Dancehall / Reggae Artist
With a career spanning more than three decades, internationally acclaimed Dancehall/Reggae artiste, Tanya Stephens has managed to create an enviable musical legacy. Her prolific songwriting skills coupled with her rich tone and straight-talking personality has transported her into a realm of music royalty, a feat not achieved by many.
Born Vivienne Stephenson on July 2, 1973 in Richmond, St Mary, Tanya Stephens revealed that she never really discovered her musical talent. She explained that having been brought up on music, the transition into entertainment was natural and effortless. Stephens began recording at the end of 1989 for producers Barry O’Hare and Stephen Stewart in Ocho Rios based Grove Music Recording Studio which later gave birth to Irie FM. Moving to Kingston to be closer to more studios, she eventually started recording for Shocking Vibes Productions, Bobby Digital, Dave Kelly and Phillip ‘Fatis’ Burrell’s Xterminator Records.
Her debut album, Big Things a Gwaan was released in 1994 and featured the great Yami Bolo as well as President Brown. Two years after that release, Stephens caught her big break. Her track, Yuh Nuh Ready fi Dis Yet on Dave Kelly’s record breaking Joyride Riddim catapulted her into the spotlight and made her a force to be reckoned with in the industry.
Stephens soon began flooding the market with singles. Between 1996 and 1998, Stephens recorded a plethora of hits including Handle the Ride, Big Ninja Bike, Draw Fi Mi Finger, Man Fi Rule and Cry and Bawl which featured Bounty Killer.
The entertainer then moved to Sweden where she signed a record deal with Warner Music Sweden and recorded the 2001 pop album, Sintoxicated. She returned to Jamaica shortly after and recorded a slew of popular singles which gave way to the release of her critically acclaimed album, Gangsta Blues in 2004.
It included the immensely popular It’s A Pity song on a rework of Gregory Isaacs’ Night Nurse instrumental. Stephens kept churning out the hits after that. Her Rebelution album released in 2006, continued her growth trend and cemented Stephens as a bonafide Reggae icon, securing nods from new audiences and old critics. That project included the mega-hit These Streets along with heavily requested tracks Cherry Brandy, Damn You and Do You Still Care.
When asked what she considers her biggest musical achievement to date, Stephens cites the connection she’s been able to develop with her audiences over the years.
“The biggest achievement weh any artiste can ever get is fi actually please dem audience and me get dat repeatedly. I have had the opportunity to take people outa dem pain and misery and humdrum and boredom and put dem inna a space that’s a little bit more magical, ethereal probably. We’ve connected through the music and provided therapy for each other, to me that’s the biggest achievement,” she said.
Stephens’ catalogue speaks volumes about the talent she possesses and that is what the singer wants her legacy to be. She wants to be remembered as the artiste who stirred up conversation, was unapologetic about her views and one whose music connected with people.
“Everything about me that I want people to remember is in the music; the message in the music and whatever the music inspired them to do. Me nuh really care so much if people remember me personally, as long as the music did what it was supposed to do,” she said. “I have been fortunate enough for my music to catalyse change in many ways. Many topics I have broached, no one has ever discussed before. I’ve already had the honour and privilege of being a part of discussions that we need to advance and I continue to do that. That will be my legacy.”
Stephens has an upcoming album which she says is overdue and will be released in 2020.
“See you in 2020…mi clip never empty!”