Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Put Her on the Cover: Talented, Cool and Outspoken, Ms Dynamite Is the Media Darling of the Moment. Is She Simply the Acceptable Face of UK Garage, or Does Her Well-Deserved Success Mark a Breakthrough for Black Music. (the Back Half)

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

Put Her on the Cover: Talented, Cool and Outspoken, Ms Dynamite Is the Media Darling of the Moment. Is She Simply the Acceptable Face of UK Garage, or Does Her Well-Deserved Success Mark a Breakthrough for Black Music. (the Back Half)

Article excerpt

Whether addressing the Hyde Park hordes at the anti-war demonstration, accepting yet another award (three Mobos, two Brits, last year's Panasonic Mercury Prize), or performing songs from her 450,000-selling debut LP, A Little Deeper, Niomi McLean-Daley -- better known as Ms Dynamite -- understands the power of the microphone, the potency of being centre stage. "I'am not here to be a stereotypical feisty young girl who just wants to get up on-stage and chat," she says. "I'm trying to provoke thought... I just want people to think more."

What about? Well, her latest single, "Put Him Out", addresses women in abusive relationships; sympathising with their predicament, but insisting that they should get rid of men who mistreat them, if only for their daughters' sakes: "Look what you showing her by letting him disrespect you/You just growin' her to think it's something that all men do." The third release from A Little Deeper, it follows her ridiculously catchy signature tune, "Dy-na-mi-tee", and "It Takes More", which attacks the familiar "gangstas, pimps and whores" attitudes of young black men. "You're talkin' like you a G, but you're a killer killing your own, you're just a racist man's fossey," spits Ms D, adding, "Now who gives a damn about the ice on your hand?/If it's not too complex, tell me how many Africans died for the baguettes [diamonds] on your Rolex".

With just one LP, in just one breath, this 22-year-old mixed-race girl from Camden blows away all the ghetto stereotypes that dog today's urban music. Describing herself as "an extremely positive and ambitious young woman who thrives on the need for a change to society, to discrimination and injustice", Ms Dynamite follows in the conscious footsteps of artists like Soul II Soul and The Fugees. "Life is hard for black people," she points out. "For me, this is so much more than lust music. It's about putting myself into a position to help my people." She walks it like she talks it, too: she split hr [pounds sterling]15,000 Mercury Prize winnings between the NSPCC and a charity that supports sufferers of sickle cell anaemia.

Born to Heather McLean, a primary school teacher, and Eyon Daley, a DJ, Niomi is the eldest of ten siblings and half-siblings. Her parents split up when Niomi was very young, but she remained close to both, living with her mum while looking after the younger kids who lived with her dad. She left home at 15 to live in a hostel and, for awhile, she was thoroughly miserable. She went to school, but otherwise stayed in, with curtains drawn, drinking and smoking by herself.

It was MC-ing that saved her. Born from the Jamaican sound systems of the Seventies, the British equivalent of American rappers, MCs chat their own lyrics over the DJ's music choices. They're a vital force in the UK'S thriving garage scene, spitting lyrical venom and wit against today's favourite tracks. One night, drunk at a West End club, Niomi grabbed the mike and had a go: the crowd went wild. From there, it took just a few short months for Niomi to morph into Ms Dynamite. Her fierce lyrical talents were showcased on "Booo!", DJ Sticky's garage tune, which went in at number 11 in 2001, provoking a record company bidding war. Polydor won out, and Ms Dynamite was ready to hit the mainstream.

It's important to remember her journey, though, when listening to A Little Deeper. Niomi's life experience goes into her lyrics; her MC-ing experience into the way she delivers them. And, though the LP sets aside its tricksy, alienating rhythms for the smoother, dinner-party sound of R&B and hip-hop, Ms Dynamite is born of UK garage. This can't be under-estimated. You may class Ms Dynamite as the new Lauryn Hill, but your kids know that Ms Dynamite has roots. And her roots were nurtured in places you may not wish to acknowledge.

For decades, the UK has taken its black music from the States; our own efforts at hip-hop and soul, with few exceptions, derided as laughable and tacky. …

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