Nyomi Gray aged 22 who performs under the name of Ny (Pronounced Nie), proudly reminds me that she was born and raised just down the road from here in Kentish Town North London. Contrary to any preconceived and unfair expectations of so called grime artists, Ny is a committed vegetarian and self confessed animal lover, and is as comfortable in such open green spaces as she is among the tower blocks and concrete housing estates around which she proudly grew up, and with which the largely misrepresented urban music scene is so closely associated.
Ny’s natural infectious personality which can not to be limited within culturally or socially specific boundaries or stereo types also presents itself artistically in her music and due in large part to her dynamic and diverse talent and so Ny is almost impossible to pigeonhole. However if you had to, you would say Ny is best described as a supremely gifted vocalist who possesses a soulfully unique voice, effortlessly combined with her highly respected songwriting skills, which she first acquired through her early teenage years while writing poetry and spoken word. But how did it all start for Ny?
Well for that we would have to go back to January 2005. A determined Ny now just 18 and fresh out of college and various music courses, was not willing to wait or expect a major label to knock down her door and simply offer her a recording deal. Instead Ny decided the most organic way to develop both her artistic talent and career, was to undertake the ultimate act of self confidence and decide instead to create her own hype! By putting out her own underground compilation mixtape. And so later that year Ny released her debut and pioneering mixtape which in keeping with her mixed race heritage she would go on to name Split Endz Vol 1. Aimed at the burgeoning inner city urban underground scenes, with which Ny has a profound and deep connection, the mixtape comprised of 20 original tracks. The mixtape was heralded as being the first ever 'Rhythm and Grime' compilation of its time coining the phrase 'RnG'. It included tracks taken from the rough and ready, dark and rapidly popularizing so called UK Grime and Hip Hop underground scenes. But Ny insured that the mixtape through, many of the ballads and other more vocally led tracks, still retained the soft RnB and soul element in keeping with her signature sound, ensuring that the final product would appeal to both underground and more mainstream, as well as female and male listeners in equal measure.
It was also entirely self funded and managed, by a then unemployed or should I say as she likes to put it 'self employed' Ny, and contained 100% original material with some specially selected high profile guest contributions and features. Prior to recording the tape, Ny was relatively unknown beyond artistic circles but this did not deter some of the UK’s most prominent heavyweight producers and artist who were all more than willing to contribute to this pioneering project. Just some of these featured artist and producers include Sincere, Wiley, Professor Green, Plan B, Sway (Mobo Winner), and Sweetie Irie (Gorillaz). In an almost unprecedented step and testament to Ny’s talent, the widely acclaimed Johnny ‘Rock Stars’ (Sugababes and All Saint’s Album producer) provided the track 'Moody' which he had recorded for Ny especially to use on this underground mixtape. Taking into account the success of Johnny Rockstars, the very fact that he was happy to provide his complimentary services and music for her mixtape was a resounding and emphatic endorsement of her talents. In the end Split Endz Vol 1 sold in excess of 3000 copies which for an UK RnB unsigned mixtape independently distributed by Ny herself at the time was unprecedented. However the significance of the mixtape was more profound than just the sales and it subsequently became somewhat of a 'make or break' moment for Ny. Through tracks like 'Fire', 'Embrace', 'Haters' and 'Moody', Ny started to receive plaudits attracting wider acclaim and airplay support particularly from specialist radio DJs on national and international stations like BBC 1Xtra, Radio One, Kiss and Choice FM as well as from major label artist like, The Streets (Warner Brothers).
Unbeknown to Ny this 'do it yourself' approach would soon start a trend encouraging other UK unsigned female performers to ignore gender or genre orientated barriers and put out there own material independently. From the wider awareness throughout the UK created by this mixtape the following winter in what was a deserved escalation of her stature, Ny was approached to feature as writer and performer on top 20 album projects for three of the UK’s most well respected artists. She was invited to featured on the debut album of Sway (MOBO AWARD WINNDER) co-writing and performing the single 'Back for You'. As well as this Ny also featured as a vocalist on the highly anticipated ‘The Streets’ (MOBO AWARD WINNER) second album, and also Plan B (679 Records) and the Mitchell brothers debut albums. Following on from the success of her Split Endz Volume 1 mixtape and these mainstream collaborations in 2006, Ny finally pandered to public pressure which was notably reciprocated by many of the UK’ s most respected urban radio DJs to put out the sequel to Split Endz Volume 1.
And so In Spring 2007 Ny released Split Endz Volume 2 which was licensed to the leading UK Urban, Grime label True Tiger Recordings. The sequel featured in total 19 100% original almost 'album-esque' tracks all of which where remarkably penned and recorded inside a 5 week period in 2006. Like its predecessor the mixtape quickly gained positive notoriety within the UK underground / urban scenes, once again affording Ny the praise for being a brave innovator and flag bearer for unsigned UK music. Split Endz Volume 2 replicated the formula of Volume 1 but only this time taking the concept and vision further with even more polished production, once again combined with Ny's evolved songwriting. It also took the baton further creatively becoming a more encompassing melting pot this time also infusing musical influences from a variety of different and not necessarily Urban genres, but while still managing to retain the authentic and credible UK urban and soulfully distinct sound that Ny was making her own. The 'soft underground release' saw all 2000 copies of the limited addition press sell out within 4 weeks and so it was subsequently released fully on the 9th July 2007 Europe wide- by the world renowned Pickwick distribution Group- into the high street. Up till now sales have exceeded 2,000 copies in HMV stores alone, meaning that this mixtape is very likely to exceed 5,000 sales. The quality of this mixtape is demonstrated by the fact that tracks such as 'Something Real', 'No One Ever Care', 'Who is She' and 'Willow' where all simultaneously play listed within a week of release on the BBC 1Xtra daytime play lists where they all remained for a 5 week period. The Latter track 'Willow' Ny’s Summer Anthem remained on the daytime play list for Kiss FM and BBC 1Xtra’s for a remarkable 13 consecutive weeks.
In another indication as to how innovative this UK RnB mixtape model was, Pickwick and HMV decided as they had no specific section for Mixtapes, to have it racked and shelved in the 'New and Recommended' Urban album section where it took pride of place alongside the likes of Puff Daddy, 50 Cent, Kanye West, Justin Timberlake and Timbaland to name but a few. The same applied with how it was received by the press, who for the most part reviewed and critiqued it in their album sections of their publications, where it fared very well even more so when you consider the whole process of recording it was achieved for less than £2000 pounds, peanuts compared to the other albums many which where released by major labels with which it was compared and critiqued. So overwhelming was the response back particularly for the track 'Willow' that it was decided the best way to complement Ny’s innate technical skills and vocal prowess was to build a fully live show around her music. This was another undoubtedly brave move for an unsigned artist to take on the mammoth challenge and always costly exercise of a live show, on an almost non existent budget.
But Ny once again proved her caliber and vision, and the subsequent summer saw Ny perform fully live sets at some of the UK’s premier music events culminating in a unprecedented 100 minute headline show on the 2nd biggest stage of the world renowned Roskilde Festival in Denmark in 2007. She was also especially invited by BBC Radio 1 to perform a fully live 30 minute unplugged broadcast from their prestigious Maida Vale studios. As a result of growing underground hype and undisputed buzz surrounding her, due in large part to her independent and innovative 'do it yourself' approach, in the summer of 2007 after completing an extensive and intensive nationwide radio and performance tour, Ny finally decided the time was finally right to think about translating her underground success into the more wider mainstream music market. She is now starting to turn her attentions towards her debut album and tells me that right now she is in the process of identifying the right label and producers with which to embark on this project with. Conscious of the fact that she does not want to rush this process but still build her name by continuing to put out great music for her rapidly increasing following Ny will precede this album in 2008 by featuring as a guest vocalist on at least two dance orientated full singles. The first is a highly anticipated house record titled 'Falling Again' produced by Mobo nominated producer 'Wookie'. Judging by the impact of the instrumental named 'Gallium' which was well received in places like Ibiza throughout the summer of 2007 as well as eager anticipation surrounding Ny, this single is sure to be massive track for the summer of Ny in 2008.
The mere fact that she is currently a free agent which is usually uncommon for an artist who already has done so much to establish herself - in 6 months she reached 200,000 myspace hits- says to me that it is only matter of time before we see Ny’s album grace the high street and digital shelves.
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