There is something alluring about an artist, who, on the verge of superstardom, approaches life as humbly as the next person. Add dazzling looks and a captivating voice, and your eyes and ears bounce and shake in unison. Which is exactly what Arista’s newly signed artist TOYA does to a person: she uses the dance floor as a canvas, and her voice anyone can use as paint to dip, drop and roll all over the place. With her debut album, TOYA remarkably redefines popular Rhythm and Blues. Not only does she provide the thump-and-stop sound everyone gets out of their seat for, but she also smoothly fuses the jazz, traditional R&B and hip-hop influences that span her lifetime and beyond, and she does so not just with her voice, but with a myriad of talents: songwriter, soon-to-be producer, actress and spokesperson. And just like her St. Louis co-habitant, Nelly, she’s about to get down-down baby.

The lead single from the album, “I Do,” is already in heavy rotation on the radio. The accompanying video is sure to be in heavy rotation as well. An automatic hair-raiser, rhythmically banging, solid, sensitive and sensual, it forces you to recognize TOYA’s multi-dimensions. It’s a classic pop moment at its best– exciting yet ominous, memorable yet demanding, –everything a hit ever needs to be.

Her voice is as refreshing and chilling as a piece of ice down your back on a hot summer day.

TOYA’s debut LP is a collection of percolating harmonies, party-starting chants, jazzy swings and a couple of ballads to simply make you ponder. “My songs are very personal,” proclaims TOYA. “I’ve been writing with different producers, writers, and my manager Harold Guy. I tell them about my situations and we just sit down and write.”

TOYA is a reflection of her music. Both exhibit enchanting personality and flair. Her vocal flexibility, facial expressions and movements all tell a story and she’s about to sing it to the world. “I’ve been preparing for this moment all my life. Music is all I know. I mean, I grew up singing,” she says. “So I know this is what I was meant to do.”

As a young girl, TOYA, born in St. Louis of mixed parents (her mother is African American and her father is Puerto Rican), was always singing in church. At age four, she would often lead the choir. “ I have two sisters, and I’m the one who was always less shy and wanted to be onstage. So I always enjoyed those times. Whether I’m singing in church or at talent shows, a stage is a stage and I get energized by being on one.” During high school, she would go to all the basketball and football games and plead, “can I sing the National Anthem—please,” she recalls.

TOYA, who always attended private school and won scholarships for college, never second-guessed her ability to make it big. Yes, she took some business courses at St. Louis University and was making excellent grades, but her passion for music and the stage couldn’t be suppressed. “I remember the days when I was doing homework, working two jobs and staying up to do demos,” TOYA reflects. “But I knew I would have to work hard and put in some heavy time in order to make things happen.”

So “make things happen” is exactly what she did. It took only one visit to Nelly’s managers, Tony Davis and Courtney Benson, before she had their ears open. “I sang a gospel song, ‘I Won’t Complain,’” she says enthusiastically. “It was a Friday. Courtney Benson called me back and said, ‘We want two songs before Sunday.’ So Harold and I called BAM, who Harold met at a music convention, and we stayed up all night working on the songs. Mind you, we had two songs in two days, which wasn’t that tough but I had a job I also had to go to.” But as the saying goes nothing ventured, nothing gained.

The Big Pay Off: “ We heard L.A. Reid loved the songs! So they flew me to New York to audition. On the way back home I was extremely nervous because Arista was where I wanted to belong. I had received other offers, but with the people at Arista I just felt right at home. Drew Dixon, my A&R Executive, made me feel so comfortable; and inside, I felt like I belonged there,” she smiles. She received a phone call from Courtney Benson minutes after her plane touched ground, “‘L.A. wants to offer a deal’, he said. For that moment, my heart stopped and my body just kept on walking.”

Now, TOYA is more than ready to show the world what she is capable of. And with a smile that lights up the room, she says, “Arista has been giving us complete creative control because everything we’ve been bringing them, they’ve been digging!”

Influenced by such artists as the Beach Boys (yes, it’s true), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lauryn Hill and the Supremes, she also grew up with musical genres ranging from Country to Gospel and Hip-Hop. TOYA’s debut album is like a Rubic’s Cube—filled with vivid colors, sharp angles and intricate patterns. In short, the album is culmination of a dream well deserved.

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