Nicole Wray got a taste of the spotlight at a young age: just after graduating high school in 1998, she was the first artist signed to Missy Elliot’s fledgling record label, The Goldmind. Before she knew it, her debut single “Make it Hot” was certified gold and she was touring with Aaliyah. But when Missy began adding new artists to her label, Nicole was overlooked, and her second album never saw the light of day. This would become a recurring theme for the next decade of Nicole’s career, with various labels expressing interest in her and then refusing to release her work. It seems we weren’t the first ones to sleep on her.
After several other artistic endeavors, Nicole has returned under a new stage name: Lady Wray. With this change in name comes a change in sound – she has abandoned the R&B style in favor of retro soul and doo-wop, though her church choir upbringing made rebranding quite easy. While her 2014 release Lady got her foot in the door, it was her 2016 follow-up Queen Alone, with its live instrumentation and impassioned vocal performances, that cemented her as a force to be reckoned within the soul soundscape. Highlights include the hit “Guilty”, written after her brother’s arrest, and “Make Me Over”, a track that finds her coyly asking her lover to take her shopping.
Against all odds, Lady Wray has navigated the fickle beast that is known as the music industry and developed a voice all her own. At this point, it is no longer a question of what she can do but what she can’t do. I recommend this artist to fans of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings and Hannah Williams & the Affirmations.
– DJ Mango