Singer Stephanie McKay’s new collaboration 2sharp9, with Bob Power—music producer and easily the best-known sound engineer in the world (A Tribe Called Quest, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo)—promises to take listeners on a trip through “… rock ’n’ soul. With the spirit of Motown and Philly Soul, but not retro—a fresh, new sound.”
We love McKay’s description of this mysterious project (slated for release in spring 2015) almost as much as we love this Bronx-bred singer-songwriter herself. She’s been wowing audiences since she first hit, touring and collaborating back in the early 2000s as a singer/guitarist with artists as diverse as Kelis, Roy Hargrove, Toshi Reagon & BIGLovely and Tricky.
Eventually, Stephanie McKay found her natural footing at center stage and dropped her unfunk-witable 2003 debut, McKay, followed by her stellar sophomore release, Tell It Like It Is.
Formerly an Alvin Ailey-trained dancer and a lead singer for Brooklyn Funk Essentials, Stephanie’s critically lauded debut (recorded with Portishead producer Geoff Barrow, Obie-winning playwright/poet Carl Hancock Rux and others) is a triumph of socially conscious, electronic-infused soul music sprung deep from the eternal waters of the gut-bucket, and filled to the brim with Stephanie’s gutsy voice and powerful lyrics.
McKay is still a wickedly funky wonder to behold in 2014. Upon its debut, the singer toured the album internationally and continued to work with a diverse group of genre-bending artists. Spurred on by two life-altering events (the passing of her mom in 2008 and the birth of her son the next year), Stephanie took a much-needed hiatus from music and concentrated on parenting with her husband, acclaimed jazz tenor saxophonist (and fellow musical collaborator) Jacques Schwarz-Bart.
This month, the Afropunk Fest crowd got their own taste of the subtler colors of Stephanie’s vocal prowess when she supported Meshell Ndegeocello on back-up vocals for an epic, vein-melting set. And next year, refreshed and renewed, Stephanie McKay will be back to tell it like it is with 2sharp9, an exciting collaboration that resulted from a serendipitous introduction. (Have a listen here at Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/2sharp9/ur-1.)
“I was introduced to Bob Power through my former label head, Errol Kolosine, while working as a vocalist for the production classes at NYU Clive Davis Music school. ‘Sharp nine’ is a chord typically used in blues music. ‘Two’ is for two people.”
We can’t wait to hear what this supergroup has to offer when the project drops in 2015. Obviously, neither can her stateside audience, because in October of last year, she sold out two shows—one opening the season at Harlem’s Apollo Music Café, and the other at New York City’s popular Soho nightclub, Joe’s Pub.
In the meantime, groove deeply to “Tell Him,” a timeless, sassy, in-yo-face visual from her debut, McKay. You can also hear her recent work with DJ Spinna on his 2013 track, “Peace and Quiet” for a more chillwave take on Stephanie’s style.—Sun Singleton
Stay connected with Stephanie McKay’s musical movements at her website.
Sun Singleton is a Northern Virginia-born singer/journalist based in New York City. Follow her on Twitter @sunsing.