As Missy Elliott's first signing to her Gold Mind label, R&B singer Nicole became the subject of much criticism when her debut album heavily featured Elliott. Born in Salinas, CA, Nicole (born Nicole Wray) moved to Portsmouth, VA, as a child, where she met members of Elliott's family in her neighborhood. Nicole became one of her church's star choir members, and even began to model in local fashion shows. When one of Elliott's cousins introduced Missy to Nicole, the up-and-coming rapper/singer was impressed by the teenage singer's skills. Once her mainstream success allowed her to start her own label, she signed the 17-year-old Nicole first, immediately going to work on her debut album. With producer Timbaland producing on the beats while Elliott wrote the majority of the songs, Nicole finished and released the record in 1998. Despite a star-filled video for the first single, "Make It Hot," the album's sales were only average, while critics were harsh on the record for Elliott's overwhelming presence. Still, Nicole wasn't phased by the reaction, continuing to work with her mentor on 2001's "I'm Lookin'" single as well as the material for her second album. ~ Bradley Torreano, Rovi