Keyshia Cole was born on October 15, 1981 in Oakland, California, and is the biological daughter of Francine "Frankie" Lons and boxing trainer Virgil Hunter. Cole and Hunter met for the first time in 2016 after a paternity test confirmed their connection. She was adopted at age two by family friends Leon and Yvonne Cole, changing her last name to Cole. At age 12, Cole was introduced into the music industry, along with her brother Sean (also known as Nutt-So), where she met and recorded with MC Hammer. She later formed a friendship with Tupac Shakur, who promised to help her start her singing career asking her to write a hook on his upcoming project the night he died unexpectedly. At age 16, Cole became a participant at the East Oakland Youth Development Center (EOYDC), a local youth organization. Cole moved to Los Angeles at 18 to pursue a music career. During this time, Cole collaborated with artists from her native Bay Area, among them D'Wayne Wiggings of Tony Toni Tone and Messy Marv. In 2002, she was introduced to A&M Records A&R Ron Fair. After listening to an unfinished version of her single "Love", which would eventually become her first platinum single, he signed her and began mentoring her.