Birthplace: Birmingham, England, UK
1999 has had more false starts than an Olympic sprinter but now really
is her time to burn bright. Her last single 'Bout' pointed the way but
the new single 'Superstar' rams the message home - this girl is back
to finish what she started.
It seems unbelievable now that her first single was released in 1999
when she was at the tender age of 18. Even more unbelievable is that
she'd been discovered by Parlophone at the age of 15, when she stood
up in an A & R man's office and sang her own songs accapella, with a
confidence that women twice her age would be proud to display. Parlophone
signed her on the spot, but let her develop in her own time, until she
was ready to release a single, which, 3 years later, she was.
It's hard to imagine how out on a limb she was at that time. UK R&B
was still looking for a female star and didn't expect to find it in
an 18 year old from Birmingham who no one had previously heard of. They
were to be surprised.
Within 18 months 1999 was to go on to have 4 Top 40 hits, most notably
the amazing 'Money', still her most recognised song and certainly her
biggest success, peaking at No5. In 2000 she was nominated for 4 Mobo
Awards and won one.
At the time, the 'Independent on Sunday' wrote that "a poised 19 year
old, 1999 has the homegrown talent to give Missy Elliot a return for
her money". Her rise seemed inexorable.
Then 1999 got pregnant and effectively put her career on hold, although
she continued to write during her pregnancy. In fact, 'Bout' is the
song she was working on at that time.
Her baby girl was born in March 2001 and 1999 spent the next two years
bringing her up. It would be two years of absolute joy, but coupled
with the frustration of seeing R & B explode into the mainstream without
her. It was especially galling in that she had spent the two years germinating
ideas and songs, relishing being with her daughter but itching to get
back and prove herself one more time.
June 2003 saw her return with the remarkable 'Bout', written by 1999
and C Swing, a writing collaboration that had already spawned 'Money'.
'Bout' became 1999's fifth hit, in spite of problems with the video
which delayed the release of the single. Another false start, albeit
a minor one, the only casualty being Rah Digga who guested on the single
but could not appear in the re-shot video.
On September 15 1999 releases the sure-fire smash hit single 'Superstar',
followed by the album, as yet untitled, on Sep 29. Both are classics,
the album totally redefining what this artist is all about. If 'Superstar'
is instantly commercial, the album pushes the R & B envelope so far
that it bursts open at the sides. Not that it sacrifices tunes for innovation;
at the heart of every track is a killer song, it's just everything sounds
so fresh and new in a genre filled to capacity with genuine artists
and those adopting R & B lite tendencies to get a hit. This is the real
thing, not the diffusion line.
Some of the tracks feature collaborations - 'Club Hoppin', for example,
features Bubba Sparxxx, while 'Off Da Enz' features Asher D from So
Solid Crew. But it is very much 1999's record and, as such, pisses all
over her previous album 'Drama' from such a height you'd have trouble
recognising it as the same girl. But it is, it's just she's lived more
of a life and the songs reflect that. Lyrically, it's a staggering achievement
from one so young - listen to 'Thank You' and 'Life' for examples of
a remarkably incisive writer, one who can write about a subject like
physical abuse in a way that belies her youth and, like the best writing,
allows us an insight into a world whose dark spaces we might not always
wish to confront. And great tunes too!
Prepare to be surprised by this album. It's undoubtedly the work of
a major artist, one whose time has come at last at the ripe age of 22.
'I coulda been a contender' could easily have been 1999's lament, firstly
when she was signed at 15 but didn't release her first single for 3
years, and secondly when she broke-off her career at it's height, to
have her baby. A contender? No way, 1999, with this album you've already
won the fight.