artist spotlite: nicole wray

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Whoaa. Halt. Stop the tape. Rewind. Nicole Wray is about to release what? Her sophomore album this September? No, it can’t be. Miss MJB, jr. has had albums pushed back for the last decade. You probably know her as Missy’s lil’ kiddie-voiced protege from the 90′s. She released her first LP in 1998 and hit it out of the park with her first single, Timbo tune “Make It Hot,” dominating urban airwaves as underdog for the entire summer. The video’s pop-up book set is fantastic! Peep the vid below…

Resorting to dollar bin status, Nicole’s first album didn’t make her a star. The chick’s been putting out mixtapes for years now, trying to get an album release date without success. She even had an album ready for release through Roc-A-Fella that never surfaced. During this hiatus, though, Nicole’s put out some pretty stellar work. Beautiful, concrete, and gutter as fuck – Nicole’s songs could easily be act one to Carmen part deux. Her voice is ragged (much like her idol Ella Fitzgerald’s) and lyrics surprisingly complacent. The track, “Can’t Get Out The Game,” speaks just that. In it, Nicole plays a struggling storyteller, a character she often finds complimentary to her fiery lyric style. Her honest tone makes for some believable anecdotes. The song’s background, made of horns and skittering midnight drums, is one Nicole excels on. Beanie’s guest verse doesn’t sound forced or ill placed, rather playing as an afterthought to Wray’s teary ghetto tale. Stream the deep cut below…

Nicole can pretty much do no wrong when putting down mediocre R&B fluff tracks. Without sounding subdued or muted, Wray gives songs usually thrown to Ashanti or Christina Milian, a new life entirely. With a voice that could blow out a tire, she has the ability to whip boring album-filler tracks back into shape. Giving Keyshia a run for her money, the woman can make any note sound studied. Hear the muffled “Friend” (1) and piano-wound “Stand Up” (2) below…

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“I’ll Take Your Man” is one of my favorite unreleased tracks of hers. Originally for Amerie, the DC joint was much too gangsta for the twiggy songbird. In the song’s first few seconds, Wray’s heard screaming Who the fuck is that bitch? on the other end of a telephone. The Rich Harrison produced firestarter could take on James Brown’s with its driving drumbeat. The soulstress commands the track with a been-there-done-that stuffiness rivaling Bey’s, the difference being that when Wray sings, you must listen.

One Response to artist spotlite: nicole wray

  1. 2nd album!!!! WOW!!! Make It Hot was one of my favorite songs back in the day! and it still is a great song. i remember she had an alice and wonderland type video at that time too.
    missy, timbaland, aaliyah, ginuwine, and magoo were one of my favorite r&b/rap cliques.

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