Johnson attended Thornridge High School, Dolton, Illinois. Her music career was inspired by her music teachers , who are still working there as of June 2007 .
Johnson's road to music was hardly easy. Her father, Syl, was not encouraging, as his own lackluster success with his craft led him to think little of the music industry. On top of that, Johnson suffered from vocal nodules and had to go through speech therapy. And when Johnson was 15, her parents split up. Despite these setbacks, Johnson's relationship with both her parents and her music remained strong: she contributed as a singer and songwriter on her father's 1994 album, Back in the Game. After having nodes removed from her vocal cords, she took two years of speech therapy. She has seven years of vocal training. All the hard work made Johnson one of her generation's most soulful and realistic R&B singers.
That same year, Johnson began attending Iowa's Drake University, where she worked in classical and gospel choirs as well as jazz ensembles. Originally a psychology major, success at a talent show convinced her that her strength had always been in music. She switched to a music major and began recording her own songs. In 1996, she transferred to Illinois State University, and majored in music. In September 1997, Johnson met an assistant scout for Jive Records at a charity basketball game. That contact allowed her to send in a demo tape, which had an immediate impact; days later, she got a callback from a Jive executive with an offer for a deal. "That's a miracle," Johnson later observed. "Demo tapes don't get heard like that." The experience renewed her resolve.
In August 2000, Johnson married the former Illinois State University college basketball player Marcus Betts. Betts graduated in December 2000 and became her manager for her first two albums. However, Johnson's itinerant lifestyle was a strain on the marriage and the couple decided to divorce.
In July 2006 she became engaged to basketball player Kiwane Garris . Garris, a fellow Chicagoan, is a former player for the Sacramento Kings. On 1 August 2007 , after 44 hours of labor, their son Kiwane Garris Jr was born. Whether this marriage will endure remains to be seen, as Garris plays for Premiata Montegranaro of the Italian league. Johnson remains in Illinois.
Johnson counted on her own honesty and real-life experiences to produce her compelling music. The young Chicago native confronted her own romantic pitfalls and coming of age story on her debut CD, which featured guest appearances by blues guitarist Buddy Guy and contemporary R&B artist R. Kelly.
Johnson wrote all the songs on her debut CD except her first single, "I Am Your Woman," penned by R. Kelly. Johnson began writing songs for her debut CD at age 20 in 1997 and sent her demo to Wayne Williams, V.P. of Artist Development at the Chicago office of Jive Records. He signed her and paved the way for the release of her debut album in May 2001. The album received much praise, but despite its No. 1 position on Billboard's Heatseekers chart the week of its release, the album was not a commercial success.
Johnson says she's already planning a fourth chapter. And she says it will be only about love songs.
|Chapter 1 : Love, Pain & Forgiveness|
|Chapter II: The Voice|
|Chapter 3: The Flesh|
|Chapter 4: Labor Pains|
|2001||"Ain't No Love"||Chapter 1 : Love, Pain & Forgiveness||-||-|
|"I Am Your Woman"||43||-|
|"Hit On Me"||-||-|
|2002||"Tonight I'm Gonna Let Go"||Chapter II: The Voice||76||38|
|2003||"Guess Again (Guess What Remix) (featuring R. Kelly)"||75||-|
|"Faithful to You"||68||-|
|2004||"All Falls Down"||The College Dropout by Kanye West||4||10|
|2005||"Hypnotic" (featuring R. Kelly & Fabolous)||Chapter 3 : The Flesh||76||-|
|"Down & Out"||Purple Haze by Cam'ron||29||-|
|2008||"It Is True"||Chapter 4 : Labor Pains||-|
|2001||Billboard Music Video Award nomination for Best Adult Contemporary New Artist Clip of the Year ("I Am Your Woman").|
|2004||BET Award nomination for Viewers Choice Award for "All Falls Down" (shared nomination with Kanye West).|
|2004||Vibe Award nomination for Reelest Video for "All Falls Down" (shared nomination with Kanye West).|
|2004||MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Breakthrough Video for "All Falls Down" (shared nomination with Kanye West).|
|2004||MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Male Video for "All Falls Down" (shared nomination with Kanye West).|
|2004||MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best New Artist for "All Falls Down" (shared nomination with Kanye West).|
|2004||MTV Video Music Award nomination for Best Hip-Hop Video for "All Falls Down" (shared nomination with Kanye West).|
|2005||Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap/Sung Collaboration for "All Falls Down"|
|2005||Chicago Music Award win for Best Female Vocalist|
|2005||Truth Award win for Top Single for "Hypnotic"|