Syleena Johnson (née Thompson born September 2, 1980 in Harvey, Illinois) is a Grammy award-nominated American R&B and soul singer-songwriter. Johnson took to music early, growing up not only with a musical father but also listening to influential artists such as Aretha Franklin, Al Green, Tina Turner, The Dells, and Mavis Staples. She would later apply her taste for soul music as a member of her high school gospel choir.
Johnson attended Thornridge High School in 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 fifteen, 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.
That same year, Johnson began attending Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, 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 Normal's 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.