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Claudette Ortiz Biography

Claudette Ortiz was born in 1982 in Willingboro, New Jersey, to Puerto Rican parents. Though City High's hit song "What Would You Do," depicts an extremely harsh reality of the inner city, Willingboro is the type of scenic suburb where you're more likely to get attacked by a wild animal from the nearby woods than a gang member.

Thanks to interviews and testimonies from other artists, it's easy to see that growing up in a wholesome environment has kept Claudette humble and polite despite her rising star status.

on a high in high school

When Claudette reached Willingboro High School, she met up with her future City High bandmates Toby Ryan and Robby Pardlo. The three began writing and performing music at any school function that would let them play. Any time the group took the stage, the audience was treated to a seamless mix of hip-hop, R&B and Latin music. City High's intermingling of these sounds coupled with their lineup (two men and one gorgeous woman) seemed to beg for comparisons to the Fugees, a comparison with more to it than meets the eye.

When bandmate Toby Ryan, a former child actor, was working on the film Sister Act 2, he befriended female co-star Lauryn Hill. The two were aspiring musicians and became immediate friends. Soon after the movie's release, Lauryn became an international superstar with the Fugees and their chart-topping album, The Score. Despite all her success, Lauryn and Toby remained friends, and when fellow Fugee Wyclef Jean began seeking out new acts to produce and manage, Lauryn was quick to offer a recommendation. After a very short audition, Wyclef was sold and began work on City High.

can't refuse claudette

Initially, Wyclef only wanted Toby and Robby for the group, but they refused to abandon Claudette. It was a risky move, but Wyclef consented and all three members were given a record deal with Interscope that would ultimately result in 2001's City High, the group's self-titled debut.

The single "What Would You Do" exploded onto the pop and R&B charts almost as soon as it was released, thanks mostly to the infectious hook sung by Claudette. The buzz around the group grew even louder when the video hit MTV, and viewers got their first look at Claudette in low-slung brown pants and an airtight shirt. Needless to say, the video went into heavy rotation.

sweet as caramel

Claudette's formal introduction to listeners was thanks to the song "Caramel" released in late 2001, which was essentially a solo song for Claudette. In the accompanying video she showed the world she had arrived as a singer, as a sex symbol and as a member of the Spanish speaking community.

Claudette has said repeatedly that she is strongly committed to the City High project, but that seems destined to change. She performed a duet with Wyclef on "Two Wrongs (Don't Make a Right)," and is already in high demand as a partner for established, and up and coming hip-hoppers. The demand for her as a singer and as a pinup means that Claudette may have to leave her bandmates behind and forge out on her own. It shouldn't be too tough -- just ask Lauryn.


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