Goapele is one of the most underrated artist to emerge from the R&B scene. The songstress turns 38 years old today (July 11).

Goapele, which means to "move forward" in Setswana (a south African language), studied at Berklee College of Music before becoming a recording artist in 2001. On her 2011 debut album Closer, the songbird infused socially-conscious lyrics and her influences - Nina Simone, Prince and Sade — on the collection's 10 songs.

Goapele would later remastered the album for her major label debut Even Closer, which received mixed reviews. The LP also featured production from Jeff Bhasker, who's known for his affiliation with Kanye West.

The Bay Area native released three more albums, including her latest release, Strong as Glass. Goapele often performs at rallies and events that promote social change. For her hard work, she was recently given the Human Rights Cultural Hero Award by the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights in 2006.

Goapele, who is a mother of an 8-year-old daughter named Bahia Osun, feels it's important to be a strong voice in the black community.

"[Being Black] means strength and beauty and being a target sometimes and having to hold it together," she tells Essence. "It means having a lot of assumptions made about you. It means having swag. It means being a mother more than just my child. I could go on and on."

Watch Goapele's "Strong As Glass" Video

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