Jay-Z Signs Willow Smith After Hearing Her "Smash" Record

The nine-year-old's "Whip My Hair" leaked online this week

By Lauren Bertolini
|  Thursday, Sep 9, 2010  |  Updated 1:30 PM PDT
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Jay-Z Signs Willow Smith After Hearing Her "Smash" Record

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Watch out Rihanna, Jay-Z has a new protege -- Willow Smith, the nine-year-old daughter of Will and Jada Smith.

Jay-Z confirmed Thursday that he signed Willow to his label Roc Nation before he even knew who she was. She caught his attention after her first single "Whip My Hair" leaked online earlier this week.

"I heard the record first," he said during a call to "On-Air With Ryan Seacrest" on Thursday morning, "before I knew that it was recorded by a nine-year-old. I was like 'Man, that record's a smash.'"

When Brown revealed just who the artist was, Jay-Z told Seacrest his response was, "Whoa. Whoa."

After meeting withJay-Z met with Willow, he was impressed with more than just her music.

"She walked in and the first thing she said was, 'I'm really nervous,' and I thought, 'That's maturity' to explain exactly how she was feeling as she walked right into the room. I knew right then she was a star," he said. "I believe in superstars. I believe in big records and superstars, and I think she has both."

Jay-Z even went so far as to compare her to the likes of Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.

"I believe that you have to start somewhere, and when you have that sort of talent and vision, there's no such thing as too young. Again, I heard the record without knowing who it was," he said. "We all danced to Michael Jackson records when he was 8. Stevie Wonder started at 8, it's just what it is, who she is."

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