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Jessi Malay featuring Lil Scrappy "Gimme"

Monday, October 09, 2006

Jessi Malay featuring Lil Scrappy "Gimme"

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Who is Jessi Malay?

You could say Jessi Malay had a strong vision from an early age. When Mariah Carey's "Dream Lover" hit Number One in 1993, young Jessi, already immersed in jazz, tap, and hip-hop dance classes, was inspired to polish her moves. During recess, Malay would herd her girlfriends onto the school playground, tell them they needed to rehearse for an upcoming talent show, and lead her charges through dance routines she had choreographed herself. Of course there was no talent show. "They'd ask, 'When are we performing?' she says. "And I'd be like, 'Soon, soon! Now come on, we gotta practice!" Malay was 7.

"Even at that age, I was very tenacious," she recalls, laughing. But being able to take charge is a valuable skill when you're a kid trying to navigate the world of show business. Malay, a talented, passionate urban-pop singer and dancer from Los Angeles, may be a newcomer to most, but she's actually a veteran performer who began dancing at 2, joined a professional ballet company at 6, started singing at 9, entertained the crowds at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, at 12, had a hit single with her all-female teen-pop group No Secrets by 14, and now, at 19, is recording tracks for her solo debut album to be released this summer on Reprise Records.

You've got to be made of pretty tough stuff to keep your composure through all that craziness. Luckily Malay, who works a playfully provocative blend of sultry R&B vocal stylings, hip-hop edginess, and indelible pop smarts, is one female who knows the importance of staying strong. Think Janet Jackson, one of Malay's idols, circa "That's the Way Love Goes": confident, sexy, and while we're at it: thoroughly in control.

"Janet is one of the few female artists who has gotten the message out that you can be a commanding woman without losing your femininity and sexuality," Malay says. "You can have both."

That empowering message is boldly conveyed on the songs Malay is currently recording for her album. She even references Jackson on the club-friendly "Gimme," quoting "it's the principle of pleasure" in the intro. Then there's the compelling "King," a potent answer-back anthem aimed at guys with attitude. Check this for the opening verse: "How strange your life would be / If you were on you knees / If I was your lord and you called me Majesty / Next, if I took off all your clothes / Would you feel just like a 'ho / Standing oh so naked there in front of me." Then, Malay delivers the defiant kiss-off: "Repeat after me: I am king / Kiss my ring!"

"Okay, that is a total girl power song!" Malay says, with a laugh. On another, the flirty "Topsy-Turvy," Malay warns her male listeners that girls can be moody, "but this is how we are, so take it or leave it," she says. She switches gears on "The Whole 9," proving her versatility with a love-struck ballad that encourages girls to hold out for a guy who treats her right. Then there’s the mesmerizing, naughty club track "Hypnotiq," which Malay describes as a guilty pleasure. "Girls want to be taken seriously," she says, "but they also want a night out where they can have fun and get crazy."

The majority of the tracks were written by L.A. powerhouse songwriting/production team TOJ — Andy Goldmark and Bruce Roberts — who have worked with such diverse artists as Cher, Whitney Houston, 'N Sync, and Elton John. Malay knew Goldmark from her time with No Secrets - an R&B-pop quintet aimed at 'tweens — who toured extensively with Aaron Carter and released a self-titled album on Jive in 2002, featuring the hit "That’s What Girls Do," which debuted at Number One on Billboard's Heatseekers chart. When No Secrets disbanded in 2003, Goldmark and Roberts called on Malay to supply the vocal for a demo they were working on. The three hit it off and decided to develop a solo project for Malay. She signed with Reprise in 2005.

Since then, it's been a whirlwind of writing (Malay contributed to three of her current tracks); recording (her other producers include Jonathan "JR" Rotem, known for his work with Snoop Dogg and Rhianna, and 50 Cent producer Styles of Dangerous LLC); making guest appearances on other artists' albums (Malay is featured on Twista's "Blessed" as well as an upcoming track by East Coast rapper Gravy); and rehearsing for her live show with white-hot choreographer Mikey Minden (Pussycat Dolls).

"I think people will get what I do when they see me perform," says Malay of her live show. "I have two female dancers and it's a really good balance of smooth, urban hip-hop choreography and sexy, seductive moves that suit me really well. I want people to get that strong female message from me, but I also want them to have fun with my music."
posted by Shelia, 7:51 AM


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