KERI HILSON (March
2008) | Interview By:
Dubcnn had the chance to talk to the wonderful Keri
Hilson! The talented singer, who's signed to Interscope Records through a
joint venture with Timbaland and Polow Da Don, tells us about her come up,
linking up with Polow Da Don and Timbaland, working on the "Shock Value"
album, her writing experiences and forming the writing crew The Clutch.
Of course we speak about her album "In A Perfect World..." and what
fans can expect from it, as well as her experience working with Britney
Spears, Xzibit and many more high profile artists.
As always we have both the transcript and the video for you to
check and please feel free to send any feedback regarding the interview to:
Interview was done in February 2008.
Questions Asked By :
Keri Hilson Gave Dubcnn A Shoutout:
Dubcnn: We're right here with Keri Hilson, how you doing Keri?
Dubcnn: The world really got introduced to you in 2007, but you've been
working behind the scens for many years. How did you first get into the
Oh wow. *laughs* I was in groups, I guess that was my introduction. When I
was 14 years old, a call from Michael Bivins turned into me being in my
first group with a local guy, Marvin Mcintyre, he has an artist development
center called Marvelous Entertprises, and I just got kind of got my feet wet
then. He was responsible for New Edition, Bobby Brown, and everyone's stage
performances, even Usher, TLC and lots of people. It's kind of like a boot
camp situation and I was fortunate enough to be there for a couple of years.
So that's where a lot of my initial contacts were made and all of my
performance experience was picked up there.
Dubcnn: Who would you say were your main influences when you were coming up?
Coming up? TLC was definitely something that was really fresh and new for me
as a child, and influential in my own personal style, where I kind of
learned to be myself. But also, I was exposed to the things that my parents
listened to, their record player from college still works so I had the
opportunity to hear different things. So of course I heard Stevie Wonder, I
heard Donny Hathaway, Minnie Riperton and lots of things that really kept me
inspired. Later, Lauryn Hill was added to that list, and most currently
Dubcnn: What about Hip-Hop? Cause you really blew up through the Hip-Hop
scene, through working with Hip-Hop arists.
Of course I listened to Hip-Hop, I'm from Atlanta, Outkast was definitely
one of the artists at the top of my list. Of course, Goodie Mob, and the
2Pac Biggie era, all of that. Of course I listened to Hip-Hop, but I was so
musical that I didn't buy that much of it. Some of my first Hip-Hop albums
were Da Brat, Kriss Kross, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince... So I did buy
a few, I guess I would get them for Christmas but somehow I got them cause I
was interested in them, but I can't say that I was like THE Hip-Hop head. Of
course I had Wu-Tang and all these artists, but I guess I'm not what you
would call the Hip-Hop head, but I enjoyed it.
Dubcnn: It has to be hard to be a writer, because most people never find out
who actually wrote the songs unless they're credit readers like myself. I
know Ne-Yo was in the same situation too. Do you feel that writer's don't
get the recognition they deserve?
Definitely. Right now the industry is so producer driven, so I feel like
that. Writers do feel like that at certain points in their career, where
they've written a song and the artist will stand on stage and thank the
producer. And it's like "Well, I did 50% of the work, they did 50% of the
work, we should get equal recognition, we're getting equal publishing!" At
time, you feel like that. But I guess it's just the way the game goes. When
you get a publicist, you have options to spread the word, you can still
choose. That's part of why I joined the writing team The Clutch, actually I
was part of the forming, founding member of the Clutch. That was our aim, to
earn the respect that producers have, for songwriters.
Dubcnn: Can you give us a quick rundown of who you've written for in the
past years? It doesn't have to be the whole list...
Of course Britney Spears, I wrote three records on her album. I got to work
with Ashley Simpson, the Pussycat Dolls, Usher, Chris Brown, Mary J. Blige,
Ciara... It's too many to name!
Dubcnn: I first got the face to put to your name when I saw you in Xzibit's
video to "Hey Now" in 2004. How did you hook up with X?
Actually Timbaland brought me down to work with Xzibit. Actually he brought
me down to work for myself, and I believe when I got there, that was when I
heard that song. He called me in the next room to hear a song that had a
hook that they didn't love. So I tried two hooks, and Tim loved the Hey Now
hook, and it stuck! I did my job, went back into my session, and I didn't
meet Xzibit until the video actually, or just before the video.
Dubcnn: So right now, many people know you as the singer on Timbaland's
album. But before you hooked up with Tim, you were with Polow The Don, who
also blew up this past year. How did that connection happen?
Polow is just a cat that I knew from around every studio when we were both
still in our groups, we performed at a stadium show together, at some kids
event. we initially met there, and the groups were introduced, and I would
see him around everywhere, I swear to God, every studio I would go to, he
would pop up! I think he was following me or something! *laughs* One day, he
told me that someone told him I was dope. He had just began producing, and I
was already writing, I already had placements, but I was writing full time,
now that I wasn't in a group. Before long, he expressed interest in working
with me, and the first track he ever produced, he had like 8 writers writing
to the same track, and everybody just took a stab at it! I've known him
since the very first track and I've watched him rise very quickly. Polow's
career is the fastest rising career I've ever got to witness from ground
zero. He had success with Jim Crow, but it wasn't the same success he's had
as a producer.
Dubcnn: It felt like he came out of nowhere, and he stayed!
That's exactly how the world is feeling right now, like where did this guy
come from? But it literally happened in a period of a year and a half or two
years, it was a very quick ride. He just started producing, just got his
equipment, and he figured out the game very quickly!
Dubcnn: So how did you get introduced to Timbaland at first?
Polow asked me who would I think could get me as an artist, and I said
Timbaland. Little did I know, he had already talked to Timbaland about me!
*laughs* About "There's this girl in Atlanta, she's a writer though, she's
really dope, she's actually cute, I think she can perform, I've seen her in
a group, she wrote all their songs, and I think you should check her out!"
Of course he told Timbaland this cause Tim expressed interest for a female
R&B artist, I guess he asked Polow if he knew anybody. Then, Polow asked me
that question, like who do you think could get you to where you wanna be as
an artist, and I said hands down Timbaland.
So that's how everything happened, so randomly and so quickly. Timbaland
wanted to hear me sing on the phone, but I was so used to nothing happening
from that, I had been singing for people on the phone for years! *laughs*
But this time it was different! For a couple weeks to a month I thought
nothing would happen, and one day Timbaland just randomly popped up in town,
8 o'clock in the morning Polow called me saying "Tim wants to meet at 9 in
the morning!" I'm like "What?!" I get up, get dressed, put some songs on a
CD. Actually, on the phone, the initial conversation with Timbaland, he was
like "Let's do it, I'm down!" I was like "You don't wanna meet me first?" He
was like "Nah. Let's do it." Just based upon the voice, he was ready to get
So when he came in town, I put together some songs that I had written for
other people, cause I wasn't actively pursuing a solo career at that moment.
Of course it was something that I wanted, because performing was my first
love, I just wasn't the kind of person to walk around with my demo like
"Listen to my demo!" I didn't do that. So I put together a CD of songs that
I had written for other artists, but that I would do as an artist myself if
I became an artist. I played those songs for Tim, and he was amazed. I was
jaw dropped, because Tim's jaw was dropped! He was like "This song could be
as big as Cry Me A River, I know what to do with a song like this."
So we called up the guy that produced it, he brought the session files, and
Tim is like "What are you doing tonight?" I said "Nothing if you're asking!"
So Timbaland calls his people, has them book Polow and I a flight to Miami
to come back on the same flight with him. This is when he was still flying
commercial, cause he really doesn't fly commercial anymore. *laughs* So they
put us on the flight to go back to Miami, and we started on that song the
Dubcnn: Which song was that?
It's a song called "Strange Angel", which actually probably won't make the
album! *laughs* But it definitely kicked off our chemistry and the vibe for
Dubcnn: I'd like to ask you about the song "The Way I Are", how did that
song get put together?
This was one of the many songs that we wrote for Timbaland's album. We did
it in Virginia at the Thomas Crown Studio, that's Tim's studio. As soon as I
heard it and Tim started the idea "I ain't got no money..." Soon as I heard
his verse idea and mumbles, I just came up with my part. Part of the Clutch
was there, myself, Balewa, Candice. Candice wrote Tim's verses, Balewa wrote
Tim's part of the hook, I wrote all of my parts. We banged it out, we did
it! It was a very quick write, which makes me realize you don't have to
overthink records, just go with what you feel.
Dubcnn: Did you expect that song to become as big as it became?
Oh not at all! Not when we were doing it! You know when a song feels to you,
but you don't know how the world will react. That's a scary thing about
putting together an album, and I think a lot of people before their first
album especially, are so shell shocked, or before any album, it's kind of
like a period of time where you're like "I don't know if the world is on
what I'm on right now, but it feels good to me." It was one of those
records. It had the Salt-N-Peppa sample so I was like "Aight this should
help it catch on, it's a catchy song!"
Dubcnn: You're signed to both Tim's and Polow's label through Interscope, is
Yes, it's a joint venture that they created for myself. I never came up with
a crafty name, so right now I'm a slasher, it's Mosley Music/Zone 4/Interscope
Dubcnn: So you've got two of Hip-Hop hottest producers backing you on this,
that's a great achievement by itself!
I'm not mad at all! *laughs* When we started, Polow wasn't who he is now,
and when it began, Timbaland wasn't in the position that he's in now. So
things just kind of happened in my favor!
Dubcnn: So when can we expect your album?
We're looking to get it out as soon as possible, it should be getting to you
in the 2nd quarter. We don't have a set date, but we want to get it to
everybody as soon as possible, because it's so urgent. The record sounds so
immaculate, I cannot wait for the world to really get a taste of what we've
been cooking up. It's called "In A Perfect World...".
Dubcnn: I heard you got Snoop Dogg & Ludacris on your first single?
That's not the official first single. It was a possible single, but it was
never slated to be the official single. It kind of did its leak thing, so
that was good.
Dubcnn: Do you any producers on the album besides Timbaland and Polow?
I've done records with Antonio Dixon, formerly of the Underdogs. And of
course, Danja Handz, he did a third of the album! Danja, he really did the
records that defined my project, and I thank him so much for stepping out
there with me, we were very experimental to begin with, and those records
define who Keri is as an artist, I love him for that, he's so refreshing.
Dubcnn: What about guest appearances?
We have a few guest writers although I wrote the majority of the album, or
wrote on every song of the album, some by myself others with co-writers. We
have some features, I just don't want to jinx anything. I don't want to say
the ones that aren't definite, things have changed in the past few months,
we have new ones and have changed others.
Dubcnn: What are you trying to achieve with this album, musically?
I really think that it will be a definitive sound. I wanted something that
wasn't scattered, I didn't want to play the name game, that's why I kept it
all inhouse, it's all Timbaland, Polow Da Don and Danja Handz, unless the
Tony Dixon song makes it, and maybe a few other songs that I've worked on
with other producers. But the core of the album is these three producers
that work together very often, and I've had creative conversations with all
of them, and they're all aboard on what I'm trying to accomplish, which is a
defining sound. I didn't want to play the name game and get a track from
every hot producer in the game and every hot writer in the game. It's not my
intention of being in the industry, I'm not this cookie cutter artist, I
take pride in the fact that I can create my own music and my own sound. We
did just that, you have to hear it to know exactly what I'm talking about,
but you'll hear how much fun we had creating something new and definitely
refreshing, unlike any R&B or pop record that you've heard that's out.
Dubcnn: What do you think of the current R&B scene, who are you feeling?
The current R&B scene... There aren't so many female R&B females that are
still doing true to heart R&B music. So I have to say Chris Brown, Ne-Yo,
Usher is really about to hit them over the head, but everything that was R&B
is now Pop, because hood is the new pop!
Dubcnn: Did you hear the new Mary J. Blige album?
Oh yeah of course! I love Mary J. Blige! Keyshia Cole's been doing her thing
too, she definitely kept it true to R&B. I just love artists that do their
own thing, that don't assimilate and do trendy record or "now" record. The
Amy Winehouse's, the Robin Thicke's, you can't help but love them!
Dubcnn: You mentioned that you worked on Britney Spears' latest album, how
did that happen?
Danja was summoned, and therefore he summoned me in! That was one of the
session that they called me into! Little did I know that the label already
knew what I had done, like the Pussycat Dolls "Wait A Minute" record, and I
guess that they heard some of the Timbaland stuff. So we go in with Danja,
we ended up with three records on the album and I also wrote the single "Gimme
More". So, yeah, that's pretty much how that went, myself and Jim Beans
cowrote that with Danja, and the rest is history!
Dubcnn: As a last question, where would you like to see yourself next year
at this time?
Wow. I'm not one to make predictions like that! I'll take whatever comes, I
know it will be a successful year. Of course I'll take all the accolades,
and the chart toppers, but I don't predict, I take things as they come. I
know it will do well, though! *laughs*
Dubcnn: Before we go is there anything else that you'd like to let everybody
Thank you! My official MySpace page is www.myspace.com/kerihilson, that's
the one I'm checking all the time.
Keri Hilson Gave Dubcnn A Shoutout: