There’s nothin’ like southern comfort. Vocal siren Angie Stone knows this and abides by it and delivers it through her music as only a southern belle could. Her sophomore release, Mahogany Soul (J Records), is a melodic equation that poetically calculates the varying components of love, romance, men and relationships. Her bass-heavy first single “Brotha” is an ode to African-American men from all walks of life. And while Stone’s richly-crafted 1999 platinum solo debut, Black Diamonds(Arista Records), earned her a seat in the industry’s growing caucus of socially-conscious songbirds like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott and India.Arie, her multi-faceted career has long served as a blueprint to shaping the sound of today’s “neo-soul” music.

Since she was a teenager, the Colombia, S.C., native’s musical evolution has afforded her fruitful gigs like singing jingles for household products like Afro Sheen and Budweiser; serving as a member of R&B groups Sequence and Vertical Hold; playing saxophone for Lenny Kravitz; and penning hits for Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo (her ex-beau and father of their four-year old son, Michael D’Angelo Archer II). But Stone didn’t get her props until 2000, when she received a Soul Train Music Award. “I’ve been in the business a long time,” said Stone in accepting her award. “It’s nice to finally get the recognition.” With a million-plus albums sold, Stone is also finally getting her due. caught up with the soulstress on her way to rehearsal for her upcoming promotional tour and chatted with her about sexy brothas, romance, and what gets her mahogany soul stirring.

You’ve said that Black Diamonds was written from the perspective of how you’d want someone to write a song if it was about you. What’s the theme of Mahogany Soul?
The whole album signifies victories that I’ve had and all the hurdles I’ve overcome in my life. You know what they say, ‘When you’re happy and you know it clap your hands?’ After you’ve sold a million albums everybody is feeling you and you’re happy and content. I was in a space of spiritual comfort. So I wrote this album with a lot of positive energy.

You have a duet with Musiq Soulchild called “The Ingredient,” about what you look for in a soulmate. What are the key ingredients that you look for in a brother?
Truth, loyalty, dedication — those are key factors for any relationship. Romance is the least concern of mine. When you have all of the other factors in place romance falls in at the right time. But if romance or sex dictates the nature of the relationship, then it’s short-lived, because once that’s worn out you won’t have any place to go.

So once romance blossoms, what does a man need to be sexy?
To be well-groomed with very clean fingernails, nice white teeth and a very southern nature — hospitable, caring and focused on pleasing the woman. Shemar Moore is sexy, but what’s really sexy is a rugged, thuggish kinda mentality. Morris Chestnut is as sexy as they come. Before he got married, Blair Underwood was too. Those are the top two contenders in my book.

Well, you are a beautiful and voluptuous woman. What makes you sexy?
Like I’ve said before, I’ve never been one of those American dream girls. So it’s my personality, the inside of Angie Stone — the down-to earth part of me. If you’re beautiful within, a person can fall in love with your spirit. I haven’t always been the person I am today. I came into loving myself more than anything or anyone else. Allowing myself to love God completely has obviously shed light on my self-love because he loves me more than I could ever love myself.

A lot of times women love men more than they love themselves. In the song “More Than A Woman” you talk about a woman stepping up to the plate and being there for her man during the rough times. But when do you know if a brother just needs some help getting on his feet or when he’s crossed the line into freeloading?
I was getting ready to get involved with this guy — I won’t say his name — but the more I gave, he got really comfortable with the more he took. As time went on I realized he’d gotten too comfortable. All of his promises of, ‘I’m gonna give you this, I’m gonna give you that,’ just kinda melted away. Because I’m just a giving person spiritually, I feel that if your intentions are to use or abuse or take advantage of, then you might get what you get in the meantime, but there’s still a price to pay. You still have to get pass the big boss.