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Aug 12 / Prinza

The explosive Ms Dynamite: written by @AYanneyTBBL

The ‘Comic Book Hero’ genre often tends to be a male dominated affair, featuring tales of epic proportion.

In the music industry, we as consumers also frequently encounter regular individuals from humble backgrounds who instantaneously transform onstage into breathtaking superhero alter-egos. Before Beyoncé gave us “Sasha Fierce”, there was Niomi Arleen Mclean-Daley, a.k.a. Ms. Dynamite.

Using her special powers of lyrical dexterity and a razor-sharp ear for solid production, Ms. Dynamite proved to be a timely superhero at the dawn of a new millennium.

Passionate and committed to saving the youth of inner-city Britain from ignorance, violence depression, addiction and a general sense of nihilism, Ms. Dynamite provided through her music positive messages of empowerment, self-respect and elevation. She is also a double BRIT Award and three-time MOBO Award winning UK garage, R&B and hip hop singer, rapper and Master of Ceremonies.

Born and raised in Archway, a district in North London in 1981, Ms. Dynamite is of mixed parentage to a Jamaican father and a Scottish mother. She attended Acland Burghley School in London.

As a child, she was exposed to a rich palette of sounds; namely reggae and hip hop music. During her formative yearsNiomi had a deep conviction to one day become a schoolteacher or social worker.  Subsequently, her sense of urgency to uplift, coach or aid people in difficulty would be an indelible aspect of her work in music. Indeed, whilst getting a ‘proper job’ weighed heavy on her mind, her biggest aspiration was to be a musician.

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As a teenager, McLean-Daley’s home life was far from perfect. An absent father and a mother battling cancer meant at 13, she was primarily responsible for her siblings, in which, she is the eldest of eleven. One of whom is the renowned poet/grime/hip hop artist Akala. Within two years, the weight of maintaining the family took its toll on Niomi and she left home suffering from depression which led to substance abuse.

However, contrary to expectation, she found the strength to pursue her education and left school three years later with a place secured at Sussex University.
Dynamite (originally Lady Dynamite) became first known for her vocal ability in 2001. During her time working at the radio station RAW FM, Dynamite was discovered by Richard Forbes AKA DJ Sticky at a West End club.

She was a rising star on the UK garage underground circuit and her big break arrived on the track “Booo!” This underground classic was regularly played on London pirate radio stations and was later released as a mainstream chart single – reaching number 12.

Dynamite was snapped up by Polydor Records, and after a period as a member of the UK garage act So Solid Crew, she released her much anticipated debut album, A Little Deeper in 2002, featuring the hit songs “It Takes More” and “Dy-na-mi-tee”.

In 2002, Dynamite won the prestigious Mercury Music Prize, for A Little Deeper. She memorably donated the £20,000 prize money to the NSPCC. A truly high profile public performance followed at the closing ceremony of the 2002 Commonwealth Games at the City of Manchester Stadium. In 2003, the album was released in the United States receiving further critical acclaim.

In the autumn of 2005, Dynamite returned to the limelight after a break to have her son, with a new album entitledJudgement Days. Featuring more social commentary with the first double A-side single “Judgement Day” / “Father” and the Tony Blair critique, “Mr Prime Minister,” reviews of the album were not as favourable as those of her debut. However the “Judgement Day” single reached No. 25 in the UK Singles Chart.

In November 2006, Niomi McLean-Daley took part in Sky1 show called ‘The Race’. After roughly ten laps into the race, disaster struck as Dynamite hit the wall on the pit straight at about 100 mph. She was airlifted to hospital for overnight observations but later released.

After taking a break from the music scene for a couple of years,  Dynamite featured on Katy B’s second single, “Lights On”. It peaked at number 4 in the UK singles chart. She also featured on the track “Fire”, a single on Magnetic Man’s debut album.

In 2011 Dynamite released the single “Neva Soft” produced by Labrinth. Her third album is still in the works.

The life and times of Niomi McLean-Daley have resembled like most people – a rollercoaster ride so far.  A young woman who as a teenager was forced to be the superhero in her family later became a superhero for millions of UK youngsters.

Her passion and genuine empathy toward those from difficult backgrounds and young people with substance abuse and depression issues means her legacy so far is one to be immensely proud of.

Her troubles with the law and near catastrophic motoring accident reminded us that beneath the Ms Dynamite superhero personae, is a real human being.

She is now arguably more famed for her socio-political consciousness (Stop The War) and commitment to such projects as Fair Trade and Anti-gun violence. She became a brilliant spokeswoman for troubled inner-city communities at a time of reckless finger pointing as some MP’s even laid blame at the doorstep of ‘urban music’. Her boldness in confronting complex societal issues emphasised that there are indeed people with great depths of humanity and integrity who consistently emerge from even the most troubled circumstances and run-down parts of British society.

Her critics will point to her fall from grace as the UK’s premier female emcee, public order offences and general artistic decline after ‘A Little Deeper’ – her impressive debut LP.

Alternatively, you could argue that at 32, she is in a fantastic position to return to the music business older and wiser.

One could also make the case that she at the very least inspired if not spawned a new generation of UK female artists ranging from the likes of Lily Allen, Lady Sovereign, Speech Debelle and Katy B.

After a Little Deeper and A Little Darker, Niomi McLean-Daley will certainly return to us a little stronger and a little wiser.