Every Tuesday, You Need to Know spotlights a rising artist that we know will blow up big. Listen now. Thank us later. This week: Jermaine Dupri's R&B ingenue Leah Labelle.
While she was in high school, Leah LaBelle took a little hiatus to, oh, you know, go try out for American Idol. Though she didn't make it through the semi-finals, judge Paula Abdul chose Leah as her wild card contestant, landing her a coveted spot on the show. Leah was voted off early during the third season, but the voting audiences of America missed the boat on this one.
In 2011, the singer signed a joint deal with L.A. Reid and Epic Records, Jermaine Dupri's So So Def Recordings and Pharrell Williams' new label I Am Other. She's now poised to take over the female R&B game. LaBelle dropped her debut single "Sexify" earlier this year, giving us a much needed dose of late-'90s R&B realness—think Brandy and Alicia Keys with a touch of Whitney Houston thrown in for good measure.
While her stint on American Idol gained her a bit of a following, the 22-year-old's YouTube channel with covers of artists like Justin Timberlake, Etta James and Rihanna also helped put her on the map (her cover of Keri Hilson's "Energy" has more than 500,000 views). And she's never been worried about touting her talents: When she was 17, she snuck into a meet-and-greet with Pharrell and told him he'd "produce [her] whole album one day." And, well, that happened.
No word on when we'll get our hands on Leah's debut album, but we're liking what we hear so far. Check out her Soundcloud for a preview of five new Leah songs, peep her "Sexify" video below and stay tuned.