Her longtime love of singing helped Keri Hilson score backup vocal spots with the likes of Nas, Xzibit and Kardinal Offishall. Her model-perfect looks warranted her inclusion in Nelly Furtado’s Promiscuous Girl, Usher’s Love In This Club and Timbaland’s The Way I Are and Scream.

Now it appears that the Atlanta-born songstress is ready to step to the fore as a leading performer with her solo debut, In a Perfect World..., out today.

“Coming from the writing world, you want the fan to connect with the artists’ songs,” Hilson tells Metro of her pop-oriented R&B effort, with guest appearances from Timbaland, Kanye West, Ne-Yo and Lil Wayne. “So now I’m fulfilling my dreams as a singer of my own work.”

The 26-year-old cites such contemporaries as Ne-Yo and West who perform as well as write and produce for others. “Some writers get this mentality in their head that they don’t need to sing. I’d be worried about getting complacent.”

Long before she rubbed shoulders with some of R&B and hip hop’s elite, Hilson considered herself as an eager youngster who begged her mother to enter her in talent shows. She earned the nickname “Keri-oke” in elementary school, her teachers often remarking how she disrupted classes with her constant singing.

For a period between, her focal points were aimed squarely as a songwriter for hire, as part of a collective of writers and producers referred to as The Clutch. Among her clientele: Ciara, Ludacris, Usher, Nas and Mary J. Blige.

Oh, and the hook-laden chorus to Britney Spears’ 2007 comeback single, Gimme More? Yep, credit Hilson for that.“I was collaborating with Nate ‘Danja’ Hills, a protégé of Timbaland’s,” she says, “and remember us hearing the track and I started going off in this high-pitched voice, ‘Gimme-gimme. Gimme. Gimme-gimme. Gimme-gimme.’ ... That was the hook.”