Tanya Stephens, (born 2 July 1973, St. Mary, Jamaica, as Vivienne Tanya Stephenson) is an influential reggae artist who emerged in the late 1990s. Stephens is most known for her hits “Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet” — the single was later featured on the Reggae Gold 1997 compilation album — and “It’s a Pity”, which achieved Tanya international recognition. She and business partner Andrew Henton have together co-founded Tarantula Records.
Stephens was born in 1973 and grew up in St. Mary and St. Ann, attending Zion Hill and Ocho Rios primary schools and St Mary High. She has 3 brothers and 3 sisters.
She began recording in the mid-1990s for producers such as Dave Kelly and Philip “Fatis” Burrell. Her 1996 single “Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet”, produced by Kelly, brought her to the attention of the Jamaican public, and she had further success with singles such as “Draw fi Mi Finger”, “Freaky Type”, and “Cry and Bawl”. Her debut, Big Things a Gwaan, was released in 1994 (featuring Yami Bolo on a cover version of Suzanne Vega’s “Tom’s Diner” and Prezident Brown on a remix of the title track), and second album Too Hype followed in 1997.
She moved to Sweden, where she signed a record deal with Warner Music Sweden and recorded the 2001 pop album Sintoxicated. After returning to Jamaica she released the critically acclaimed Gangsta Blues album in 2004.
Her album Rebelution was released in August 2006, and the first single “These Streets” was a number one hit in the Caribbean staying on Tempo’s Chart at number 1 for more than 4 weeks. The album was totally sold out in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. The track “Come A Long Way” is a dedication to black leaders.
Her latest album Infallible, was released in 2010, initially given free with the Jamaican base German magazine Riddim then made available for free download for more than a year.
In 2006, Tanya sued American rapper Lil’ Kim for plagiarism on her song “Durty” from The Naked Truth asking for all rights to the song, past, present & future. Stephens claimed that Kim used the lyrics from her song “Mi and Mi God”, stating that “she even used a west Indian accent”. She claimed that in 1999 Tanya was flown out to New York by Kim, who claimed to be a huge fan & owned her albums, Kim wanted her to record for an album, but her vocals were never used.
Her early material was lyrically typical of dancehall and drew comparisons with Lady Saw, along with whom she was proclaimed “the top female artists in Jamaica” in 1998 by the Washington Post, but later developed beyond what she called “the same old four topics” to ‘reality’ themes and even lyrics critical of homophobia. Social scientist Clinton Hutton said of her: “She is very intuitively intelligent and deftly tackles relevant social issues”.
In a talk in 2011 at the University of the West Indies, she urged her fellow artists to be more socially responsible, and spoke out against the objectification of women in dancehall lyrics and the promotion of bigotry and violation of human rights, saying “The music that once spoke to and spread messages of peace and love, now merely judges, condemns and provokes.”
Her song “Still Alive” deals with discrimination against people with HIV, and it was used in a television campaign dealing with the issue.
In 2007, Stephens was awarded a scholarship by Resource Development International to study for a Business Management degree via the internet from the University of Sunderland.
In 2009 she made her acting debut, playing Nurse Tracey in the CVM TV series Royal Palm Estate. She also opened the restaurant ‘H2O’ the same year in the Coconut Grove Shopping Centre in Ocho Rios.
Tanya also owns Tarantula Records, founded in 2004 with business partner & producer Andrew Henton which has handled all of her music since then.