Cole was born in Oakland, California as one of seven children. Cole's first experiences with the music industry began at age 12, when she recorded with MC Hammer and 2Pac.
In 2004, she attracted the attention of A&M Records executive Ron Fair. The following year, her Platinum-debut album The Way It Is was released, featuring the hit singles "I Changed My Mind", and "I Should Have Cheated", and "Love". The album debuted at #6 on the U.S. charts and sold 89,000 copies in the first week of release.
Her sophomore album, Just Like You, was released in 2007. It features the singles "Last Night" featuring Diddy, "Let It Go" featuring Missy Elliott and Lil' Kim, "I Remember", "Shoulda Let You Go", and "Heaven Sent". It debuted at number two on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 300,000 copies in its first week. This album was nominated for for two Grammys, Best Contemporary R&B Album and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration at the Feb 10 2008 50th Grammy Awards.
In addition to her solo albums, Cole has worked on numerous projects over the years. She has been on soundtracks for productions such as Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Step Up 2 the Streets, Tyler Perry's Why Did I Get Married, and others.
Beginning in 2006, Cole established herself as a television star with her BET reality show Keyshia Cole: The Way It Is. It quickly became the most popular show on the network.
In late 2008, Cole released her third studio album, debuting in the top 5 with A Different Me.