Is Keri Hilson ready for her close up?

The Clutch: (l-r) B. Muhammad, Keri Hilson, Ezekiel Lewis, I have always been a fan of Keri Lynn Hilson. I first caught wind of her as being a part of “The Clutch.” The Clutch was/is a group of talented writers who have penned hit songs for some of the hottest artists in the game. In Wikipedia, they are listed as, “an American collective of songwriters responsible for a series of successful singles including Omarion’s ‘Ice Box’, Ciara’s ‘Like A Boy’ and Timbaland’s ‘The Way I Are.’”

I was especially enamored with a song titled, “Wrong When You’re Gone,” with Keri’s vocals on the track. This song later became a demo for Jennifer Lopez’s version on her latest release – though to be honest, I thought Keri should have kept the song for herself.

Soon after, Keri’s vocals were popping up everywhere, from Diddy’s album (“After Love”) to Timbaland’s. It was only a matter of time before people were rightfully checking for a solo project from Keri. We’ve had the working title In a Perfect World, for months now. But, after several album push backs – the latest being to “some time early in 2009,” we are left to wonder if Ms. Hilson will be dropping at all.  

I was hurt when I read a post from fellow Atlantan Gyant, who writes for, because I am a fan of Keri’s:

“Keri, who is signed to Interscope/Mosley/Zone 4, has been on her grind for years…She wants to be that solo star. But there’s just one problem – she’s not a star! Now look, I am not making my assessment off any hate, seriously! I’ve come to my conclusion off of my God given common sense. I’ve seen Keri out and about on numerous occasions. Ms. Hilson is one of the most nicest and engaging people I’ve possibly ever met. However, this business is not built on manners. It’s built on results. I know I don’t have to tell anyone how brutal the music business can be. SOHH I can’t understand why someone with such an extensive resume would willingly put themselves in this situation. Out of all the videos I’ve seen [and trust me, before I wrote this I went to youtube and soaked up all that she had to give me] there wasn’t one that stood out to me to give me the slightest inclination that she could really do this and be successful. Her performance was on par with a high school talent show. I mean let’s be real; she’s not a dancer. Her voice is OK, but it’s not great. I know about 15 “Keri Hilsons” in real life. There’s no whisper of a thrill. Not a hint of a scandal. I mean hell, the worst anyone’s been able to say about Keri are about her hammer toes.”

Keri's debut album is scheduled to drop in early 2009Now to be honest, I disagree with Gyant’s assessment. Why? Because talent alone is not the reason certain artists become successful in this business. There are plenty of better singers than those that are currently hot, but success in this business depends upon a number of additional factors like timing and work ethic. Many an artist have given bad – even heartless performances. Keri has the tools to be the artist she wants to be. I believe there may be other things working behind the scenes here. To be honest, Ms. Hilson is rather hard to reach for someone who has not dropped a debut album yet, and is still in search of that #1 hit. There are established stars who have made themselves more available to media (to at the very lease provide a counterpoint to Gyant’s) than Keri Hilson. To me this illustrates one simple point.

You cannot act like a star before you actually become one.

Ms. Hilson is not alone in making this misstep.  

About a year and a half ago, we (called BRiSON ENTERTAINMENT then) were very excited after hearing the rumblings of a new artist. Her name was Jazmine Sullivan. We heard a few songs of hers that leaked and we were very impressed. We knew she would be a star, just by her talent alone. So once we were able to find contact information for her team, we requested an interview with Ms. Sullivan. This is where it got “interesting.”
Jazzy's debut is named FEARLESS. In stores now!
Jazzy’s contact (he may have been her publicist) went to our site, which was at the time in blog format as we were relative newbies to our craft. “I see you have a little blog site (emphasis on the word “little”). But there are no posts on Jazmine here,” were his remarks. There were posts on Jazmine on our blog. We attempted to explain that blog-style sites post the most recent information first and there were actually several posts we had uploaded previously but they were archived. We were not seeking to interview Jazzy because she had a “buzz” or had a recent new story introducing her to the public or because she had dropped a single that would have required a “recent” post. None of that would happen until about a year later. The end result is that we never got to interview Jazmine because the contact felt our site was “too little” and we had no post on the homepage about Jazzy.  

Maybe her team thought that with a voice like hers, that Jazzy was destined to be a star on talent alone. Her team was obviously not aware of the fact that there are thousands of Jazmine Sullivan’s in the business – people who are ultra-talented but whose successes don’t parallel those talents.  Now don’t get me wrong. We are so proud of her success and the release of her debut album Fearless this year, but Jazzy has also been seeking a career since she was 13 years old, and it has taken her this long to even catch wind of any lime light.

However, her “team” obviously felt that Jazzy was too much of a “star” to bother with “little” blogs. Her team was short-sighted – little blogs (with time and effort) – grow up to become big websites and little people who may only today have a dream and a smile, grow up to become the music executives and artists of tomorrow. Now, contrast that with an established star such as Mariah Carey. It would be impossible for Mariah to interview with every radio, TV, and website format that wants to talk to her. It is not because she is “too big” of a star. It is because she is only one person and the “consequences” of being a star is that you cannot be accessible to everyone. See the difference?

You cannot blame your lack of success on your team – even if it is (partially) their fault. You will come across as someone who cannot take responsibility for yourself. Barack Obama shows us clearly that a team is only as good as its leader. If you allow someone to sabotage your career, you have to shoulder some of that responsibility. Being a leader can take time to learn and none of us are perfect in our leadership. Consequently when you have a
team around you, it’s even more necessary to ensure that you are leaving your own signature. Doing this may not be what it seems. Maybe Keri should have other artists write for her while she writes for others? Maybe wiith the two biggest EGOs in the game (Polow Da Don of Zone 4, Inc and Timbaland of Mosely Music Group), there isn’t enough space in the room for Keri? Hmmm…

All I know is that Keri’s aura tells me that in her perfect world, she wouldn’t put the cart before the horse. Would you, Keri?

With all of this said, BE Magazine still gives props where props are due! Keri currently has one of the hottest singles floating around radio right now featuring Lil Wayne. I think Keri may have her #1 if all things work out…I’m guessing they should have went with this song BEfore going with “Energy”, but there’s that cart again! Either way check out Keri in “Turning Me On”…You can also catch Keri currently on the “I Am Music Tour” with Lil Wayne, T-Pain, Keyshia Cole, Gym Class Heroes, and Gorilla Zoe.

(Watch Keri “Whoop Rico” a dance started by the Show Stoppas, an Atlanta rap group discovered by Soulja Boy & featured by BE Magazine last month)


UPDATE (12/30/08): We were able to catch Keri being interviewed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding her current tour/album status. Check out this excerpt:
“The response has been growing with every city [of the tour]. Last night in Philly was amazing. They were singing every song — which means a lot to me, because I never expect that. I’m the scrub of this tour [which also includes Atlantans T-Pain and Keyshia Cole, along with Gym Class Heroes]. The freshman. And I feel like it. But it’s not a bad season opener at all. I’m very grateful!”
Hilson — whose latest single “Turnin Me On” is with the inescapable [Lil] Wayne — said she expects a lot of surprise appearances on the Atlanta date. “It’s home for so many of us, so many stars, so I know it’s going to be the livest show,” she said. “And afterwards, I’m going to hang out and party it up. I’ve had a really great, great year as a new artist. Yeah, my [debut] album still hasn’t come out … and the release date is still unknown. … But this tour has reignited the performer in me. I’m living my dream every night.”

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