A songwriter, arranger, producer, and vocalist, Atlanta's Johnta Austin
initially stepped out on SWV
's Release Some Tension
, broke out as the songwriter of Tyrese
's 1998 Top Ten hit "Sweet Lady," and, by 2004, hit a hot streak that involved collaborations with Mary J. Blige
("Be Without You"), Mariah Carey
("We Belong Together"), and Janet Jackson
(much of 20 Y.O.
). Signed to So So Def, the label founded by close associate and Virgin urban head Jermaine Dupri
released his debut solo album -- Ocean Blue -- in late 2006. At the time, he was only in his mid-twenties.