Photo by Tom Medvedich
By Dan Kimpel
Angela Hunte: Celebrating Her "Empire State of Mind"
It was an electrifying finale to the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards as Jay-Z ascended the stage to join Alicia Keys in the spotlight -- two proud New Yorkers commemorating the magic of their hometown with a new anthem, "Empire State of Mind" from Jay-Z's number one Billboard charting The Blueprint 3.
Angela Hunte, the song's co-creator, recalls the song's west coast origins: "I was in the studio working with my writing partner (Jane't "Jnay" Sewell- Ulepic) and we were talking about how much we missed New York. Los Angeles feels like a place of lost souls and haunted dreams. But New York: people come here to make it -- that's it."
When Big Jon Platt from EMI Music was visiting for a home cooked barbecue dinner a few months later, the duo played him the song. Hunte says an omen foretold its future. "We have a statue of Biggie Smalls on top of the monitor, and as we were playing it Biggie fell off! It was like he was trying to tell us something. Big Jon said, 'This record is incredible.' The next day, Jay-Z cut it."
Hunte's hits include "Do Somethin'" for Britney Spears, "Showstopper" for Making the Band's Danity Kane (a SESAC Award-winning song) and tracks with Mis-Teeq, UK diva Ms. Dynamite and "Bang Bang" for the hot new artist, Melanie Fiona. On "Empire State of Mind," Hunte earned a co-production credit. "I can do everything in the studio that a man can do. It's no different. It was big for Jay- Z to take a chance on me and to do this record. I think he set the trend for women to be on the production side in rap."
Hunte, featured as a vocalist on David Morales' club classic "Feels Good," and P. Diddy's "Hold Up," is completing her long awaited solo album. Growing up in New York, she was enamored of all genres of music, especially singer/songwriters and classic pop. "I'd be there with a hairbrush as my microphone wearing my Shirley Bassey wig singing 'I Who Have Nothing.' People would say, 'You can't sing like that.' It's different now. I want everyone to hear this artist project. It's going to be bananas."
Hearing "Empire State of Mind" booming through the streets of her hometown has been an epiphany. "All I ever wanted in my career is to impact someone's life with a record," Hunte avows. "I'm over the moon."