Fame came early for Puerto Rican, Spanish Harlem rapper and singer Lumidee, who scored a smash hit at 19 with her debut single “Never Leave You (Uh Oooh, Uh Oooh).” With its sweet vocals, catchy hook, infectious Diwali dancehall rhythm, and clap-heavy backdrop, “Never Leave You” soared to the top of the charts and was a big summer hit in 2004.
Now signed to TVT Records through Mach 1 Recordings and preparing for the April, 2007 release of her second album, Unexpected, Lumidee is ready to show audiences that she does, indeed, have staying power. The title is fitting both because fans will be surprised by the Latina performer’s comeback and because of the eclectic, fusion-heavy, worldly nature of the new material. “People will be surprised by what I am bringing to this project,” says Lumidee. “It incorporates so many flavors – rap, R&B, Caribbean music, all the sounds that influence me.”
EUT speaks with the sexy, sassy and soon-to-be-successful-again, Lumidee.
EUT: People think you've disappeared but that's not true. Let the people know!
Lumidee: I’ve been working on the new album, Unexpected, which is out in April. I’ve been doing a lot of promo and trying to get the music out there. I haven’t been around the US music scene since 2004 when my deal fell through but I landed a European deal in 2005. I was fortunate over there because I got to release two more records there. I didn’t stop music, I just went elsewhere to carry on with the focus of bringing it back home.
EUT: Do you think you’ve been better received in other countries than in the States?
Lumidee: I think I’ve had better opportunities in other places because I got to release more music and I got to tour more. They have a better understanding of what I do and they got to hear more than just one record. Over here, I didn’t have that chance because my deal went sour so quickly. When people want you to disappear then they’ll find a way of doing that.
EUT: What went wrong with your first record deal?
Lumidee: It was too much too soon for them and for me. They didn’t know how to handle it. The most I can say is that money changes people and you begin to see their true colours with not all of them being good.
EUT: How has being signed to TVT Records been different?
Lumidee: TVT is different because I understand the business more now and they totally know the business and what they’re doing. I also still have my European deal which is also under TVT. I still deal with the people I’ve been dealing with the past three years and also the people over here in the States. They [TVT] aren’t a major label so I don’t have to compete with a million different artists. Everybody has their own time and you get the attention you need. You know the people dealing with your project and if there’s an issue you can try and resolve it.
EUT: How was the process of creating this new album like for you?
Lumidee: This time around I got to do an album. The first time around the world heard my demo, that’s basically what it was. I had a really big song [Never Leave You] which landed me the deal and they wanted an album in two weeks. I had to mix down my demo and that’s what came out as my album. This time you’re getting to hear my progress through the years and the different emotions I’ve been going through.
EUT: I heard you’ve got some big collabs on this album. Care to shed some light on that?
Lumidee: I have my boy N.O.R.E, Pitbull, Wyclef Jean, Shaggy…the joint with Shaggy is crazy, it’s a cover of a Roberta Flack song. It’s the most grown record I’ve done, I love it. By the way, I have Snoop Dogg as well! I think they’ve banned him out there in the UK haven’t they?
EUT: Yeah, he couldn’t get a Visa. He was coming out here to perform with P.Diddy but they had to cancel it.
Lumidee: That’s sad…
EUT: The new single 'She's Like The Wind' is a cover of a Patrick Swayze song [actor in the film Dirty Dancing]. How did that happen?
Lumidee: The idea came from my label in Europe, they’re based in Berlin. Tony Sunshine had the vocals and the edge and I was happy that he considered being on the track with me. We did our parts and the label loved it – the rest is history. It wasn’t going to be a single but I put it on Myspace and it got a huge response. We couldn’t deny it so we ran with it as the lead joint of the album. There’s a lot on the album. If there’s something you hate then I’ll make up for it with something you love!
EUT: The song is from Dirty Dancing, what's your favourite part of the film?
Lumidee: I like the part where they’re in the water, she runs, and then he holds her up in the sky. I tried to do that with my sister over and over again. I don’t know who else watched that movie and tried to do that as well!
EUT: Is there more rapping or singing from you on this album?
Lumidee: I’d say I’m rapping on the album about 40% and singing about 60%. Every track that I rap on, I’m singing on it also. I didn’t want my audience to get confused because they will think I’ve abandoned singing. I’m giving them all of me this time and I’m being more vocal about it.
EUT: Do you think you can be respected as a rapper as well as a singer?
Lumidee: There will always be mixed opinions and people will feel different ways but I think I’ve overcome the hump. Most people realise that I do this and it’s not a gimmick, it’s a real thing. A lot of people are still stuck in their ways and they’re like ‘you either rap or you sing, you can’t do both.’ I don’t feel that way because I grew up loving both and doing both. You can pick which one you like and listen more to those tracks on the album.
EUT: What about the people that are still calling you a one hit wonder?
Lumidee: They can say what they want but right now I think I’ve proven I’m not that. We have a song on the charts again. I have a second album which is the most important thing to me. There are still people saying ‘she can’t come back, she’s the one hit wonder’ and they put you in a box. I’m sorry, but that’s just not me. I hate the phrase ‘one hit wonder’ because it dirties everything that you do. People don’t even want to hear what you have even if it’s great music.
EUT: That’s their problem, they’ll be missing out on a lot of music...
Lumidee: Exactly, that’s what happens. I’ve been blessed to have a second shot at music.
EUT: During the past few years you must have done a lot of travelling, were you living out of a suitcase?
Lumidee: Yeah, it was exactly like that! Right now I have suitcases all over my living room and don’t even want to think about it. It was pretty hectic and I did a lot in different places. Now I’m in the States again so I only need to take day trips and it kind of feels I’m not doing much because I’m used to travelling 12 hours at a time. I have more of an appreciation of different countries.
EUT: Are there any places you’ve really enjoyed visiting?
Lumidee: I love Germany for the club scene because they really go out to party. They sing your record back to you and if they don’t know it, they pretend like they do! I like Portugal for the food and France for the scenery. I love the accents in London, they’re cool. I like the words y’all use like ‘wicked.’
EUT: Do you miss your family when you’re on the road?
Lumidee: I try not to call them because once I’m on the phone I get that homesick feeling. I tell them if nothing’s wrong then don’t call me because I need to be in my zone when I’m working. When I get on the phone I want to know everything!
EUT: What do you do on your aeroplane flights?
Lumidee: I try my best to sleep the whole flight but sometimes I can’t and I’ve written a couple of songs in the air. I wrote So Cool…Hollywood on the plane. Sometimes I take a colouring book with me and colour that in. It’s funny because I used to travel to Puerto Rico with my grandmother when I was young and she would bring colouring books for us. People look at me on the plane thinking ‘what is this grown girl doing with a colouring book?’ You feel like you’re an artist for a minute…
EUT: What do you have to take with you in your carry on bag?
Lumidee: I have to have lip gloss. If my lips aren’t glossy, I don’t feel right. I even wear lip gloss when I’m going to sleep. I love the flavours of the Lancome lip glosses. I’m a lip gloss fanatic and I’ve been collecting since I was about six years old. I have about 2,000 chap sticks, lip glosses and lip balms. People buy me chap sticks for my birthday! It’s really easy to please me; you don’t have to buy me anything expensive.
EUT: It looks like you’ll never have chapped lips again!
Lumidee: Never! But one time I was getting on the plane and because of the security they threw away three new lip glosses of mine because they were liquid. The only thing that upsets me is all the rules you have to follow when you’re travelling.
EUT: A lot has happened to make them do that…
Lumidee: You can’t be mad at them but you get upset when they throw away something you love!
EUT: Just think, it’s either your lip gloss or having your plane held up by terrorists.
Lumidee: Of course! I’d rather throw away my lip gloss.
EUT: This has been an interesting chat!
Lumidee: Yes it has! I actually think my second single in the States will be In It For The Money and for the UK it’s going to be the Krazy track with Pitbull. You’ve got the exclusive!
By Rashmi Shastri