It’s not often
that you can listen to an album from beginning to end. There are always those
filler tracks that the artist just threw on the album to keep it from being
Well that’s not
the case with New York native Stephanie McKay. Her self titled debut CD will
having you grooving at one moment, then peaceful and calm at another. This is
truly a beautiful and eclectic tapestry woven by the voice of Stephanie McKay.
McKay is like a fine wine; she demonstrates a rich fullness that only comes
McKay is not new
to the game. She has been singing with various funk bands, sang back up with
numerous artists such as Talib Kweli, and even did a duet with Alanis Morisette
on Tricky’s Blowback album in 2001.
It was in 2000
on tour playing guitar for Kelis when Stephanie McKay got the green light to
break out on her own. Geoff Barow, the man responsible of the legendary sound
of Portishead, got a demo tape of McKay’s and convinced her to leave the tour
and start working on her solo project.
So with no record
deal in hand McKay and Geoff started writing and laying down tracks for a year
and half. Once the record was complete, it took almost another year to sign
a record deal.
Now in 2003 Stephanie
McKay is ready to take the world in her hands, lift her voice and make people
listen. McKay is label mates with British sensation Ms. Dynamite.
During the summer
she released her powerful single, "Tell Him" and is now out promoting
her debut album. We recently spoke with McKay and here is what she had to say.
Allhiphop Alternatives: What’s been your favorite moment since your CD dropped?
I guess playing the songs live for the first time, The Jazz Cafe show, going
back to Bristol, and just seeing the progression from creating the music to
us getting it out there to an audience. That just has been the highlight. It’s
always been a live performance thing for me. And that’s been a strong point
of the record. Performing the music live.
AHHA: How has living
in the Bronx influenced your music?
It’s a very strong neighborhood vibe around here. Everyone knows each other,
everyone speaks to each other and looks out for one another. And that affects
my music cause it’s so cross-cultural. We have a heavy Hispanic community, we
have a Caribbean community, an Afro-Caribbean community, then we have black,
it’s all mixed up. We have Ukrainians, Panamanians; it’s just a cross-cultural
mix. If just affect my music as just being open to all types of music and not
thinking in terms of just one style.
AHHA: So is that
how you as an artist got to be so international?
I think so. Growing up in New York City and growing up in Manhattan your exposed
to so much more than people living in middle America. I’ve noticed that about
myself. I’ve always been attracted to what’s going on across the waters. Listening
to all different types of music. Whether it is Brazilin or traditional African.
AHHA: So what are
some good international artists to check out?
I know there are some good ones, Check out Eumu Sungargi. Then this other album
called African Lullabies. I like to listen to it for the melodic content.
AHHA: Like Omar?
Yeah, like Omar. I remember growing up being always intrigued by Sharon Nelson,
Mica Paris, and Caron Wheeler, so many great soul artists from there.
AHHA: So what inspired
the song "Tell Him"?
That’s just based off a personal relationship. And the fact that people sometimes
don’t want to be vulnerable in relationships. They want to protect themselves
but by doing that, they don’t really get to reap all the rewards that a loving
relationship can give. It’s basically about showing your vulnerability, giving
all that you have and telling the person. If not then don’t bother doing it.
Just let it go since your just taking the person for granted. I think it’s important
to make relationship songs that kind of accept the positive stride towards positive
communication. There have been a few songs out like that but we need more.
AHHA: How has your
music been inspired by Hip-Hop?
Hummm…I think the production style of the record was influenced by Hip-Hop,
because it was very sparse and very focused. Growing up listening to Grand Master
Flash and hearing them talk about social issues, it really has helped me be
like a folk singer, a story teller, it’s help me use of language and help me
find creative ways to bring your own personality to language and create new
AHHA: So how do
you label your music? Do you like calling yourself a black alternative artist?
No I just think it’s a soul record. I think people in America call it alternative
because the production style is different. Our legacy and our history is so
rich and varied.
AHHA: Now you worked
Yeah I played guitar for her band. I worked with her for 8 months then got the
opportunity to do my album.
AHHA: What do you
hate most about the music scene?
How they force artists to become generic and homogenous. They don’t really promote
individuality and personality. They don’t want to create new ways to market
a new artist. Everyone has become so complacent and not being creative. It’s
up to the new labels and artist that are starting their own labels to break
down those walls with distributors and marketing. We have so many good artists
out here and so many varied types of black music but it’s not getting out there
because a marketing strategy hasn’t been developed for it. Me as a black woman,
I don’t want to take off my clothes. I want to do the music. Come to the live
and support live music.
AHHA: Why do you
think you get more love over seas then in the states?
I think we have too much great music that comes from our country. We tend to
take it for granted. Over there people cherish it. When you go into a record
store there is so much more diversity as far as music that is available. They
really study the history. They more know about black music then I do. They know
rare records, rare pressing, they really know the lineage. They some how have
access to a lot more then we have in our own country.
AHHA: Where do
you see Stephanie McKay in the new 5 years?
I’d like to release 2 more albums, start a family, and tour the world performing