Lady Wray is a formidable presence in modern soul/funk. She’s one of those artists who’s been making music for a long time, but when you listen to her sing it feels like she’s just getting started, like she won’t stop until she finds the perfect match of music and lyrics, like she’ll keep trying until every song came from the heart and was made just for your ears. She’s also not afraid to step out of her comfort zone and explore new genres and styles, which comes into clear focus on her new album, Piece of Me.
This latest work, Wray’s sophomore follow up to 2016’s Queen Alone, finds the New York songstress emerging with a sound that digs deep into the textures of analog soul while injecting a heavy dose of hip-hop. It’s a refreshing take on classic soul that lends itself to the modern day, a timeless representation of the singer’s resilience and spirit that highlights her still-robust voice, natural showmanship and sharp songwriting skills. It’s also an album that finds her working with long-time collaborator Leon Michels, whose production as part of El Michels Affair has been part of the fabric of some of the best albums of the last decade.
The Wray/Michels partnership comes into sharp focus on the opening track “I Do,” a silky smooth number that fuses old school R&B and soul with melodic hip-hop. While some of the album is in the upbeat R&B vein that Lady Wray was once known for (see “Under The Sun” and “Through It All), most songs are imbued with a moody, almost RZA-eqsue vibe. Lady Wray steps harder into hip-hop than ever before; a boom-bap aesthetic pervades on standout tracks “Thank You,” “Beauty In The Fire” and “Storms,” with booming drums and haunting melodies that glide beneath bittersweet vocals.
Vocally, Lady Wray continues to build upon the legacy of greats like Aretha Franklin, Ann Peebles and Sharon Jones. Like the queens of soul before her, she digs deep into the emotions and raw feelings of life with a true and vulnerable voice. You can tell Piece of Me is a very personal collection of songs, the lyrics courageous and raw.