It’s been said before and it’ll be said again: Dynamite is blowin’ up! When ‘Booo!’ catapulted Ms Dynamite into the spotlight last May, entering the charts at Number 12 following the year-long white label rotation on the underground, it marked the beginning of an extraordinary 12 months for this nascent star.‘Booo!’ produced by garage don Sticky, wrapped a digital baroque two-step sound around Niomi McLean-Daley’s vivid account of clubland violence, and swiftly established the London MC as one of the hottest young talents to emerge from the capital’s fertile UK garage scene.
The past 12 months has seen Niomi support Eminem on his London dates and perform before Destiny’s Child at Party In The Park. She presented Channel 4’s urban music programme ‘Flava’ too, handling her new role as ‘street-glam’ multi-tasking media starlet with natural aplomb, despite no previous experience. Not bad for a girl who only started chatting in front of crowds at raves when she was 17. “It was just for a joke, never anything I took seriously” with her MC friends from pirate station Freek FM, Viper, Melody and Charlie Brown.
Of course, photogenic young pop divas are expected to do far more than just sing these days, yet there’s nothing contrived or artificial about Ms Dynamite.
She was born 21 years ago, the oldest of 11 brothers and sisters, and raised in north London by her primary school teacher mum, whose passion for roots, reggae and soul had a profound effect on Niomi. “I’ve always listened to a lot of reggae, a lot of roots and hip-hop,” she says, “and that’s obviously music where there’s a lot of conscious artists with a lot to say and I think they’ve definitely rubbed off on me. My life generally, I’ve been lucky to have a lot of intelligent, loving people around me who will take out five minutes to teach me things about myself without preaching at me, just showing me naturally.”
Described by her teachers as talkative and intelligent at school, Niomi excelled in her exams and passed up a place to read social anthropology at Sussex University in order to concentrate on music. It’s a gamble that’s paid off handsomely, following the success of ‘Booo!’, a track licensed from garage DJ Jason Kaye’s Social Circles label to London Records. Because Ms Dynamite – sassy, stylish, smart, attractive, funny and fiercely opinionated – knows she has more to offer her fans than her remarkable music.
“I am not here to be a stereotypical feisty young girl that just wants to get up onstage and chat. I’m actually here with what I believe is something important to say,” she declares. “I think growing up as a young black woman in this big flipping world where there’s so much badness going on and all the rest of it, I just wanna give my perspective of life. I guess I’m trying to bring positivity to people and even make light of negative things while encouraging people to think. That’s all I’m trying to do is to provoke thought and if that means I have to go and stand at the top of whatever building and scream at the top of my lungs to do so, then I will. I just want people to think more.”
Dynamite certainly provoked debate when she appeared on Carlton TV’s London-wide ‘Guns On Our Streets’ discussion late last year:
“A lot of the stuff that I talk about, they might say she’s preachin’, ’cos I talk about things, for example black-on-black violence, drugs etc., and I’m not saying that it only happens with black people in black clubs or even in the underground scene ’cos it happens everywhere.” Dynamite says “Me personally, as an artist, I’ve been through no money, been through violence, through this that and the other, It’s not something I choose to promote, it’s something I’ve been through.”
Throughout much of last year and most of 2002, however, Dynamite has channelled her energies into ‘A Little Deeper’, without question one of the finest debut albums to be released this year, or of any year for that matter. Recorded in Miami, New York and Jamaica by an array of producers, including Salaam Remi (Nas, Fugees) P Diddy’s beatmaster ‘Punch’ and, in the Caribbean, veteran reggae duo Tony and Dave Kelly. It’s an ambitious and accomplished record that easily justifies the blanket hysteria generated by everyone from the NME to The Daily Telegraph and J17, who all predicted Dynamite would return with something extremely special this year.
‘A Little Deeper’ is a great modern pop album, raw and inventive enough to satisfy Dynamite’s hardcore underground following (check the dirty cyber-ragga of ‘Dynamite’ and her amped-up chatting on ‘Danger’). Moreover, tracks such as melodica-flecked first single ‘It Takes More’, ‘Now You Want My Love’ and ‘Dyna-Mi-Tee’ are the kind of mercurial radio-friendly compositions that will seduce anyone with a soul and look sure to fully realise her crossover potential.
For one who once likened her singing to “a cat being thrown off a building”, Dynamite possesses a truly beautiful voice, a honeyed and versatile delivery that contrasts richly with her fearsome chatting and witty MC banter. The album has elements of dancehall, ragga and synthetic soul, and cutting lyrics (“Tell me how many Africans died for the baguettes on your Rolex?” taken from ‘It Takes More’). It’s clear that, in an age in which British urban music is characterised chiefly by macho posturing and tedious materialism, ‘A Little Deeper’ is a work of rare depth and vision.
“I don’t feel like I’ve got anything to be ashamed of,” Niomi says. “I’m myself and that’s it. If I say something someone doesn’t like, that’s just tough. I’m not trying to offend anybody and if I do then that’s their problem.”I’m a person that really hates to be made a fuss of,” she adds. Given the amount of attention Ms Dynamite is going to receive on the strength of ‘A Little Deeper’, she’s in for a terrible time.