Saturday, March 8, 2008


On a chilly winter evening, in the kitchen of her parents' Lithonia, Ga., home, Keri Hilson is on her third try at a fresh batch of Country Time Lemonade - and it's still not up to her standards.

"It's not tangy enough," says the 24-year-old singer and songwriter of hits like Mary J. Blige's recent "Take Me As I Am," and Omarion's new "Ice Box." "Maybe another scoop of sugar?" But before this sweet-faced perfectionist was playing in the kitchen between recording sessions, the former Emory University Theater major had it rough, surviving the failure of two girl groups (Pretty Toni, masterminded by producer Anthony Dent, and D'Sign), and also nearly losing her life. Weary from classes, long nights in recording studios, and rigorous rehearsals, Hilson nodded off at the wheel one night almost four years ago. Her car flipped over on Atlanta's busy Freedom Parkway.

"The accident changed my pace," she says. "And taught me that quality is more important than quantity." Impressed by her work ethic and her tenacious attitude about recovery, Dent appointed her his in-house writer, which led to collaborations with artists like Usher, Ciara, and T.I., as well as producer Polow Da Don. Polow introduced Keri to Timbaland, and the superproducer signed her to his Mosley Music Group. Her debut, tentatively titled In A Perfect World (MMG/Interscope) will be released later this year. World has range: The beguiling "Get Me Off (The Bench)" refers to both her championship high-school basketball days and decade-long struggle as a singer, while "Happy Juice" is a backwoodsy juke-joint jam celebrating her favorite cocktail, Hennessey and apple juice. "I make my music from real situations," says Keri, who writes and works with a songwriting team called The Clutch. "[This album] is all about how women really feel." But it's her quest for perfection that keeps her grounded.

"I'm very far from where I wanna be," she says, finally drinking her lemonade. "I hope I never feel like I've made it." .

[Source: Next -