Born Mya Marie Harrison on October 10, 1980, in Washington, D.C. Addresses: Record company--Interscope Records, 2220 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404,.
As her single "The Case of the Ex (Whatcha Gonna Do)" held at number two on the pop charts at the end of 2000, Mya Harrison did as much as any singer to define the sound--and with her videos, the look--of hip-hop pop at the millennium. With her triple-threat talents as a dancer, singer, and actress, as well as her record label's marketing campaign aimed to both hip-hop and popular audiences, Mya was poised to join contemporaries Brandi, Monica, and Aaliyah "on her way to divadom," as a Time review noted. Emphasizing independence, self-respect, and equality in her lyrics along with more standard romantic themes, Mya had carefully managed the transition from teen hip-hop sensation to confident, adult vocalist.
Although she attained stardom as a teenager, Mya's success was years in the making. Born in Washington, D.C., Mya's family shortly thereafter moved to nearby Maryland. Mya remembered in an Interview profile by Dimitri Ehrlich that her father, a professional musician, "was always traveling and singing at bar mitzvahs and weddings." While she took dance lessons from the age of 2, and at times appeared in dance competitions along with her brother, Mya aimed for an entertainment career in earnest after her debut as a 10 year old with the dance troupe Tappers With Attitude (T.W.A.). Mya subsequently studied with famed dance artist Savion Glover of the Dance Theater of Harlem during his dance residency in Washington, D.C. With Glover's encouragement, the young dancer even earned a solo spot during a dance performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, one of the most prestigious venues in the nation. Mya also appeared as a dancer on Black Entertainment Television's Teen Summit.
Although Sammy Davis, Jr. was a major influence on her dancing technique, her own family inspired her to move in the direction of singing. "I never looked at singing and dancing as a career, but my parents did. My entire family is musical," she told Rolling Stone's Anthony Bozza. With her father's assistance, 15-year-old Mya completed a demo tape and began looking for a record deal. Within a year, after auditioning for University Music Entertainment president Haqq Islam in his living room, Mya was signed to a recording contract. As she started to work on her first album, the 16 year old also took time to finish high school.
Proven hit-makers Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, Diane Warren, and Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott were among the songwriters on the album Mya, with Mya herself sharing writing credits on four of the collection's eleven tracks. Distributed by Interscope Records and released in May 1998, the debut eventually sold close to two million copies. The standout hit and first single from the album, "It's All About Me," earned a gold record.
From the beginning, Interscope and University marketed Mya to urban, hip-hop fans, as well as to pop music listeners. To gain credibility with urban audiences as a performer, Mya toured (as the only female headliner) with Busta Rhymes, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, and Gang Starr on the Smokin' GroovesTour in 1998. The guest appearance by Dru Hill's Sisqo on her first hit, "It's All About Me," also helped her win over young, predominantly African-American hip hop record buyers as a performer with street credibility. Mya's videos, which showcased dance moves that she often choreographed herself, further highlighted her integrity as an all-around, original performer. Mya further honed these skills on the roster of the Lilith Fair tour in 1999, her second major outing on the road in support of her work.
To broaden her appeal beyond this initial fan base, Mya also made contributions to numerous soundtracks, including Bulworth, Rugrats, and Belly in 1998, Life in 1999, and Bait in 2000. The first of these outings, an appearance with Pras Michel of the Fugees and O.D.B. on the Bulworth track "Ghetto Superstar" was acknowledged by fans and reviewers alike as one of the sharpest hip-hop/rap singles of the year. The song subsequently earned a 1999 Grammy Award nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group. Another soundtrack appearance, on BLACKstreet's "Take Me There," from the Rugrats movie, also broadened her appeal through its use in Burger King commercials tied to the film's release. In the meantime, Mya took a small role in the Omar Epps-LL Cool J film In Too Deep, the story of an undercover police officer's investigation of a drug ring. The film, released in 1999, received mixed notices; some reviewers were shocked by the graphic violence that it presented.
A well-received first album, several notable soundtrack appearances, and Mya's reputation as an emerging superstar ensured that the stakes were high for her next album. Taking a more active role in the work's production, Mya enlisted Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes of T.L.C., Wyclef Jean of the Fugees, and a host of top-notch producers in the effort, which was released in April of 2000. Like her first album, Fear of Flying showcased Mya's smooth vocals in sophisticated arrangements, but this time emphasized a more mature outlook on the romantic themes covered in her debut. The album did not, however, have any connection with Erica Jong's Fear of Flying, a 1973 novel exploring explicit sexual themes. Instead, as Mya explained on her web site, "The theme of the album displays that there will always be turbulent times--good, bad, up, down. Despite our fears and insecurities, we must make a leap on faith alone."
A profile in Time appreciated Mya's "journey of personal and artistic growth" reflected on the album, praising its "hip-hop soul with plenty of pop appeal" in the profile, "Portrait of the Young Diva." The release also earned "Album of the Week" honors from People, which called it an "unexpected treat," while British publication Q predicted "enough sass to suggest a sunny future ahead" for Mya. An Entertainment Weekly review, however, was less kind. Dismissing her sophomore effort as superficial, it noted, "Mya can sing well enough; now she needs to find something to sing about."
Just four years after signing her recording contract, Mya had substantially achieved her goal of succeeding in both the R&B and pop fields. Indeed, helped by appearances on shows ranging from MTV's Total Request Live to Live with Regis, "Case of the Ex (Whatcha Gonna Do)" scored even higher on Billboard's Hot 100 than it did on the R&B charts. With an acting career in the making and her accomplishments as a dancer and producer firmly established, Mya also fulfilled her own self-described ambition. As Mya told Billboard's Anita Samuels, "I'm an entertainer. I want to give a show so people will come back."
by Timothy Borden
Began dance lessons at the age of two; studied with Savion Glover at the Dance Theater of Harlem; at 16, with father's assistance, demo tape secured a record contract; released first album, Mya, 1998; single "It's All About Me" from Myacertified as gold record; toured with Busta Rhymes, Cypress Hill, Public Enemy, and Gang Starr on the Smokin' GroovesTour, 1998; appeared on "Ghetto Superstar" single from the Bulworthsoundtrack; took a supporting role in the film In Too Deep, 1999; toured with Lilith Fair, 1999; promoted Tommy Hilfiger's "Tommy Girl" line of clothing; released second album, Fear of Flying, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Mya , Interscope, 1998.
- (Contributor) Bulworth (soundtrack), Interscope, 1998.
- (Contributor) Rugrats (soundtrack), Interscope, 1998.
- (Contributor) Belly (soundtrack), Def Jam, 1998.
- (Contributor) Life (soundtrack), Interscope, 1999.
- Fear of Flying , Interscope, 2000.
- (Contributor) Bait (soundtrack), Interscope, 2000.
July 22, 2003: Mya's album, Moodring, is released. Source: Yahoo! Shopping, shopping.yahoo.com/shop?d=product&id=1921981967, July 22, 2003.
- Billboard, April 11, 1998, p. 21; March 18, 2000, p. 28.
- Entertainment Weekly, April 28, 2000, 110.
- Interview, March 1999, p. 67.
- People, April 24, 2000, p. 43.
- Q, October 2000, p. 124.
- Rolling Stone, June 11, 1998, p. 37.
- Time, May 8, 2000, p. 92.
- Mya Official Website, http://www.myamya.com/mya/bio/bio.html (January 11, 2001).
- RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com/...le.asp?afl=&NewsID=6247&LookUpString=4572 (January 9, 2001).