Michel’le Toussaint is known in the music world as the naturally squeaky Minnie Mouse voiced woman that can instantly transform her singing vocals in to a strong and powerful thing of pure beauty. And yes, she’s the baby mom and former fiancée’ of Dr. Dre and the former wife of Suge Knight (although Michel’le has stated of late that the two were never officially married). Michel’le released her self-titled critically acclaimed and platinum selling debut album in 1989, which spawned several hits including the classic, “Something In My Heart.” Afterwards, Michel’le wasn’t heard much of in the music world outside of the stories and rumors in regards to her love life with Dr. Dre and later Suge Knight.
Fast forward to 2013, Michel’le has reemerged and has broken the silence on her life for the past 20 years by being a part of the TV One series R & B Divas L.A. Last Wednesday, October 16, AllHipHop.com spent an evening with Michel’le as she performed many of her famous songs at Club R & B Live Hollywood in Studio City, CA. After the show, she sat down with us to give us an exclusive interview about some of the things that have occurred in her career and life over the past 20 plus years. And we have an exclusive taped performance of “Something In My Heart” for you to enjoy! Read below.
AllHipHop.com: When did you discover that you could project your naturally high pitched voice to a powerful singing one?
Michel’le: It was in the 2nd grade but I didn’t tell anyone. I thought it was spooky because it wasn’t normal. I only did it in privacy. I made sure that nobody knew about it.
AllHipHop.com: When did you decide to let your singing voice be known?
Michel’le: It was for Dr. Dre when I was a teenager.
AllHipHop.com: It took you that long?
Michel’le: Yes because I didn’t think there was any talent on my end. I didn’t know that I had the talent to make money with it.
AllHipHop.com: So your parents, grandparents and other family members had no idea of what you could do?
Michel’le: No and even if they knew, they were so busy trying to feed us and doing what they do.
AllHipHop.com: So how did Dr. Dre find out about your hidden singing talent?
Michel’le: By singing on the World Class Wreckin’ Cru’s “Turn Off The Lights” song. I filled in for the original singer that didn’t make it that night. That’s how he heard me sing.
AllHipHop.com: It was all just by chance because you were the only female around?
Michel’le: Yeah. They gave the lyrics and told me to sing. They didn’t tell me what kind of melody or anything. I made that up all on my own. I was only 16 years old. Dre just looked at me in shock and I was like, “Bye y’all.” I didn’t see him for months after that.
AllHipHop.com: How did you end up even being at the studio that night?
Michel’le: I was there with Lonzo, the head of the World Class Wreckin’ Cru. I didn’t know Dre yet but he was the engineer/producer. I was just hanging out. He heard me sing and he gave me that “whoa” reaction. Like I said, I told them goodbye after that and went home and got up for work the next morning. I didn’t hear from anybody for a while.
AllHipHop.com: When did you finally hear back from someone?
Michel’le: It was when I heard the song on the radio – I believe it was on KDAY. That was a few weeks after the recording session. My Dad heard the song and was like, “I think that’s you!” I told him that I didn’t think it was but then he told me it sounded like the song that I described about from the studio that night. I heard it myself and it was true. There was no paperwork or nothing. No check. No coins. What can I tell you?
AllHipHop.com: Even to this day, you’ve received nothing from “Turn Off The Lights?”
Michel’le: No but God Bless, because it’s done so much for me.
AllHipHop.com: This led to you signing with Ruthless Records.
Michel’le: Yes, I signed to Ruthless Records, thanks to Eazy-E.
AllHipHop.com: One of the signature songs from your Ruthless Records/ATCO album is a song that you sang tonight, “Something In My Heart.” It’s such a beautiful song. You had an interesting video for it with everybody dressed up in suits.
Michel’le: Everybody was in it! The D.O.C, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E – it was a historic video. We filmed that on the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA.
AllHipHop.com: Ice Cube used that video to diss N.W.A. in the “No Vaseline” song where he said that they looked like Bozo’s. Did you take any offense to that?
Michel’le: No, I knew it was coming. That’s where music was going. We had infused R & B with Hip-Hop.
AllHipHop.com: But you weren’t upset that he used your project in his diss song towards their group?
Michel’le: No, I wasn’t upset and Dre wasn’t upset either to be honest with you. It was what it was. That was Ice Cube’s opinion I think, and that’s all it was.
AllHipHop.com: But you found yourself in the middle of another diss song aimed at Dre when Tim Dog dissed you in “F*ck Compton.”
Michel’le: I don’t even know who that is, still to this day.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve never heard the song?
Michel’le: I never knew who that was. People have told me but I’ve never addressed it because I don’t know who that is. I’m not hating, I’m just stating. We (Michel’le and Dre) were like, “Where is this coming from?” There wasn’t even an East Coast or West Coast rivalry at the time. Dre is above all of that. He’s a genius. He had a 5 year plan back then and it turned in to a 20 year plan. Whenever he would teach me things, I would listen. He was very educational and I thank God for that.
AllHipHop.com: You were Dre’s first foray in to real R & B. What was it like making your first album with him?
Michel’le: It was hard because he only knew how to do Hip-Hop and I only knew R & B. We didn’t know what we were creating. We infused the two together and created a new sound. Going in to the studio, you’ve got to come in knowing, or he’s going home. If he doesn’t leave the studio that night with something that he would like to listen to, you might not get a call back for a while – and that hasn’t changed.
AllHipHop.com: I can imagine that some of those recording sessions were tense. I’ve heard that Dre can make an artist do a lot of takes.
Michel’le: “Something In My Heart” was tears. If I didn’t come in to the studio with my A-Game, he let me know. I appreciate that though. I really do.
AllHipHop.com: Did you and Dre have a relationship already when that song was made?
Michel’le: Did we have a relationship? I hope we did. The song is about him. I hope we were doing something (laughs). If we weren’t doing anything by then, then I was just a stalker. Yes, absolutely we were in one.
AllHipHop.com: How long had you two been together at that point?
Michel’le: At that point I’d say for about a year and a half.
AllHipHop.com: What’s your relationship like with Dr. Dre now?
Michel’le: Well, it’s …… [At this point her publicist asks me to skip this and move on to the next question]. See, you almost got me there (laughs).
AllHipHop.com: After that first great album, I really was expecting a follow up but nothing came after that for a long while.
Michel’le: I got pregnant with Dre’s son. I became a mommy and I didn’t mind because one of us had to work. Both of us couldn’t stay home. It was hard because we were young and we had to figure it out. When that happens, things can change. At that point I felt that I should start building a family. We were rich too, and when you give a kid that much money, well, that’s all I’m going to say. It was fun. I wouldn’t take a day back. I’ll say that. And my son is awesome.
AllHipHop.com: So you put your career on the backburner for your son.
Michel’le: I didn’t have a choice. I was 3 months pregnant when I found out. I was on Tour with MC Hammer.
AllHipHop.com: When did you get the desire back to resume with your career and bring it to the forefront?
Michel’le: It didn’t come for a while. I became the girlfriend/fiancée’. I was trying to build a home. It’s a lot and it turned in to a whole different animal. We would be here a long time and I don’t know how old you are but I don’t have that kind of time (laughs).
AllHipHop.com: Tell me about your stay on Death Row Records.
Michel’le: It was just that – a stay on Death Row Records. That’s the best way that I could put it – I stayed on Death Row. I guess I’m loyal to a fault.
AllHipHop.com: I imagine there were people telling you to leave and get off the label.
Michel’le: Those are your words. You said that (laughs).
AllHipHop.com: How did you like doing the R & B Divas L.A. reality show?
Michel’le: It was confusingly fun.
AllHipHop.com: I saw some drama on the show.
Michel’le: Did you? It wasn’t with me.
AllHipHop.com: At the reunion, I thought you all were going to start recording R & B disses to each other.
Michel’le: Are you kidding? What show were you watching? It wasn’t mine (laughs). I was pleasantly kind. I love all of the women on it. I didn’t have any beef. Really, I didn’t.
AllHipHop.com: So what are you working on now?
Michel’le: I’m working on an album and a book. I’m doing spot date tours like the one you are at tonight.
AllHipHop.com: You’re writing a book? Tell me about it.
Michel’le: Well, you know, it’s just about me. I can only tell you my side and version of things, and not from the perspective of others.
AllHipHop.com: Can we expect some big revelations?
Michel’le: No. I expect me to tell you my version. Are you expecting big revelations?
Michel’le: I knew you were (laughs).