Editor’s Note: The Albumism staff has selected what we believe to be 50 fantastic first solo albums recorded by artists who departed—or simply took a temporary hiatus from—their respective groups, representing a varied cross-section of genres, styles and time periods. Click “Next Album” below to explore each album or view the full album index here.
CHAKA KHAN | Chaka
Warner Bros. (1978)
Selected by Justin Chadwick
It didn’t take long for the Chicago-bred soul-funk band Rufus to recognize that featuring their charismatic frontwoman’s name on their albums’ artwork would pay dividends. Following the 1973 release of their eponymous debut album, the group was formally known as Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, a moniker that was wisely emblazoned across their next five albums.
Nine months after the January 1978 release of the band’s sixth studio album Street Player, the inevitable came to fruition when Khan released her debut solo album Chaka to a legion of eager ears. The album is unquestionably best known for its opening track “I’m Every Woman,” an empowering anthem propelled by sublime, symphonic disco soul and Khan’s magnificent mezzo-soprano in full command.
However, beyond its most universally recognizable tune, Chaka offers a multitude of memorable highlights, including the gospel-imbued “Roll Me Through the Rushes” featuring a young Luther Vandross on supporting vocals, the rollicking “Some Love,” her George Benson duet “We Got the Love,” and the inspired “A Woman in a man’s World,” where she confidently proclaims, “I've got a dream of my own / And I carry my own weight.”
Following the breakout success of her inaugural solo affair and in order to fulfill contractual commitments, Khan reunited with her Rufus bandmates for two more collaborative albums in the form of the Quincy Jones orchestrated Masterjam (1979) and Camouflage (1981). But by the time of the latter’s release, her recording career away from the group was in full swing with two more albums (1980’s Naughty and 1981’s What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me) under her belt and continued solo stardom beckoning.