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Biography by Andy Morgan, July 2003:The Bronx; home of Edgar Allen Poe, rap and Stephanie McKay. The boroughs bleak brownstone streets, grey avenues and sepulchral projects may not be the most obvious backdrop for heart melting contemporary soul music, but they have obviously provided McKay with the necessary inspiration. At first she dreamed of being a dancer and joining the Alvin Ailer troupe, but eventually she discovered that her voice was more of a door opener than her steps and moves. McKay invested many hours studying music, soaking up blues, soul, hip-hop and jazz influences, learning songs by Lyn Collins, Nina Simone and Minnie Ripperton word for word and note for note before going on to sing and play guitar with some of NYCs most happening musicians and groups, including The Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Kelis and Talib Kweli. Then the time came to strike out on her own and she set about writing material with strong stories that make you feel something. Her debut eponymous album has just been released by Go Beat. It was produced by Geoff Barrow of Portishead fame and recorded in the West Country, which might explain the strangely mellow mood that infuses the harsh Bronx edges of the music. All in all McKay is one soul diva that we all should watch closely as she takes her rightful place alongside Erykah Badu, Macy Gray, Lauryn Hill and Kelis as one of the great new female voices on the block. Biography supplied by management, June 2003:McKayThe best and most vibrant music frequently arises from the collision of different styles and cultures and this is certainly the case with Stephanie McKay's brilliant and eponymously titled debut MCKAY.The singer songwriter grew up and still lives in The Bronx, where her soul, blues, hip-hop and jazz influences might easily have steered her on an obvious and profitable course. But with McKay something completely fresh, elemental and almost deviant has been born. It is an astoundingly versatile work, at the head of which Stephanie McKay is nothing short of sensational.Stephanie originally dreamed of becoming a dancer. ("I'd have loved to join the Alvin Ailer troupe," she says. "That's all I thought about.") But after some years of study she found herself getting the jobs that required dancers to be able to sing and her vocal auditions began to bear plumper fruit. Taking this lead Stephanie nurtured her career as a professional singer and songwriter working to best showcase the music she ultimately wanted to record. Overtime, honing her skills by studying music, voice, performing with theatrical dance companies and writing songs, her time dedicated to studying would prove a valuable resource when recording and performing with some of New York's most creative and successful bands.Stephanie has toured with and recorded two albums with the Brooklyn Funk Essentials, played guitar in Kelis's live band, sung live with Talib Kweli (also co-written and performed a song on his current album Quality), recorded with Jazz trio SOULIVE and ace NYC horn man Jacques Schwarz-Bart.Ask Stephanie what she wants people to get from her music and she answers thoughtfully "Strong stories that make you feel something. My goal with this record was passionate music that had a universality that spoke to others but came directly from my soul. I wanted to find a continual thread that would connect me to the music I grew up listening to and my own voice."With McKay, Stephanie's goal is achieved and then some.Inspired in part by artists like Sam Cooke, Lyn Collins, Minnie Ripperton, and Nina Simone, McKay is an album that has the feel of a timeless classic with the attitude of a mix tape. It is hip-hop/R&B as confessional: smart, soulful, socially conscious and sexy. Stephanie " I really identify with the women of sixties and seventies soul like a Lynn Collins or Ann Peebles, Lynn has the kind of power and rawness of emotion I aspire to and Ann Peebles has that earthiness and pain that cuts right to the core of your soul." The fusion of crafted emotive songs with deep spacious grooves and hip swaying rhythms alongside the obvious influence of the English West country vibe of her producers the album is, in the main recorded in Bristol, is ironically the collection that native New Yorker Stephanie McKay has been writing her entire life.From the loping and seductive synth driven funk of "Lovin You Is Easy" to the mournful, bluesy "Sadder Day", the edgy and off-kilter moan that weaves though "Inspector", the insistent intelligence and rugged romance of "Tell Him" or the sturdy love and life life lessons preached in "How Long"(one of two tracks co-written by renowned poet/singer Carl Hancock Rux) the breadth of Stephanie's skills and her eclecticism are abundantly evident. The album goes on to wonderfully and refreshingly define contrasting influences and textures - from the haunting Echo, written in the 1960's by Bernice Johnson Reagon (co-founder of female acapela group Sweet Honey In The Rock), to the strident, bass propelled funk of Thinking Of You, the playful, Double Barrel-sampling Take Me Over and the Carl Hancock Rux co-penned and intriguingly titled Thadius Star right down to the socio-hip-hop-soul of Rising Tide.In an age of prefabricated neo-soul and dime a dozen divas, the gut check persuasive soul of Stephanie McKay is worth hearing. McKay is an extraordinarily formed album from one of New York's best kept secrets.The secret just got out.