For soul singer Angie Stone, working in the studio, touring and shooting videos with the likes of Alicia Keys, Will Smith, Maxwell, Moby, 'NSYNC's Justin Timberlake and Eve doesn't necessarily make her a star, but it's a heck of a start.
"I'm trying to get to the next level," said Stone, who has been getting love lately with her second LP, Mahogany Soul.
"Justin [Timberlake] and I hit it off," she said, smiling. "Justin loves the Mahogany Soul album. While we were doing the Billboard Music Awards, he was singing 'More Than a Woman' and 'Pissed Off' during the soundcheck. He's going, 'Your CD's in my car right now, you have to work on my solo project.' I saw him in the studio today."
Stone was also recently in the lab with Moby, who too was impressed with her album. "Originally he wanted me to do a song for his new album called 'Jam for the Ladies,' which is an uptempo song that features myself and MC Lyte," she said. "It went so well, he said, 'I have another song on my album which I want you to do, a ballad.' Of course I lost my mind. He gave me three tracks for my new project that I'm starting to work on.
"He invited me to perform with him on the Winter Olympics," she continued. "We're doing a third song that Moby has been slated to do the music for. I'm truly blessed to be in that equation. He's probably the most organized human being I know. Just gifted."
Stone's giving the gift of inspiration to men in the African-American community via her praise anthem "Brotha," Mahogany Soul's first single.
"We needed a positive song, a role-model song that would represent our brothers in the good light they obviously deserve, to let people know you don't have to talk about negativity all the time to sell," she explained. "[I wanted to] mainly uplift. I wanted to show there are some beautiful, positive brothers in the world.
"The reaction has been all good," said Stone, who featured Will Smith, Sinbad and Larenz Tate in the clip. "I've gotten a wide range of positivity, from the kids to the average hip-hop head to my pastor."
And let's not leave out her labelmate Alicia Keys, who wrote and produced a club-rocking reworking of the ballad along with her production company (see "Alicia Keys, Eve Help Out A 'Brotha' For Angie Stone LP" ).
"The beauty of that remix," Stone said, "is that Alicia Keys reached out at the peak of her career and said, 'I have this remix. I want you to check it out. Obviously, I want you to do you.' When I heard it, I flipped out and called my manager and was like, 'We gotta get Eve.'
" 'Eve was like, 'Bet, I'm down,' " she added. "Eve came in after all of us and was so excited, she wanted to do it that day. Then [she] said, 'No, let me go home and live with it.' We all respected each other enough to not get in each other's way. At the end of the day, it is actually a masterpiece."
There was no strife, just mutual admiration during Stone's recent stint as Maxwell's opening act. "We got a chance to view each other as performers," she said. "It's all good when an artist can make a record in the studio and have people buy into the hype. The truth is, can you pull it off? That's where we separate the minors from the majors.
"I have to say I was thoroughly impressed by Maxwell's live show, and the fact that he used to stand on the side of the stage in awe of my show let me know he respected me as a performer."
And if that's not star quality, what is?