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She was the voice on Mystikal's chart-topping hit "Danger (Been So Long)" and the Jagged Edge top 10 single "Don't Mess With My Man." DJs are spinning her latest record, You Like It Like That," from city to city. Her 2002 debut self-titled peaked at number one on the Billboard Heatseekers chart. And in 2005, Nivea returns wtih her as-yet-untitled sophomore album.

Though she grew up in a house full of vocalists, Nivea was extremely shy and never though she'd wind up a recording artist. She admits, "I never wanted to be a professional singer." At seven, she was inspired to shake her stage fright when she heard Mariah Carey sing but eventually learned it was actually easier to sing for strangers. "I hated singing in front of my family," she recalls.

The public got a taste of Nivea's vocals when she appeared on "Danger." Having recorded the track shortly after landing her deal with Jive, the then-18-year-old songbird was caught off guard when it took off and she found herself on stages across the country. "It was crazy," she recalls. "We were on every television show. And I had never ever participated in talent shows or anything like that." Nivea's 2002 self-titled debut included the Grammy-nominated single "Don't Mess with My Man" featuring fellow Atlantans Jagged Edge, "Laundromat," and "Ya Ya Ya," both produced by R. Kelly.

ATL natives like OutKast and Ludacris have kept the city on the music industry map, but Nivea says the town that also brought you Babyface, Monica and Usher has long been a music hotbed. "We're kind of in our little hot mode now and we're having a great running streak," says the singer. "But Atlanta's always been hot. It's very mixed, as far as different types of music. You can hear some African beats in a club. It's like a melting pot." And she says the Crunk craze is just one of many movements to expect from her hometown.

Nivea wrote many of the songs on her new project and had plenty from which to draw for lyrical inspiration. "I went through a bunch of changes [over the last two years]," she reveals, adding that the new album is "much more relatable, especially for women. "They'll listen to it and be like 'Girl, me too!'" It presents a mix of party records and ballads, which she has an affinity for. "I love slow songs. It's actually more of a challenge to sing a fast song, for me. I'm more soulful anyway. To just hold out a note and scream through a song, that's me." Her most personal story is a song called "No More."

Reflecting on the period during which she wrote it, she says, "I was fed up at one point. My family was going through it. I was going through it. It was kind of like that release record." The lead single "Okay," re-teams Nivea with Lil' Wayne and a remix version features Lil' Jon and The Young Bloodz. "I love it," Nivea says of the latter track. "It's real Southern."

In addition to newcomers like longtime collaborator Dream and The Platinum Brothers, the album boasts production from Jermaine Dupri and again, R. Kelly. Dupri contributed "McDonald's Parking Lot," which chronicles a morally challenged girl's efforts to cheat on her man. Working with him for the first time, Nivea was awed wtih Dupri's hands-on approach in the studio. "He does the real production. Like a lot of producers don't really produced. They'll do a beat and they're titled a producer but a producer is supposed to put it together and bring out what the artist needs to get out of themselves to make it a great song. I was impressed. I didn't know he did it like that." Her reunion with Kelly, however, was more like boot camp. "He's a workaholic. He'll get into a song and then he'll go to another song and go to another song and then next thing you know it's the next day. I'm like, 'Break!' But it's real interesting to watch him work."

Nivea hopes to achieve longevity by staying true to the emotions that come through in her lyrics. "I think it'd be better if people put more into what they're singing and what they're doing. People can read [each other]. If it's not real then people can't grasp it." Having "grasped" that concept, Nivea is likely to help keep Atlanta at the top of the game.

--- from the official Nivea website

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