Mariah Carey's current hit, "We Belong Together," is just one example of co-author Johnta Austin's songwriting prowess.
Mariah Carey's current hit, "We Belong Together," is just one example of co-author Johnta Austin's songwriting prowess. But listeners will get a taste of Austin's singing skills when his album "Ocean Drive" bows in August.
The So So Def/Virgin R&B set will follow the July 19 rollout of the label's "Young, Fly & Flashy Vol. 1" hip-hop compilation, producer Jermaine Dupri's first release since assuming the presidency of Virgin Urban. Austin's project also marks So So Def/Virgin's first R&B signing.
"My heart is half-rap and half-R&B," Dupri tells Billboard. "Given how popular R&B is right now, it's time for this [album] to happen."
Austin's songwriter-to-singer transformation took 11 years. The 24-year-old was first signed in 1994 to RCA. Dropped a year later after his voice changed -- and before an album was released -- Austin switched to songwriting. Ironically, he penned the 1999 hit "Sweet Lady" for a young male singer who succeeded him at RCA, Tyrese. Since then, Austin has written songs for Aaliyah, Toni Braxton and Mario, among others.
Dupri produced "Ocean Drive," which includes collaborations with Jazze Pha, Bryan-Michael Cox and Teddy Bishop. The first single is "Little More Love."