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Beyoncé Knowles
Beyoncé Knowles Kelendria "Kelly" Trene Rowland Tenetra "Michelle" Williams Farrah Franklin LaTavia Roberson & LeToya Luckett

Ask Beyoncé what she wants people to hear when they listen to Dangerously In Love, her debut solo album, and she answers, "My range. I want them to hear all of the musical influences, from hip-hop to rock to jazz. There's even a Shuggie Otis sample. I want them to really hear the talent. I know that folks love me as a pop star. Now I want them to understand me as an artist." A Houston native, Beyoncé is a founding member of Destiny's Child, one of the biggest-selling female acts of all time. With many of their hit songs co-written and co-produced by Beyoncé, the group has sold more than 33 million records worldwide.

When she won the 2001 ASCAP Pop Songwriter of the Year Award, Beyoncé became the first African-American woman-and the second woman ever-to receive the honor. Led by Beyoncé and co-founder Kelly Rowland, Destiny's Child burst onto the scene in 1997 with their multi-platinum single "No, No, No," from their self-titled debut. That success was dwarfed when their follow-up LP, The Writing's On The Wall, was released in 1999 and went on to sell more than 10 million copies. A year after Michelle Williams joined the group in 2000, Destiny's Child released Survivor, which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 album chart and went on to sell more than nine million copies.

In 2001, the group took home two Grammys: Best R&B song and Best R&B performance by a Duo or Group-both for "Say My Name." Over the years, they've won numerous other honors, including American Music Awards and Soul Train Awards. The girls have also toured worldwide and performed at events ranging from the Michael Jackson 30th Anniversary Concert Special to the Concert For New York City. Given the fact that the general public is so familiar with Beyoncé as part of the group, it's fair to wonder how Dangerously In Love differs from a Destiny's Child project. "Naturally, the songs on my album are going to share some similarities," she admits. "But this time, because I only had to write for myself, my songs are much more personal. I also wanted beats that were harder and to be able to collaborate with other people.

Basically, this record was a chance for me to grow as a writer and a singer. There are more ballads.The vocals aren't as precisely produced, and because it's just me, there aren't as many harmonies."
The experience was very liberating and therapeutic. I felt free, because I could go into the studio and talk about whatever I wanted," says Beyoncé. "But in many ways, it was actually harder to be on my own creatively. I depend so much on Destiny's Child to tell me if they like something or not. I'm so critical of myself that it's scary to have to depend on your own instincts."

Helping her trust those instincts were an impressive array of musical collaborators, including Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Mark Batson, Mario Winans, D-Roy, Mr. B, OutKast's Big Boi, Rich Harrison, Fanatic, Scott Storch and Luther Vandross. Beyoncé shares co-executive producer credits on 2003's Dangerously In Love with her father and manager, Mathew Knowles. She took an active role in all aspects of the album-from writing and choosing material to producing, mastering and mixing the tracks. But no need to fret, Beyoncé isn't shutting the door on her past. "I love Destiny's Child, and I am a member of the group," she asserts. "We haven't broken up. We're going to continue to tour and record and be a group.

We all decided a long time back to explore solo projects, and I'm the third member of the group to release my own record. Things like working apart keep the fire going and keep the fans eager for you. I'm not trying to get away from Destiny's Child or the legacy we have. I just wanted to show a different approach and the growth I've experienced." That growth has extended even beyond music. In 2001, Beyoncé starred in MTV's Carmen, and in 2002, she appeared as Foxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember. 2003 finds her co-starring with Cuba Gooding Jr. in The Fighting Temptations. Is there anything she can't do?