Ms Dynamite

In September 2002 the 21-year-old UK garage star Ms Dynamite became the first solo black female artist to win the prestigious £20,000 Mercury Music Award with her debut album A Little Deeper, which beat an impressive shortlist of artists including David Bowie. Within months she had also notched up a record-breaking six nominations for the MOBO awards, and went on to take home three trophies. A new star was launched in the music firmament.

Born Niomi McLean-Daley to Scottish mother and a Jamaican father who split up when she was two, Ms Dynamite comes from an extended family of 11 brothers and sisters. Throughout her childhood in north London she helped her mother bring up her brothers and sisters, and at 13, when her mother developed cancer, Niomi had to grow up even faster. "When I was supposed to be a child, I had the responsibilities of an adult" she later commented.

With her mother's illness in remission, Ms Dynamite left the family home and moved into a series of hostels. During what she describes as a "difficult" period she continued to study hard at school and was rewarded with A levels in English Literature and Media Studies. Although offered a place at Sussex University to read social anthropology, however, she decided to turn it down to concentrate on her fledgling music career.

Noimi became involved in music almost by accident after a friend offered her a presenter's slot on a pirate radio station. The show was a success and led to a stint on Freak FM. From there she broke into performing, appearing with garage band So Solid Crew on their hit They Don't Know. Signed for a one-off single deal to London Records in 2001, her first single Booo! went into the charts at number 12 and became one of that summer's most popular records. An album contract with Polydor followed.

For the next 18 months Ms Dynamite channelled her energy into A Little Deeper, which was recorded in Miami, New York and Jamaica under the direction of an array of producers including Salaam Remi, P Diddy's beatmaster "Punch" and veteran reggae duo Tony and Dave Kelly. The result is an ambitious and accomplished record which justifies the glowing reviews it earned in publications ranging from NME to The Daily Telegraph.

The album's lyrics reflect a social conscience often absent in the materialistic world of British urban music "There's a lot more important things to be talking about than 'I'm so beautiful and I'm so wonderful and I've got so much money," says the singer, who opted to donate her £20,000 Mercury prize to charity.

As her career took off, Niomi was once more living at home with her family and helping her mother, a primary school teacher, with Khameron, her youngest half-brother. And she still sees her old school friends and visits the local community centre where she once studied martial arts.

In July 2003 the singer gave birth to a baby boy, Shavaar - Persian for "prince" - with fiancé Dwayne Seaforth by her side. The pair went their seperate ways two years later. After the arrival of her son Niomi took a two-year break from music to concentrate on being a mum. She returned to the limelight in 2005, though, with her second album Judgement Days.
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