Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

Who is T. Naija?

She is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-born, Nigerian-bred model. She is also a singer/songwriter. And her first album, "Rhythm of Love" on independent label Nok Records, recently debuted at No. 72 on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart.

Naija (first name Tinoula) and her team point to several factors in her early success: built-in visibility afforded by her modeling career, the artist's tenacity and a loyal Nigerian fan base in the U.S. A marketing and finance graduate of New York University, Naija has a stake in Nok along with several silent partners.

"Rhythm of Love" is currently No. 71 on the chart, and has sold 4,000 copies in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Naija credits the internet for helping drive album awareness and sales, citing the "2.5 million Nigerians living in this country and the 4,000-plus e-mails" her Web site and others (i.e., nigerianentertainment.com) have logged.

Through Sumthing distribution, the album is being sold at such outlets as Tower, Virgin, and Barnes & Noble. The album's lead single, "My Man," is receiving limited airplay in such stations as top 40 WJYY Concord, N.H.

"My music is different, something major labels and radio didn't want to grab on to," says the singer, who has appeared in Essence and Guinness' international ad campaigns. For the next three years, she will be the face of L'Oreal/Mizoni's Women of Color hair products line.

Naija wrote most of the songs on the 11-track album, working with producer Scotty Beats. Integrating elements of soul, funk, pop, and dance, naija has been described as a cross between Sade and Grace Jones.

"I recorded six songs in 2001 and played them for my country's press," Naija says. "It was important that they accepted me, or I wouldn't have finished the album. I know I took a risk starting in America. But I figured I can make it anywhere if I make it here first."

Excerpted from the June 28, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the Billboard.com Premium Services section.

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