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N'Dea Davenport

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N'Dea Davenport is best-known for the four years she spent with the Brand New Heavies, a predominantly British, London-based retro-soul/funk outfit that was quite popular in Great Britain in the '90s, but recalled '70s favorites like Tower of Power, the Average White Band, Earth, Wind & Fire and Rufus & Chaka Khan. Because Davenport has been closely identified with the United Kingdom's R&B scene, she has often been compared to British R&B artists like Mica Paris, Lisa Stansfield, and Caron Wheeler (formerly of Soul II Soul). But unlike those artists, Davenport didn't grow up in England -- or anywhere else in the U.K. -- she is actually an American singer who was born and raised in Atlanta, where she was influenced by American soul goddesses like Chaka Khan, Teena Marie, Minnie Riperton, and Deniece Williams, among others. As a young adult, Davenport moved to Los Angeles in the '80s -- and that was where she met Michael C. Ross and Matt Dike, the owners of Delicious Vinyl Records. In the late '80s, the company (which had a distribution deal with Island) was earning a reputation as a West Coast hip-hop label thanks to hits by L.A.-based rappers Tone-Loc ("Wild Thing," "Funky Cold Medina") and Young MC ("Bust a Move"), but Delicious Vinyl didn't want to be an all-rap label -- they were also interested in R&B and rock, and one of the R&B acts that excited them was the Brand New Heavies (who had been around the London scene since 1985). After the departure of singer Jay Ella Ruth in the late '80s, the Brand New Heavies needed a new female lead vocalist -- and Delicious Vinyl recommended Davenport for the position. After accepting the offer and joining the Brand New Heavies in 1990, Davenport moved to London and was prominently featured on the band's self-titled debut album (which Delicious Vinyl released in the United States in 1991). "Dream Come True," "Never Stop," and "Stay This Way" -- all from that album -- featured Davenport on lead vocals and became hit singles in the U.K., and she went on to appear on the Brand New Heavies' Brother Sister album (also on Delicious Vinyl) in 1994. But after that, Davenport left the band to pursue a solo career -- something she had been wanting to pursue all along -- and when the Brand New Heavies recorded Shelter for Delicious Vinyl in 1997, Siedah Garrett (an American singer who was known for her work with Michael Jackson and Quincy Jones) served as their female lead singer. Davenport's first solo album, a self-titled release, came out on the V2 label in 1998; "Bring It On," "Bullshittin'," and "Underneath a Red Moon" were all released as singles. The late '90s found Davenport touring extensively as a solo artist; her solo tours offered a variety of Brand New Heavies favorites and material from her first album. ~ Alex Henderson