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‘A Little Deeper’: Ms. Dynamite’s Award-Winning Debut

The album brought together an array of different Black music styles to create an unclassifiable but highly accessible musical tapestry.

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Ms Dynamite A Little Deeper album cover
Cover: Courtesy of Polydor

A 21-year-old singer and rapper born Niomi Arleen Daley to a Jamaican father and Scottish mother, Ms. Dynamite seemingly came from nowhere in 2002 to grab three MOBO awards (for Best Single, Best Newcomer, and UK Act Of The Year) and also pick up a not-to-be-sniffed-at £20,000 (which she donated to charity) for winning the prestigious Mercury Music Prize. And if that wasn’t enough, in 2003, Ms. Dynamite nabbed two BRIT Awards, for Best Female Solo Artist and British Urban Act.

What brought Ms. Dynamite all this attention and transformed her from someone who was on benefits and living in a hostel into a feted international star was A Little Deeper, her explosive and hard-to-pigeonhole debut album. Sonically, it was a unique record that brought together an array of different Black music styles – from Jamaican reggae and dancehall to hip-hop, jazz, R&B, and London garage grooves – to create an unclassifiable but highly accessible musical tapestry.

Listen to Ms. Dynamite’s A Little Deeper now.

Ms. Dynamite had given notice of her serious vocal talent via an ear-catching cameo appearance on the Top 20 UK hit “Boo!” – for which she wrote the melody and lyrics – by the British DJ/producer Sticky in 2001. That led to a record deal with Polydor Records, who put her to work with American producers Salaam Remi and Michael “Punch” Harper together with the Swedish duo Bloodshy & Avant.

In sessions that took place in Stockholm, New York, and Florida, Dynamite came up with fifteen varied tracks, all but one co-written by her. They revealed the singer as a natural-born storyteller; one with a social conscience who could be both sassy and sensitive, bad-ass and vulnerable. Her songs ranged from a biting critique of Black-on-Black gun violence (“Watch Over Them”) to expressions of youthful infatuation (“Krazy Krush”), poignant declarations of family fealty (“Brother”) and sobering meditations on mortality (“Afraid 2 Fly”).

Ms. Dynamite - It Takes More

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A Little Deeper yielded three hit singles. The first, “It Takes More” – a withering put-down of macho posturing sung over a sampladelic hip-hop beat – rose to No. 7 in the UK charts. The second, “Dy-Na-Mi-Tee,” defined by an infectious chorus, was a Top 5 hit, while “Put Him Out,” issued as the set’s third single, snuck into the Top 20. There were also cameos from Bob Marley’s son Kymani (on the duet “Seed Will Grow”) and Jamaican reggae legend Barrington Levy, who joined Dynamite on a hip-hop remake of his classic track “Too Experienced.”

Dynamite’s debut was a huge commercial triumph around the world, but the singer wasn’t able to sustain her early success. After her second album, 2005’s Judgement Days, came out and failed to emulate her debut record’s commercial highs, the singer gradually faded from view. Even so, Ms. Dynamite is guaranteed a place in pop history. A Little Deeper, which was recommended in the book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, remains one of the most important debut albums by a British recording artist in the 21st century. It heralded the arrival of a singular talent whose pioneering genre-blending sound would serve as a stylistic template for at least one young British singer: Amy Winehouse, whose debut LP Frank was helmed by Dynamite’s producer Salaam Remi and released the year after A Little Deeper.

Listen to Ms. Dynamite’s A Little Deeper now.

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