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Tanya Stephens Recording Live Version Of ‘Gangsta Blues’ For 20th Anniversary

March 30th, 2024

Today marks 20 years since the release of Tanya Stephens’ critically-acclaimed fifth studio album, Gangsta Blues, and she’s doing it big. 

Referring to the VP Records/Tarantula Records recording as “an adult now”, the singer is celebrating its birthday with a live version, adorned with a bonus track or two. 

“I’m not celebrating commercial activity; I’m celebrating existence and my growth, so we’re doing a live version of the album,” Stephens told DancehallMag. “We push back touring until after we do that because that is going to be playing for awhile, and then we’re going on tour after. Mi cya wait; mi excited like a likkle pickney a go Disney for the first time. It’s about breathing a sigh of relief because we did something different. We didn’t know what was going to happen with it (Gangsta Blues) and it didn’t just ‘get accepted’, it took on a life of its own. It’s like it grew wings and wheels and just kept moving, and it’s still moving.”

The It’s A Pity singer recently dished on creating the album, which emerged from an epoch of being pitted against other women, and being creatively stifled by industry players. Fortunately, there were people who embraced her uniqueness, including the project’s primary producer Andrew Henton, A&R Neil ‘Diamond’ Edwards and former VP marketing executive Brian Greenspoon.

The album artwork for Tanya Stephens’ fifth studio album ‘Gangsta Blues’

“It tek the effort of nuff people and the participation of nuff people to reach here, so there’s no way me can feel individual in this action,” she said. “Mi feel more like a component of something bigger than me because Jesus, it’s huge – you cya downplay it no more. When I just released it, them coulda gwaan like ‘yeah, yeah, so and so good, so and so better than you’. Now, it’s not about good or better, it has become a classic and classics aren’t good or better or worse; classics are just classic. So, it’s legal and okay to celebrate it now because it has grown beyond competition.”

“Of significance are Neil Edwards and Brian Greenspoon who worked on this project when I was releasing it. We are pretty much still together and we’re even better now because back then, me and them coulda fight sah, but mi passionate and them know that and it was never personal… We managed to survive the passing of time. We survived the growth process and we became stronger for it and it means a lot cause music doesn’t really do that. Music creates strange bedfellows and enemies.”

It also creates new and longtime fans (or acquaintances, as she puts it) whom she’s looking forward to connecting with and learning from on the upcoming tour. Another joyful aspect of touching the road is taking her daughter and singer Kelly Shane. Though the latter delighted at the recent D5 Acoustic series with her soulful, debut spin of Johnnie Taylor’s Ain’t That Loving You, Stephens says she’s unlikely to be her opening act.

“I asked her if she would do it and, you know, my daughter has a guilt she calls imposter syndrome,” she said. “She think a nepotism or something, like she doesn’t belong there. I’m like, first of all, I’m not a part of her recording process – she’s doing it on her own. She nuh really ask my input. She nuh use mi name; she come out as Kelly Shane. Mi nuff and mi nuh care, mi very proud and mi give birth to her and a me raise her, so me seh a my daughter that. I’m not trying to take her shine or anything. I’m not a helicopter mom, I don’t hover, but mi can seh a mi daughter that and can feel proud.

“I’m amazed by her writing. Her writing, just off the bat, seems so mature, but then again, she was writing in private for years, whereas I was writing in public so I could see my own development, I didn’t get to see hers. So when I met her writing, it was already mature and I was like, Jesus Christ, first of all, some of it is very dark and I’m like, gosh, I’ve failed as a parent. But it is very exciting to watch her blossom in her creativity because she is a creative.”

Stephens is pleased that the feedback to Kelly Shane’s music is not centered around her family ties nor superficial matters. She remains hopeful that the singer, also a professionally trained makeup artist, will be her opener one day, but is giving her room to develop her repertoire.

Tanya Stephens (right) with daughter and singer Kelly Shane.

“She’s recording because she wants to have enough songs to be able to give people… She overthinks everything, so when she come out, mi know she a go come out correct. Mi hold a respectful distance, mi nuh get too involved unless she ask my opinion… Mi just a look like everybody else and marvel.”

They share other experiences on tour like immersing themselves in the architecture, food and literature of other cultures. 

“When we have days off, we get AirBnBs instead of hotels, so it’s even more personal. Mi daughter love cook, so as we land somewhere, the first stop is the supermarket and then she a go buy whatever is affordable, different and nice inna dah area deh. Then she a go get the complementing wine and she a go mek fancy food, and mi a go eat too much and complain seh a she a mek mi fat, but it’s a little routine… It’s exciting beyond belief. I wish the first 20 years were like this but me get this inna the last 10 years and it’s still something to celebrate. I love it.”

This content was originally sourced and posted at DancehallMag »
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