Before she could utilize her talents for her own solo endeavors, R&B singer, vocal arranger, and songwriter Keri Hilson wrote a slew of songs, many of them chart-toppers, for several popular artists in the mid-2000s as part of the five-person production/songwriting team known as the Clutch. The dynamic songwriter was born in Decatur, GA, only a few miles outside of Atlanta. Addicted to TV talent shows like Star Search and Showtime at the Apollo, she was already plotting out her career in music at age 12. Even though her mother hired a piano teacher to encourage those talents, she mainly wanted to sing; therefore, Hilson converted those sessions into vocal lessons, accompanying the teacher on piano. In her mid- to late teens, she jump-started her career as a songwriter and background vocalist, working under producer Anthony Dent (Destiny's Child, Diddy). Born out of that relationship were two failed girl groups (named Pretty Toni and D'Sign) and, more importantly, a host of connections within the industry for whom she wrote or did backup vocals, including Usher, Ludacris, Kelly Rowland, Ciara, and up-and-coming Southern rap producer Polow da Don.