The Story of Pop: 2002 (Chapter 35)

This is The Story of Pop: 2002, your weekly revisitation of all the top turns and hits of the UK charts as they looked twenty years ago. And with this year’s Mercury Prize due to be handed out next week, it’s a former winner that we revisit for this week’s featured hit…

  • Artist: Ms. Dynamite
  • Song: Dy-Na-Mi-Tee
  • Released: 26/08/2002
  • Writers / Producers: Leonard Hibbert / Niomi McLean-Daley / Clement Dodd / Salaam Remi
  • Highest UK Chart Position: #5
  • Weeks on Chart: 13

We did touch on this last week, but if you’re after the definitive proof that more streetwise genres were crossing over and making some huge chart stars in the process, then this week’s featured artist should hopefully act as the final confirmation of this.

Born Niomi McLean-Daley in Kentish Town, North London to a Scottish mother and Jamaican father, Ms. Dynamite was already a prominent name on the UK Garage scene, having started out as a rapper on pirate radio. But it was following her soulful guest vocal on Sticky’s “Booo!”, a top 20 hit in June 2001, peaking at #12, that she piqued the interest of several record labels.

It was Polydor Records who eventually signed her, to their Bigger Beat division, and recording began on her debut album, A Little Deeper with renowned producer Salaam Remi. When unleashed to the world almost a year later, it was something of a revelation for a British female artist.

The comparisons were drawn quite heavily between the album and Lauryn Hill’s much lauded The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill that had come out four years previously in 1998. Lyrically, it touched with a maturity and grace beyond her years, as she reflected on issues including love, peace, racism, domestic abuse and violence.

The first single, “It Takes More”, got the groundwork established well enough. Entering and peaking at #7 in May, it preceded the album which, with great critical praise, initially peaked in the top 20 in June. A month later, as the album had fallen down the chart, A Little Deeper was then nominated for the annual Mercury Prize, which awards the best British album of the last 12 months.

Flushed with this new level of interest came the song which you suspect Polydor were itching for her to get to the release of. The laidback groove and catchy without being irritating chorus of “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee” was her second single, and just sounded like an instant hit from the get go. It was little surprise then, that following a solid month of built up airplay, it surpassed her first single and became a top 5 smash.

Just a few weeks later in early September, up against albums from the likes of The Streets, David Bowie, The Coral and Beverley Knight, Ms Dynamite became the first black female solo artist to win the Mercury Prize. Suffice to say she was lost for words at winning, saying “I really don’t know what to say. I’ve never been speechless. Oh my goodness.”

As indeed she should have, as judges praised her for offering a voice that was new, distinct and offered weight that British hip hop and R&B music was able to stand on its own against its Stateside contemporary. She also donated her £20,000 prize winnings to several charities, including the NSPCC (for whom she became an ambassador) and Sickle Cell Research.

Her mantelpiece only grew bigger in the year that followed, as a clutch of BRIT and MOBO Awards were added to her list of achievements. After a less well received second album in 2005, Judgement Days, she continued to write and record new music. She even outpeaked her own biggest hit as guest vocalist on Katy B’s hit “Lights On”, which peaked at #4 in 2011.

When you get some time this week, you’d do well to fire up Spotify and listen again to A Little Deeper, and in particular “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee”. Not only has it held up remarkably well two decades on, but it demonstrates why Ms. Dynamite was as lauded a talent as she was in 2002. A voice of reason in a genre of music that had become mired in harmful stereotypes (which it’s sadly still having to do two decades on), she was at the forefront of what made black British music as exciting and boundary pushing as it could be in the 21st century.

Don’t forget to follow our brand new playlist on Spotify – updated weekly so you never miss a song from the story of pop in 2002. And you can leave your memories of the songs below in the comments, Tweet us or message us on Instagram, using the hashtag #StoryofPop2002.

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