Turnin' Me On
“I want to be a point of reference. Hip-hop has become pop; pop is hip-hop. Music is definitely changing. I want to be the crux of that. I want to be a reason, not a result.” Keri Hilson.
Starting out as a part of a collective of writers and producers known as “The Clutch,” Keri Hilson has written songs for such artists as Usher, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, Britney Spears, Pussycat Dolls, Mary J. Blige, Omarion, and Ciara. She was signed to Timbaland's label Mosley Music Group in 2006 and finally released her debut album, “In a Perfect World...,” in March 2009 after many push-backs. The album has spawned the singles "Energy," "Return the Favor," "Turnin' Me On," and "Knock You Down."
Meanwhile, the R&B songbird has been featured in Xzibit's "Hey Now (Mean Muggin)" (2004), Lloyd Banks' "Help" (2006), Timbaland's "The Way I Are" (2007), Rich Boy's "Good Things" (2007), Timbaland's "Scream" (2008), Nas' "Hero" (2008), and Chris Brown's "Superhuman" (2008). She has also made cameos in music videos such as "Love In This Club" by Usher, "Promiscuous" by Nelly Furtado, and "Miss Independent" by Ne-Yo.
“I was blessed to just keep bumping into successful people who could take me higher. Of course I had to step back a few times, but that's life. Things don't always go as planned.” Keri Hilson.
Childhood and Family:
"In school, I would get in trouble for singing all the time. I unknowingly hummed every chance I got. It got so bad my friend's nicknamed me 'Keri-okey'." Keri Hilson.
In Decatur, Georgia, Keri Lynn Hilson was born on October 27, 1982. While at school she was active in extracurricular activities such as swimming and basketball. She also became a songwriter and backing vocalist while in high school. After graduating, she enrolled at Emory University in Atlanta.
In a Perfect World...
"That was when I really knew that I could take music seriously. But at the time, I didn’t know if there was such a job as production or songwriting. I come across a lot of people who are opportunists and they’re like, ‘If it happens, it happens.’ I’m not one of those. I’m a go getter.” Keri Hilson.
Studying piano and vocals as during her adolescence, Keri Hilson joined the girl groups “Pretty Toni” and “D'Sign“ in her mid- to late teens. She also became a songwriter and backing vocalist while in high school, working under producer Anthony Dent (Destiny's Child, Diddy).
By 18, Keri, as part of the five-person production/songwriting team known as the Clutch, had been arranging songs, cutting vocals and engineering sessions. During this time, she wrote or did backup vocals for such artists as Usher, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, and Ciara. She was also responsible for numerous hit singles, including Mary J. Blige's "Take Me as I Am," Omarion's "Ice Box," the Pussycat Dolls' "Wait a Minute," and Britney Spears' "Gimme More."
During this time, Keri collaborated with up-and-coming Southern rap producer Polow da Don, who would introduced her to super-producer Timbaland, who was in search of an African-American female solo R&B artist at the time. Timbaland signed Keri as an artist in his label, Mosley Music Group, in 2006, and she subsequently appeared on a track on Diddy's second album, “Press Play.” She was also featured on the chorus of the second single from Lloyd Banks' second album “Rotten Apple,” "Help," which reached #38 on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs.
On meeting Timbaland for the first time, Keri recalled, "I wasn't freaking out. I was prepared. While I had taken all this time to hone my craft as a songwriter, I always believed that I would eventually get to be an artist. Everything I experienced, everything I felt growing up, all the work…I was just like, 'Ok. Wow. This must be it. It must be happening.'"
And about her chemistry with Timbaland, she revealed, “A lot of nights we would just listen to other people's music and critique it. Not for the sake of study but to listen to it and discuss it. We don't agree all the time. Definitely not. But I think that's what happens when you get two strong creative minds in the same room."
2007 saw Keri appeared on Timbaland's solo effort, “Shock Value,” including on the singles "The Way I Are" and "Scream." "The Way I Are," which is featured in a 2007 McDonald's commercial, reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the U.S. and won Keri a Teen Choice Award for Choice Rap Track. It also earned her a nomination at the MTV Video Music Awards for Monster Single of the Year.
Meanwhile, Keri was featured on the tracks "Lost Girls" and "Good Things" on Zone 4-labelmate Rich Boy's debut album. She also served as a writer and backing vocalist on Britney Spears's comeback album, “Blackout.”
Additionally, starred in Usher's music video for "Love in This Club," as well as co-writing its "Pt. II" remix, and appeared as one of the "independent women" in Ne-Yo's "Miss Independent" music video. Later in the year, Keri performed on Nas' lead single "Hero" from his controversial untitled album. The single reached #97 on the Hot 100 and #82 on the R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
On March 24, 2009, Keri released her debut album, "In a Perfect World...," which debuted on the Billboard 200 at number four, selling over 94,000 copies in its first week. The album was originally slated for release in 2007, but was pushed back multiple times into 2009, mainly due to failed single releases. Produced by Timbaland, Polow Da Don, and Danja, with writing contributions from Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo, and The Clutch, the album spawned the singles "Energy," "Return the Favor," "Turnin' Me On," and "Knock You Down."
About the title of her album, Keri explained, "It’s my way of saying nothing in the world is perfect and no person in it is, either. None of us is exempt from certain hardships and heartbreaks. It was really important for me to write songs that women can relate to from real situations. I didn’t want to do an album that painted myself as perfect because no matter how things look, no one is."
The midtempo ballad "Energy" charted at number 78 on the Billboard Top 100, number 21 and 72 on R&B 100 and Pop 100 respectively, but the second single "Return the Favor" failed to chart within any of the top 100 charts of the major music markets. Meanwhile, the third single "Turnin' Me On" (featuring Lil Wayne) has become Keri's most successful solo to date, peaking at #15 on the Billboard Top 100, #2 and 28 on Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs and Pop 100 respectively. As for the fourth single "Knock You Down" (featuring Kanye West and Ne-Yo), it has reached #51 on the Billboard Hot 100 and 41 on R&B/Hip-Hop 100. Akon, Tank, R. Kelly, Lil Wayne, and Timbaland also guest star in the record.
"I deliver my songs with emotion. I don't like a lot of effects. It takes away from the emotion. Like the raspyness of my voice in 'Slow Dance' (written with Justin Timberlake) for example. I love the way I sound on that track—straightforward, throwback, and old school. I don't want that feeling taken away. I'm so particular about those emotions. I don't want anyone to walk away from my album just thinking, 'that sounds nice.' Anybody can do that. I’m much more concerned that they walk away thinking, 'that felt great.'" Keri Hilson.
Album "In a Perfect World..." has topped at #1 on the U.S. Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums and #4 on the U.S. Billboard 200.
"No human is exempt from the realities of life—heartbreak, love, failure, success—I want my album to convey a sense of reality. That's the standpoint that lent itself to the title. There will always be something you’d change if only you lived ‘In A Perfect World…’ and I’m no different.” Keri Hilson.
Teen Choice: Choice Rap Track, "The Way I Are," 2007