If you grew up in the early 2000s, then you likely loved Nicole Wray. Working with Missy Elliot and Timbaland, she was featured on and created some hit records, including “Make It Hot,” which was released when she was just 17-years-old.
After a few more singles, which were less successful, it seemed that Wray kind of disappeared. Recently, in an episode of BET’s “Finding ____” series, Nicole Wray explained what happened in her career that caused her to take a break from the music industry on more than one occasion. See what she had to say about this, her start in the music industry, how her pastor tried to discourage her and what she’s doing now.
Check out the highlights from the series below.
“Growing up in my household, it was a little bit of church and kind of like rock and roll. We would go to church, just like any Black family. I was raised in church. It felt like seven days a week, I went to church. I think there is where I first found that love for music and where I wanted to be a singer. I would watch my dad sing all the time. He would do a lot of leads in the church choir and I felt like, if my dad can do it…I always wanted to be like him. Once he left, I think that’s when I wanted to sing and be seen so he can come back. That was my whole perspective on it. That was my goal.”
Being discouraged by her pastor
I was about to try and get into the industry. I was going somewhere and they would go up and do the devotions. And it was a packed church, I’ll never forget. My mom put [her] little prayer in a box. ‘I would like you guys to pray for Ms. Nicole and Sister Wray. They’re going out of town to take a meeting with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis. The pastor got up. He said, ‘Disregard the prayer. They’re serving the devil.’ And my heart like dropped. That was the pivotal moment that kind of deterred me a little bit because I didn’t have the motivation around me to say, ‘Let’s go gospel.’ Because I could have easily went gospel. But that moment it kind of just broke my heart. And it kind of left some type of void, my whole career it left a void there.
Her video coming on while she was at school
When my record came out, I was still in school and nobody believed that I had met Puff Daddy, Lil Kim, Faith Evans. Nobody believed me. Everybody was like, ‘She’s lying.’ And my video came on in the cafeteria in lunch, where everybody has their lunch tray. They let us watch BET. And my video came on, “Make It Hot.” And everybody surrounded the lunch table. ‘She was not lying. That’s Nicole. This her video.’
The single went gold after just four weeks. But the entire album didn’t do as well as the single and it affected Nicole’s confidence. Deciding to take the trajectory of her career into her own hands, she decided to start writing. She came up with the song, “I’m Looking.” Still, her second album was never released.
Stepping away from music
“It seemed like I was working on stuff and it seemed like things were slowing down at the same time. I told Missy, I didn’t understand what was going on with the album. The album was never shelved, I decided to walk out of that situation because there was no nourishment. There was nothing that I needed or wanted after the success of “Make It Hot.” The information that I got was, ‘We’re signing these other artists. Maybe you have slow it down.’ I don’t think there was enough time to nurture what I was doing as an artist because of her mega success. Sometimes I feel a mother shouldn’t have a whole bunch of children.”
Writing for other artists
I was writing and doing some things to just stay above water. I did some stuff for 3LW when they first hit the scene. I did some gospel stuff with Pam and Dodi. I was booming that writer, mentor, behind the scenes person that I never thought that I would be able to handle.
Signing with Roc A Fella
I met Damon Dash through Kenny Burns. Kenny Burns was an A&R over at Roc A Fella R&B division at the time. I saw a video and it was Roc A Fella. It was Freeway, Oschino and Spark, it was Beanie Siegel. It was all of them and I was like, ‘I’m going to be signed to Roc A Fella.’ I told myself that as I tried to fall asleep. And I went to New York. Packed up my bags… I was in Quad studios and Dame was like, ‘You ready for this Roc A Fella lifestyle?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, I am.’ And things just happened and we just stared working on music. And when they gave me that crown in Miami, they put that necklace around my neck, I remember when I told myself that I was going to be signed to Roc A Fella records. I’m the first female R&B at the time. Before the Rihannas, before the Teairra Mari’s.I was like I need to say more stuff out loud because this ish is happening in my life.
And then I went back home, I went on the internet and I saw, ‘Roc A Fella records is done. Jay Z is going this way and Damon Dash…’ I was like, ‘What? Nobody told me nothing.’ I was like, ‘Here we go again?’ Is the Lord trying to tell me something? I still stayed around after the whole Jay Z Damon Dash split.
Nicole released the single “If I Was Your Girlfriend” through the label. But the corresponding album, Love Child never came out.
“The album Love Child went on to be just on hold. The album never came out. I was home and there again took another break. A long one. And then I go back to that pastor saying what he said.
What she’s doing now
Damon Dash, out of nowhere, he reaches out to me and he says, ‘I got this group and I think you’ll be perfect.’ She met The Black Keys and we went on to work on that Black Rock album that was unique. The guys loved what I did so much on that album, they invited me to work on The Brothers album that went on to win three Grammys.
After that Nicole went from Atlanta to Alabama and starting writing and singing soul music. She realized this is what she’s supposed to be doing.
“Rock soul is embracing me. It lets me know that I have something special. It’s what I’m put here to do. It’s in my blood. I have an 11-month- daughter. I changed my name from Nicole to Lady Wray. I learned that I can keep going. Keep going and that’s what I been doing since day one. I’m signed to Cobalt, the biggest publishing company that’s out there right now. I have a song that’s poppin right now, the theme song of the show “Barry.” Bill Hader. I wrote that theme song that’s on HBO right now. She also has a new single called “Piece of Me.”
You can watch Nicole full story on #Finding, you can watch it in the video below.
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