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 Diawli dancehall rhythm, and clap-heavy backdrop, "Never Leave You" soared to the top of the charts, reaching the No. 3 slot on Billboard's Hot 100 in 2003, and made it to #1 in Germany and many other European territories, including topping the pan-European charts in the summer of that year.
Now signed to TVT Records through Mach 1 Records and preparing for the April, 2007 release of her sophomore album, Unexpected, Lumidee is ready to show US audiences that she does, indeed, have staying power. The title is fitting both because stateside fans will be surprised by the Latina performer's comeback ("the public thinks I've been gone, but I just wasn't in the U.S.; I was performing and recording internationally") 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."
Even the making of the album was full of unexpected turns. Originally, Lumidee planned on releasing Unexpected strictly overseas, but her international label soon discovered that various U.S. labels were interested in releasing the album domestically. After scouting out her options, Lumidee chose TVT Records as her home, confident that they understood and supported her vision.
Audiences have been elated to hear from Lumidee once again. The first single, "She's Like the Wind", has already entered the Pop 100 charts. Featuring R&B singer and Terror Squad member Tony Sunshine, the song cleverly remakes the same-named Patrick Swayze cut of Dirty Dancing fame. The idea behind redoing the classic tune came from Lumidee's European label, and she was intrigued by the possibilities. When they asked if she could suggest a male vocalist to collaborate with her, she quickly recommended Tony Sunshine, with whom she's always wanted to work. After hearing Tony's strong vocal presence on the track, Lumidee was inspired to write some flirtatious, uptempo rap lyrics to give the song an even more urban feel. Lumidee was confident about the end product, but never considered the track as a single. To her surprise, not only did it become the album's lead single, but it's quickly sauntering up the charts.
Showing real artistic maturity, Lumidee's sophomore effort also includes appearances by several high-profile artists. Of Shaggy, who she worked with on the reggae-tinged"Feel Like Making Love," Lumidee says, "Shaggy opened the doors for dancehall music to the mainstream, so it only made sense to have him on this track. I originally recorded it for a movie soundtrack, which it didn't make, but it's on my album and that's where it should be." As for Harlem-bred rapper Jim Jones, who brings his gruff voice and undeniable street swagger to "I'm Up," Lumidee says, "'I'm Up' is the most street record on the CD. Who's more 'hood than Jim Jones? He is part of the Harlem movement." Another notable guest is her labelmate Pitbull, who brings some of his energetic, rapid-fire flow to the banger "Krazy," which was produced by Lenky who also was the man behind the Diwali rhythm. "This is an upbeat record and I knew Pitbull would be able to keep up with the track and put something incredible on it," Lumidee says. And, of course, there's reggaeton/rap star N.O.R.E. on "You Got Me." Of her relationship with N.O.R.E., Lumidee says, "N.O.R.E. has always been so real with me. It was a must for him to be on the album he will always be on my albums."
The result is a m lange of sounds and influences that more accurately represent Lumidee's multifaceted nature. "I feel confident about this album because I really get to show the public more of what I'm all about," Lumidee says. "The success of "Never Leave You" happened so fast. One week I was in my house doing nothing, then the next week I'm on the radio, and now I have a new deal and I'm on TV. On my first project I didn't have time to record new songs for the album, so the world basically got to hear my demo."
Still Lumidee was proud of her achievements. "For me, it was like, 'Wow, that many people know me? That many people went out and bought my record?' For me that was a big thing."
After all, Lumidee was no stranger to adversity. Her father passed away in 1995 and her mother spent most of Lumi's childhood in prison, leaving Lumidee and her siblings to be raised by their grandparents. A happy, active child, and "a mean tomboy," Lumi was forced to slow down when, at 14, she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune disorder that can cause inflammation of the joints and their surrounding tissue. Due to a misdiagnosis (doctors originally said she had Lupus and therefore prescribed the wrong medications), by the time her real illness was detected, her condition had become dire.
"The arthritis was eating away at the cartilage between my bones, and it was painful to walk or to even open my hands," Lumidee recalls. "It was weird because I was always running around outside, but it got to a point where I was lying in bed and I couldn't even move. I missed three years of high school and had to be home schooled. Doctors said that, in a years' time, I wouldn't be able to walk," Lumidee recalls.
But Lumi's condition proved to be a blessing in disguise, as it forced her to take the time to concentrate on her writing. "That's how I started writing poetry I was just jotting down what I was feeling," she says. "And it's crazy because if I hadn't gotten sick, I might never have taken the time to really do that."
Despite the obstacles, Lumidee persevered and, with the right treatment, defied doctors' expectations, returning to school to complete her final year and maintaining a rigorous recording schedule. In 2002, before the release of her debut, she underwent hip replacement surgery the procedure allowed Lumidee to dance and perform before her fans.
After facing such a major personal crisis, Lumidee applied the same survivor's mindset to her musical career. When she left Universal, Lumidee parted ways with her former production company and headed overseas and was quickly embraced by European audiences. She experienced great success with "Dance," the second single off the FIFA World Cup 2006 compilation album, which went Top 5 in Germany. Another coup was 2005's "Sientelo," a collaboration with reggaet n artist Speedy that quickly entered the European Hot 100, reaching a Top 10 slot in France, the No. 2 position in Holland and Belgium, and Germany's Top 10.
But to US audiences it seemed like Lumidee had faded into obscurity and they quickly brandished her a one-hit wonder.
"At first, it hurt to hear that," Lumidee says. "I used to get really mad. But then as time passed, I realized that people over here had no idea what I was doing overseas, so to them I had just come and gone.
Well, now she's back and audiences are sure to find the result satisfyingly Unexpected.