After reinventing herself as Lady Wray Nicole Wray is back in in R&B after an eighteen year hiatus, releasing a haunting album, a soulful sound with hints of classic R&B. Her album, released in Sept. 2016 is starting to pick up steam, and it’s well worth the listen.
Nicole Wray is a testament to patience and determination. She was first signed to Missy Elliot’s label Goldmind, in 1998 when she was seventeen, and released her debut album that year. Her first single “Make It Hot” was produced by Timbaland, hitting #5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and featured huge star power for such a new singer, both Ginuwine and Aaliyah had cameos and it featured Missy Elliot. Even though her vocals were stunning, and she worked on two of Missy Elliot’s albums with her, Wray landed up feeling that Missy was taking on too many artists, and felt “I was getting drowned out and I had no voice”, and a second album was never released, even though she did make a second single on her own.
This was the beginning of her troubles, Wray had no creative management for several years, and in 2004 she was offered a record deal with Rock-A-Fella, run by Damon Dash and Jay-Z. She created an album, even releasing a popular track, but the label landed up breaking up after Dash and Jay-Z struggled with creative and management differences, leaving the album unreleased.
Wray also used her talents for background vocals to appear on the Black Keys album BlakRoc and later Brothers, which won a Grammy, but felt she wanted to work on her own sound, though inspired from her work with the group. Wray kept being creative, forming her own R&B group with Terry Walker, called LADY and they released an album together in 2013, but Walker felt it was time to pursue her solo career and left the group.
It took almost twenty years from when she released her first album to when she released her second solo album, “Queen Alone”, under the name Lady Wray in 2016. Released with Big Crown Records out of Brooklyn, Wray an avid gardener, talked about her inspiration for the album saying “When you get by yourself sometimes, the dirt will speak to you”.
The product is sultry, satisfying, and gives fond remembrance to R&B from the 60’s and 70’s. Though the music is soulful, it’s not depressing, and leaves you feeling that your goals are attainable and that you’re a powerful person. The songs are deliciously catchy, most about faltering romance, and her voice soothing, yet gritty all the same. “You’re gonna fall but you get back up,” Wray stated about the album, reminding all of us that if you love something hard enough, keep trying, you’ll make your own opportunity. “It’s all about how much you can take. And if it’s your destiny, you’ll fight for it,” fitting words from a strong woman who fought for decades for her creative outlet and ultimately won her place again in music .