For one of its best-anticipated episodes, BET Digital’s Finding peeled back the layers of Cleveland-bred R&B singer Cheri Dennis’s industry journey, which began in her adolescence from the church to the studio and ended with a retreat from Diddy’s legendary Bad Boy Entertainment imprint.
After meeting and signing with the New York rap and industry mogul at only 19-years-old, Cheri Dennis broke out in the early 2000s’ R&B scene with the Ryan Leslie-produced “I Love You.” The debut single soared to a No. 38 spot on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks chart and earned Bad Boy another hit to secure under its belt. Upon its official music video release in 2006, the single also ushered Cheri into the R&B space as the sweet-sounding girl next door with the cute angular bob haircut, strappy stilettos and colorful maxi dress—an image that turned out to be the total opposite of Cheri’s true and unique charisma.
Fame was never part of her individuality either, which inevitably grew with the success of the record. Unfortunately, Cheri describes, that growth didn’t translate into her position as one of the only female artists on the label during the resurgence of Bad Boy. Aside from her aesthetic not quite fitting into the R&B sweetheart vibe Diddy had laid out for her, the fruits of her musical labor weren’t materializing the way she thought they would either. Cheri recalled still struggling to pay the bills (which resulted in Puff sliding her a monthly payoff), writing camps that felt rather inorganic to her, and carrying the weight of her own career and unique sound on her back even under Bad Boy signage. “I know who I want to be, I know what kind of music I want to make, and I gotta fight the n**gas that’s around me,” she says. “That’s supposed to believe in my vision—I gotta fight y’all too?”
Years later, and while sharing her story with Finding, the In and Out of Love singer refuses to bash or “sh**” on Diddy, however. After affording her the opportunity she had to bring her natural talents to Hollywood’s centerstage, it was no reason to after all. As a new mom and refreshed vocal talent, she’s now pivoted her gift in a more independent direction. Cheri’s journey taught her several valuable lessons, but none more important than the risks of sacrificing selfhood for celebrityhood. While the experience might have taken a few things from her, like time with family, which she tearfully and regrettably remembers, it never separated her heart from the music.
“You can’t take the art from me,” she said. “You can’t take the music from me. I need that to live. That is a part of who I am. I will always make music. It’s something that I don’t know how to not do. I’m dope. I’m Cheri Coke, man.”
Journey with her back through the celebrity rise and recline of Cheri Dennis above.