Soul star Eric Benet is celebrating his newfound artistic freedom, after his previous record label forced him to stay in the R+B genre.

The GEORGY PORGY singer, ex-husband of actress Halle Berry, released two discs - TRUE TO MY SELF in 1996 and A DAY IN THE LIFE in 1999 - with Warner Bros, but was unhappy that executives were trying to pigeonhole his music.

As he prepares to release his third album, HURRICANE, with Friday Records, Benet has hailed his new music bosses, including Friday Records head TIM BLIXSETH and songwriter David Foster, for taking a less active role in his music-writing.

Benet says, "The label (Warner) kept saying I needed to make another album of R+B, neo-soul, whatever you want to call it.

"When the label and I didn't see eye to eye, I knew I had to get a solid cheerleader on my side.

"Tim has a vision like David. That it doesn't have to be a genre-specific album. Good music will find an audience. This isn't just R+B; it's a lot of stuff."