noted that her rendition of Soon As I Get Home was an awe-inspiring melismatic ride that had hands in the air and cries of Sing it, girl coming from every part of the hall. Evanss life itself had been an awe-inspiring and often terrifying ride, but it once again seemed to be on an upward trajectory.

Selected discography

Faith, Bad Boy, 1995.

Keep the Faith, Bad Boy, 1998.

Sources

Books

Larkin, Colin, ed., The Guinness Encyclopedia of Popular Music, Muze U.K., 1998.

Periodicals

Ebony, April 1999, p. 52.

Essence, December 1997, p. 74.

Interview, December 1998, p. 112.

Washington Post, April 12, 1999, p. C5.

James M. Manheim

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Evans, Faith

Faith Evans

Singer

For a woman who was perhaps known more for being the wife of the infamous rapper the late Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans has managed to become a musical success in her own right. Evans was born in Lakeland, Florida, to an Italian musician father, Richard Swain, who left her before she was born, and an African-American blues-singing mother, Helene Evans. Raised by her mother and grandparents in Newark, New Jersey, Evans got her start singing in the church. At age four, she caught the attention of the congregation of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Newark when she sang "Let the Sunshine In."

Her grandparents' influence served her well. Evans was an honor student at University High School, appeared in musicals there, and was named Miss New Jersey Fashion Teen. "I was raised in a very, very Christian home," Evans told i-D magazine in a 1998 interview. "It was church, school, church, school. I could hardly go to the corner of my block. It was strict." At 18, she won a scholarship to Fordham University in New York City to major in marketing. After a year, she left to have her first child, a daughter named Chyna, fathered by producer Kiyamma Griffin. She then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her singing career, and did so with her mother's blessing. "I felt she could always go back to school," Helene Evans told People in 1998. "Because her mind wasn't going to be there. It was going to be on her music." She was in Los Angeles doing backup vocals and working with Al B. Sure!, Mary J. Blige, and Pebbles when she caught the ear of famed R&B producer Sean "Puffy" Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy. It was rumored that when he first heard Evans sing, he described her voice as feeling "like rain." He signed her to his label, Bad Boy, in 1994 as the label's first female artist.

Evans met then-up-and-coming gangsta rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G., better known as Biggie Smalls, at a photo shoot in August of 1994. Both barely 21, they married nine days later. "He was charming and funny," Evans told People in 1998. "We both said 'I want to marry you,' and did it." And from that moment on, the two were plagued by controversy. There was the misconception that Evans rode her husband's coattails to fame. In truth, she had already signed the Bad Boy record deal, but her debut, Faith, was released months after his in 1995. There were Wallace's flaunted infidelities with rapper Lil' Kim, and rumors of a romance between Evans and rapper Tupac Shakur, which Shakur made claims to on an album.

Evans's debut, however, met with critical success. She was likened to Minnie Riperton and Chaka Khan. Her influences were gospel singers like Shirley Murdock and Karen Clark-Sheard of the Clark Sisters. "Where some of R&B's male players sound like medieval courtiers with their carefully scripted protestations of adoration," i-D magazine wrote in 1998, "Faith's generous and easy meditations of love feel unconditional." In 1995 Faith went platinum.

In 1996 Evans and Wallace separated. Early in 1997 Wallace was gunned down in a Las Vegas drive-by shooting. Ironically, the two had seen each other earlier that same night, but hadn't spoken. The next time she saw him, it was to identify his body at the morgue. "I don't even remember my reaction," Evans told People of the killing. "It was just blank." In the ensuing months she gave birth to their son, Christopher Jr., and at 24, the newly widowed mother of two had her family as well as her late husband's legal issues to attend to.

Evans's next musical project turned out to be a collaboration between herself, Combs, and the group 112, also on Bad Boy. It was a multi-million selling tribute to Notorious B.I.G., called "I'll Be Missing You." The single topped Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B charts, and won a 1997 Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group.

By the fall of 1998, "Rap's most famous widow," as she was called by Ebony, was ready to release her second album. Keep the Faith was released in October and met with mostly critical success. Newsweek's Allison Samuels called it a "lush mixture of thoughtful love songs and boogie downbeats. Evans' edgy church-choir voice and soulful delivery make it clear she was born to sing the blues." And Lynn Norment of Ebony was just as positive: "Evans continues to let her honey-coated voice and heart-felt lyrics tell her stories of love and loss and triumph over heartache and adversity." Craig Seymour's 1998 review of Keep the Faith for the Village Voice praised "Faith's airy yet strong soprano," although he also wrote that he felt the self-written songs from her first album were better suited to her voice.

"Faith Evans is about as close as these letters are pressed together to breaking bad as the next really big thing in R&B and pop," wrote Chuck Taylor for Billboard in 1999. And that seemed to echo industry sentiment. Puff Daddy had given her a strong start, but Evans seemed primed to blaze her own trail.

In 2003 Evans's new husband and manager, Todd Russaw, helped her negotiate an exit from Bad Boy Records. She signed with Capitol, and began working on a new album. However, in 2004 she and Russaw were pulled over in Hapeville, Georgia, where a police officer found marijuana and cocaine in the vehicle. Although Evans later denied that there was cocaine in the car, she did admit to possession of marijuana. She told Aliya S. King in Vibe, "I'll be the first to admit I've experimented with drugs. I don't have to go into detail. I've tried a few things. AmIadrug addict? No. I'm living responsibly, not recklessly." As a result of the arrest, Evans and Russaw agreed to complete a 13-week drug rehabilitation program; when they completed the program in May of 2004, the charges were dropped.

In 2005 Evans released The First Lady, described by King as "arguably her best work since her classic self-titled 1995 debut." On the album, Evans did not shy away from the complexities and difficulties of her life; one single, "Again," even addressed the reports of her drug habit that had spread after her arrest. DeAnne M. Bradley wrote in the Virginian Pilot that on this album, Evans "unveils a wiser sound," and in the Newark, New Jersey, Star-Ledger, Jay Lustig commented that the album was "polished but warm, and often reminiscent of '70s soul classics by groups like the Stylistics and the Chi-Lites."

Though Evans is moving on in life, she is aware that her fans can't seem to stop talking about her past. She told Angus Batey in the London Times, "The turbulence in my career is what people grasp onto. It's not something that I'm ever going to get away from. All I can do is be me and let people know that this is the person I am, not who I was made out to be for whatever reason."

For the Record …

Born in 1973, in Lakeland, FL; daughter of Helene Evans and Richard Swain; married rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls or Notorious B.I.G., 1994; widowed 1997; married Todd Russaw, 1998; children: (with Kiyamma Griffin) Chyna; (with Wallace) Christopher Jr.; (with Russaw) Joshua. Education: Attended Fordham University in NY.

Moved to Los Angeles to pursue singing career, 1992; signed by Bad Boy Entertainment label, 1994; released debut, Faith, 1995; released Keep the Faith, 1998; left Bad Boy, 2003; signed with Capitol Records, released The First Lady, 2005.

Awards: Grammy Award (with Sean Combs and 112), Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group, for "I'll Be Missing You," 1997.

Addresses: Record company—Capitol Records, 150 5th Ave., New York, NY 10011. Website—Faith Evans Official Website: http://www.faithevansonline.com.

Selected discography

Faith, Bad Boy, 1995.

Keep the Faith, Bad Boy, 1998.

The First Lady, Capitol, 2005.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, October 3, 1998; November 7, 1998; January 16, 1999.

Ebony, March 1998; January 1999.

i-D Magazine, December 1998.

Newsweek, November 9, 1998.

People, October 26, 1998; November 16, 1998.

Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), April 3, 2005, p. O10.

Time, November 8, 1998.

Times (London, England), April 30, 2005, p. 17.

Vibe, June 2005, p. 95.

Village Voice, December 1, 1998.

Virginian Pilot, April 8, 2005, p. E8.

Online

"Faith Evans," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 5, 1999).

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Evans, Faith

Faith Evans

Singer

For the Record

Selected discography

Sources

For a woman who was perhaps known more for being the wife of the infamous rapper, the late Notorious B.I.G., Faith Evans managed to become a musical success in her own right. Evans was born in Lakeland, Florida to an Italian musician father, Richard Swain, who left her before she was born, and an African-American, blues-singing mother, Helene Evans. Raised by her mother and grandparents in Newark, New Jersey, Evans got her start singing in the church. At age four, she caught the attention of the congregation of the Emmanuel Baptist Church in Newark when she sang Let the Sunshine In.

Her grandparents influence served her wellEvans was an honor student at University High School, appeared in musicals there, and was named Miss New Jersey Fashion Teen. I was raised in a very, very Christian home, Evans told i-D magazine in a 1998 interview. It was church, school, church, school. I could hardly go to the corner of my block. It was strict. At 18, she won a scholarship to Fordham University in New York City to major in marketing. After a year, she left to have her first child, a daughter, Chyna, fathered by producer Kiyamma Griffin. She then moved to Los Angeles to pursue her singing career, and did so with her mothers blessing. I felt she could always go back to school, Helene Evans told People in 1998. Because her mind wasnt going to be there. It was going to be on her music. She was in LA doing backup vocals and working with Al B. Sure!, Mary J. Blige and Pebbles when she caught the ear of famed R&B producer Sean Puffy Combs, a.k.a. Puff Daddy. Its said that when he first heard Evans sing, he described her voice as feeling like rain. He signed her to his label, Bad Boy, in 1994 as the labels first female artist.

Evans met then-up-an-coming gangsta rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G., and even better known as Biggie Smalls, at a photo shoot in August, 1994. Both barely 21, they married nine days later. He was charming and funny, Evans told People in 1998. We both said I want to marry you, and did it. And from that moment on, the two were plagued by controversy. First, there was the misconception that Evans rode her husbands coattails to fame. In truth, shed already signed the Bad Boy record deal, but her debut, Faith, was released months after his in 1995. Then, Wallaces flaunted infidelities with rapper Lil Kim, and rumorswhich Evans maintained were falseof romance between Evans and rapper Tupac Shakur, which Shakur made claims to on an album. He was a good person but definitely not ready for marriage, Evans said in the same People interview. I tried my best to be a good wife for as long as I could take the disrespect.

Evans debut met critical success. She was likened to Minnie Riperton and Chaka Khan. Her influences were gospel singers like Shirley Murdock and Karen Clark-Sheard of the Clark Sisters. Where some of R&Bs male players sound like medieval courtiers with their carefully scripted protestations of adoration, i-D magazine wrote in 1998, Faiths generous and easy meditations of love feel unconditional. In 1995, Faith went platinum.

In 1996, Evans and Wallace split up. Early in 1997, he was gunned down in Las Vegas drive-by shooting. Ironically, the two had seen each other earlier that same night, but hadnt spoken. The last time they did speak was on the telephone and that ended with the two hanging up on each other. The next time she saw him, it was to identify his body at the morgue. I dont even remember my reaction, Evans told People of the killing. It was just blank. But I pulled it together and dealt with it with dignity. Although she had three tracks completed for her follow-up release at the time of Wallaces death, she was too burdened by estate and legal issues, as well as giving birth to the couples son, Christopher Jr., to spend any time in the studio. At age 24, the newly widowed mother of two had her own, and her late husbands, business to attend to.

Evans next musical project turned out to be a collaboration between herself, Combs, and the group 112, also

For the Record

Born 1973 (in Lakeland, FL); daughter of Helene Evans and Richard Swain, raised in Newark, NJ; married rapper Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls or Notorious B.I.G., August 1995; widowed March 1997; children: Chyna, born 1992, Christopher Jr.(with Biggie Smalls), and Joshua born 1998. Education: Attended Fordham University in NY.

Moved to Los Angeles, 1992, to pursue singing career; signed by Sean Puffy Combs record label, Bad Boy Entertainment, 1994; released debut, Faith, 1995; released Keep the Faith, 1998.

Awards: Platinum certification for Faith, 1996; Grammy award for Ill Be Missing You, with Combs and 112, 1997.

Addresses: Record company Bad Boy Entertainment, 8 W. 19th St., 9th floor, New York, NY 10011-4206.

on Bad Boy. It was a multi-million selling tribute to Notorious B.I.G. called Ill Be Missing You. The single topped Billboards Hot 100 and R&B charts and won the 1997 Grammy award for best rap performance by a duo or group.

By the fall of 1998, Raps most famous widow, as she was called by Ebony, was ready to release her second album. Keep the Faith was released in October and met with mostly critical success. Newsweeks Allison Samuels called it a lush mixture of thoughtful love songs and boogie downbeats. Evans edgy churchchoir voice and soulful delivery make it clear she was born to sing the blues. And Lynn Norment of Ebony was just as positive: Evans continues to let her honey-coated voice and hear-felt lyrics tell her stories of love and loss and triumph over heartache and adversity. Craig Seymours 1998 review of Keep the Faith for the Village Voice was glowing, as well. Faiths airy yet strong soprano sounds like the dreams you believe in standing at the altar, committing yourself before God, although he did go on to say that her self-written songs from her first album suited her voice better.

Faith Evans is about as close as these letters are pressed together to breaking bad as the next really big thing in R&B and pop, wrote Chuck Taylor for Billboard in 1999. And that seemed to echo industry sentiment from all aroundPuff Daddy had given her a strong start, but Faith Evans seemed primed to blaze her own trail.

Selected discography

Faith, Bad Boy, 1995.

Keep the Faith, Bad Boy, 1998.

Sources

Periodicals

Billboard, October 3, 1998; November 7, 1998; January 16, 1999.

Ebony, March 1998; January 1999.

i-D Magazine, December 1998.

Newsweek, November 9, 1998.

People, October 26, 1998; November 16, 1998.

Time, November 8, 1998.

Village Voice, December 1, 1998.

Online

Faith Evans, All-Media Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (January 5, 1999).

Brenna Sanchez

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Evans, Faith

FAITH EVANS

Born: Lakeland, Florida, 10 June 1973

Genre: R&B

Best-selling album since 1990: Keep the Faith (1998)

Hit songs since 1990: "You Used to Love Me," "Love Like This," "I Love You"


With a popularity ranking second only to that of Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans rose in the 1990s to become one of the most successful female performers in hip-hop. Possessing a strong, supple voicehushed and intimate in its lower register and powerful on high notesEvans brings to her performances a personal intensity rare among contemporary R&B artists. Much of her work is tinged with a perceptible sense of loss, a quality likely informed by her turbulent personal history: She is the widow of famed rapper the Notorious B.I.G., who was murdered in 1997. While Evans's career has often threatened to become overshadowed by this tragedy, by the early 2000s she had effectively freed herself from the controversy, releasing acclaimed albums and finding happiness with her new husband, record producer Todd Russaw.

Evans's early life gave little indication of the hardships that would follow in later years. Growing up in Newark, New Jersey, Evans sang gospel music in church and was a high school honor student, singing frequently in her school's plays and concerts. After graduation she earned a full scholarship to study marketing at Fordham University but left college after one year to pursue her dream of becoming a professional musician. By the early 1990s, Evans had found steady work as a backup singer and songwriter, contributing to Mary J. Blige's noted album, My Life (1994). Evans's work on the album brought her to the attention of producer Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, who made her the first female artist signed to his Bad Boy label in 1995. Evans's debut album, Faith, appeared the same year and featured hits such as "You Used to Love Me" and "Soon as I Get Home." The album provides the first evidence of Evans's unique style; alternating soft, breathy phrasing with rough-hewn testifying that recalls her gospel upbringing, she infuses hip-hop with a soaring air of spirituality.

In 1995 Evans met the Notorious B.I.G., also known as Biggie Smalls, and married him after a courtship of nine days. Although the couple gave birth to a son, Christopher Wallace Jr., their relations had become tense by mid-1996: Smalls became publicly involved with rapper Lil' Kim, while Evans was rumored to have shared a liaison with Smalls's rival, rapper Tupac Shakur. In September 1996, Shakur was shot to death in a drive-by shooting, and, in an example of the increasingly public nature of violence in the rap world, Smalls met a similar fate just six months later. Although an aggrieved Evans was featured on Combs's hit tribute to Smalls, "I'll Be Missing You" (1997), she otherwise retreated from the spotlight for the next year. In 1998 she returned with her second album, Keep the Faith, which includes the infectious dance hits "Love Like This" and "All Night Long." On ballads such as "Never Gonna Let You Go" and "Lately I," Evans displays an impressive ability to build emotion throughout a performance, shaping her songs with honesty and passion. The tender ballad, "My First Love," can be interpreted as a requiem for Smalls: "We never had the chance to make it get better / We never said goodbye."

Evans released a third solo album, Faithfully, in 2001, receiving her strongest reviews to date. Like Mary J. Blige's acclaimed No More Drama of the same year, Faithfully sports a hard, lean sound that emphasizes the tough side of hip-hop. On dance hits such as "Alone in This World," "You Gets No Love," and "Burnin' Up," Evans twists and improvises vocally around sinuous, groove-laden rhythms. Although the album's lyrics often fail to match the inspiration of its sound, Faithfully returns Evans to the forefront of contemporary R&B and showcases her new sense of self-respect and peace. On the blues-tinged "Brand New Man," she attests, "I don't have to be alone / Got somebody who understands." As with her finest work in the past, Evans presents an emotional arc within the song, using her flexible, expansive voice to convey liberation and release. By 2001 she had settled into a quiet home life in Georgia with husband and manager Russaw. In addition, she formed her own production company, Pedigree MGI, and earned respect for her active involvement in charity work with inner-city children.

Among the wave of hip-hop stars to emerge in the mid-1990s, Faith Evans was unique; her full-powered voice and moody, introspective sound brought a new emotional clarity to modern R&B. Displaying personal resilience and a tough spirit, Evans overcame the loss of famous husband Notorious B.I.G. to become an acclaimed artist in her own right.

SELECTIVE DISCOGRAPHY:

Faith (Bay Boy, 1995); Keep the Faith (Bad Boy, 1998); Faithfully (Bad Boy, 2001).

WEBSITE:

www.faithfullyfaith.com.

david freeland

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