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Saturday, May 9, 2009
Updated: May 19, 11:46 AM ET
The Future of Music: Keri Hilson

By Jay Corbin
ESPN RISE Magazine

For a female to succeed in today's music industry she can't just be a pretty face. She has to be multi-talented; she has to write, dance and, of course, sing. Combine all those skills with the competitiveness of an athlete and you have Keri Hilson, songstress extraordinaire. Not to mention a future superstar.

Keri Hilson
Keri Hilson balanced sports and music when she was in high school.

Hilson's original claim to fame came from writing hits like Britney Spears' "Gimme More." Lately she's been penning her own hit singles like "Knock You Down," featuring Kanye West. We caught up with Hilson in Atlanta while she was on a break from touring.

ESPN RISE: Congratulations on your album. How does it feel to hear yourself on the radio?

Keri Hilson: It's great! Sometimes when I hear my music I still can't believe that's me. This is a total blessing.

ESPN RISE: What was high school like while growing up in Atlanta?

Hilson: High school life was a lot of fun. I ran in a small circle, but I had the best times.

ESPN RISE: Where you involved in sports in high school?

Hilson: Most definitely. Basketball was my sport. I received best offensive honors in 10th and 11th grade and then the MVP in 12th grade. I always had a sense of humor, so one year I was the school's mascot for a season. On top of basketball, I also swam for the USA junior national team.

ESPN RISE: With all your athletic endeavors, how in the world did you find time for music?

Hilson: I loved both so I had to find a balance. Weekends belonged to my music. It wasn't easy, but I found a way.

ESPN RISE: What was the turning point when you knew Keri Hilson the artist could make it to the next level?

Hilson: I'd have to say the day I met Timbaland. We connected from day one, and he understood me. From that day on it was on. The rest is history.

ESPN RISE: We've all seen how you dress in videos. But how would you describe your style when the cameras and lights are off.

Hilson: I'd have to say tomboy chic. I love my denim and my kicks.

ESPN RISE: What are your favorite kicks?

Hilson: I rock Creative Recreation and Nike Dunk hi's. But my favorites are the Nike Grecko's. Very hard to find but still my favorites.

ESPN RISE: What do you have in heavy rotation on your iPod?

Hilson: Let's see, Lauren Hill, The-Dream's new album, and Ryan Leslie.

ESPN RISE: What advice would you give to a young artist trying to get where you are today?

Hilson: My advice is to be persistent, relentless and have a passion for what you do. I feel I'm grinding more now then when I was trying to get signed.

Jay Corbin is the lifestyle editor for ESPN RISE. Talk to Jay about this interview on his profile.