Soul singing legend Stephanie Mills is planning to reintroduce her distinct voice to the world. And, while the diva is stayed busy in the currently-running musical "Nativity," she said her musical comeback has a hip-hop twist to it.
For ‘Born for This’, Mills' upcoming album, she gave up on the regiments of the corporate music world to go indie, where many artists feel like they control their fate.
"I took my cues to go independent from Puff [Combs] and Jay-Z and watching them, how they maneuver. On thing that helped me was looking at an interview with Jay-Z and him saying when no record company would sign him and so he did it himself," Mills told BET.com. "There is nothing like having your own."
Now she has a new song, "Can't Let Him Go," that is rapidly rising up the charts and she intends to re-establish herself- but for mature audiences.
A star of the 70's and 80's, Mills' has won a Grammy, an American Music Award , chart-topping singles and a number of best selling albums. Her career began in the 70's when she starred Broadway's "The Wiz," an urban adaptation of "The Wizard of Oz."
But, Mills said she nearly gave up on the idea of continued success because of the machine-like music industry grind.
She explained, "I've had the spotlight my whole life, so in 1990 I was kind of not wanting to have the spotlight and I wanted to live a normal life so I kind of dissolved my contract with MCA and moved to charlotte North Carolina where I've been living the last ten years."
"I think I was tired and I was burned out of doing the same old things and I no longer wanted to do what the record company wanted me to do. They wanted me to follow the trend and I didn't want to follow the trend," she furthered.
However, after 13 years, she's re-ignited her desire for recording and decided to release Born For This, her latest album due in March of 2004.
"With the title, [I'm saying that] I was born to do this, this is what I love to do. I just thought it was a great title but I wasn't interested in recording so I told BeBe [Winans, who worked on the album,] if I ever recorded an album that was going to be the title. So I kept it."
"This is straight up classic Stephanie Mills, it has great lyrics, great songs. If they like my other songs they will love these," she said, visibly excited.
In addition to a consistent stream of performing, Mills has returned to her roots in stage with the play "Nativity : A Life Story," which is currently running in New York City at the United Place Theater.
"It's the story of Jesus, the birth of Jesus Christ and it's told from Mary's perspective. I haven't seen a lot of other stories about Jesus. This is taken from the Langston Hughes' story," she said. "The play has been in existence for about ten years and I've been in it for the past three."
Not surprising, Mills plays the lead role of Mary, a character she shares with Phylicia Rashad of Cosby fame and Shirley Black Brown.
In addition, singing star Freddie Jackson and the aforementioned BeBe Winans of the Winans Gospel family are featured in the musical.
While Mills said that her forward march is one against the grain of what she was once a part of, she is up to the challenge.
"Well everything is a uphill battle..[but] It's been a joy, not even a battle," she said.