Singing the hooks on hip-hop tracks by local L.A. rappers came naturally for Lucero Rodriguez.

Singing the hooks on tracks by local L.A. rappers came naturally for Lucero Rodriguez. Like other artists in L.A.'s urban regional scene, which mixes rap with traditional Mexican instrumentation, she had grown up listening to everything from Whitney Houston and Prince to classic Mexican pop by Los Bukis and Juan Gabriel.

But when Grammy-nominated urban regional duo Akwid approached her about producing a solo album two years ago, Rodriguez panicked.

"They asked me, 'do you know how to write in Spanish?' and I lied," says Rodriguez, who goes by the moniker Kuky. "My thing was English, or so I thought. I was so nervous."

But Kuky (pronounced "cookie") had been waiting to be discovered, and wasn't about to lose her chance. "They gave me a track with music, and said 'write on it,'" she recalls. "I wrote the song in my car in the parking lot of my apartment building. I think I pulled it off."

That appears to be the case. The song, "Mentiras," a mix of R&B and mariachi, is one of 14 tracks on her self-titled debut from Machete Music, which streets Jan. 23.

The first single from the album, "Ya No," is a lengthy denunciation of a cheating guy set to a jaunty cello hook. It has been serviced to radio nationwide, where it debuted at No. 30 on Billboard's Latin Rhythm songs chart.

Other songs on Kuky's album include "Dame Una Oportunidad," a soulful entreaty over beats tinged with flute and harp.

Despite Kuky's nerves, all the songs on her album are in Spanish except for "Let Me See," a duet with Akwid about a one-night stand.

Kuky was raised in the San Fernando Valley by a single mom who liked to party. "She'd take me out with her to charreadas (rodeos)," says Kuky, recalling her mother's impromptu performances with mariachi bands. "She wasn't part of a group, but she always loved to sing."

A self-described loner growing up, Kuky moved out of her house when she was 16 and a member of her high school chorus.

Now in her early 20s, Kuky has appeared on albums by David Rolas and Akwid, and looks forward to carving out her own path with her first-ever solo shows -- the prospect of which she admits is a little nerve-wracking, but that hasn't stopped her before.

"I'm going to continue writing in Spanish. That's where my passion is."