Teaming again with Arif Mardin, slowly but surely the two began to craft an even more successful and innovative sound. This effort not only bests the work before it, but it is Mardin's most fulfilling production since 1974's Average White Band.
Three singles were released from What Cha' Gonna Do: the Beatles cover "We Can Work It Out" (US R&B #34), the McCrarys cover "Any Old Sunday" (#68) and the album's title track which became a number one hit on Billboard R&B Singles chart. On Billboard's charts, the album reached #3 on Black Albums, #33 on Jazz Albums, and #17 on Pop Albums. This would be Chaka's highest charting album until her 80's-era breakthrough I Feel For You. Its popularity among jazz audiences was likely due to the inclusion of the Dizzy Gillespie composition "Night In Tunisia" with a guest appearance by Gillespie himself as well as what today would be called a 'sample' of Charlie Parker's legendary four bar alto break from his 1946 recording of the title. Khan's vocal interpretation also features lyrics written by the singer herself. This album was nominated for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1981.
Two tracks from the What Cha Gonna Do For Me sessions were only released as B-sides of singles; "Only Once" and "Lover's Touch", both remain unreleased on CD.
The instrumental intro to "Fate" has been sampled by a host of dance acts all through the 1990s and 2000s, most notably by Stardust on their 1998 hit single "Music Sounds Better With You" and a section of "I Know You I Live You" also features on "Bad Habit" by Onephatdeeva feat. Lisa Milett.
For reasons unknown, What Cha' Gonna Do For Me has only been re-issued on CD in both Europe and Japan. The album has yet to see a CD release in the United States, but did become domestically available digitally shortly after Khan won multiple Grammys for her 2007 album Funk This.