Whitney Houston Talks Hooking Up With Akon, Alicia Keys

The singer chooses an interesting mix of partners for I Look to You.

[url id="http://www.mtv.com/music/artist/houston_whitney/artist.jhtml"]Whitney Houson[/url] wasn't too sure about working with rapper/singer/producer Akon for her new album, I Look to You, when her label president, Clive Davis, suggested him as a suitable collaborator.

"When Clive told me I would be working with Akon, I thought, 'Hmm, interesting, um, all right,' " she told MTV News of her initial reaction to the producer of her song "Like I Never Left."

Houston realized she wanted to recapture what she had done with Wyclef Jean in 1999. "I wanted the record like 'My Love Is Your Love' with an island feel," she explained. "I wanted an island record because 'My Love Is Your Love' is so huge ... it has its own fashion with Wyclef. ... I wanted that feeling, but I didn't know who [could do that]. And Clive came and said, 'Akon is the guy that we're going to work with.' And I was like, 'OK, Akon. OK, I can deal with that.' "

But when Houston and Akon first met in the studio, her fears weren't exactly completely squelched after she heard how he came up with his moniker. "I was asking him, 'Did your mother name you Akon?' " Houston recalled. "And he said, 'No, it means a convict.' And I thought, 'Oh, God. OK, all right, I can handle that.' He's a gentleman. He did his work very well. We did it very quickly, very diligently, and I'm very proud of that record. It's a great record."

By contrast, Houston had no reservations about working with Alicia Keys. She knew as soon as she saw Keys perform that she wanted to get in the studio with the Grammy winner.

"When she performed at one of [Clive's] parties the year before last, I kind of looked at her, and it was when she had [the 'No One'] record out, and it was the only record that came on the radio that inspired me," Houston said. "It made me feel good and happy, and I thought, 'God, she's on the label with Daddy [Clive Davis] here.'

"I thought, 'I got to get to know her. I got to have a camaraderie with some of the people that were on the label where I came back home to,' " she continued.

Keys, of course, said yes. "I walked over to her, and off the cuff said, 'Hey, do you think you could produce me?' She said, 'Yeah, I think I can,' " Houston recounted. "Then I performed a year after, and she came up with the song 'Million Dollar Bill,' and I said, 'Wow, incredible.' "