Stephanie McKay: Crushed Grapes

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 an EP. Well that’s not the case with New York native Stephanie McKay. Her self titled debut CD will having you grooving […]

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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

an EP.

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

with age.

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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"?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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

with Kelis?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

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?

Stephanie McKay:

I’d like to release 2 more albums, start a family, and tour the world performing

my music.