Who: The U.K.’s first genuine R&B/hip-hop diva, often referred to as Britain’s answer to Lauryn Hill. A 21-year-old North Londoner of Scottish-Jamaican parentage, Niomi Daley is a legit hard rhymer, singer, and lyricist who came of age in London’s 2-step garage scene.
What: In a bid to reach an American audience, Dynamite hired Nas, hitmaking producer Salaam Remi (the Fugees’ The Score), and Punch (P. Diddy’s beat master) to work on her full-length debut, A Little Deeper. The album, which deals with such subjects as abusive boyfriends, drug use, and black-on-black violence, was an instant U.K. hit.
Blowing Up: Ms. D won Britain’s prestigious Mercury Music Prize for best 2002 album and scooped up $30,000.
And Keeping It Real: She promptly donated the money–half to a sickle-cell-anemia charity, half to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.
Crossing Over: “[In America] there is a really big market for black artists who want to talk about their culture,” Daley says. “It’s easier, because they’re going to say, ‘Okay, she’s conscious, her lyrics are strong.’ Whereas in the U.K., they’re like, ‘Fucking hell, she’s conscious, oh my God!'”