Tanya Stephens is widely known for her raw and unfiltered songs which has endeared her to a niche reggae market. The adult content of her songs has caused huge debate but she refuses to compromise. Her material may be sensitive, but there is no doubting Stephens’ intelligence and incisive wit.
The unapologetic “tell it like it is” entertainer always drops expletives on stage when dealing with a range of topics that include infidelity, politics, relationships and a stance against homophobia.
Females particularly enjoy songs such as ‘Tek Him Back’, ‘Damn You’, ‘Home Alone’, and ‘Can't Breathe’, which encourages, among other things, “a little cheating every now and then”.
From anger to excitement to love to the pain as a result of heartbreak, Stephens manages to evoke every emotion possible from her audience. Songs like ‘Boom Wuk’, ‘After You’, ‘These Streets’, ‘Gangster Girl’, ‘Little White Lie’, ‘It’s a Pity’, ‘Yuh Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet’ and ‘Still Ago Lose Him’ are like anthems now.
Stephens was born on July 2, 1973 in St. Mary, Jamaica. 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’ raised her profile to the Jamaican public, and she then had success with singles ‘Draw fi Mi Finger’, ‘Freaky Type’, and ‘Cry and Bawl’. Her debut album, Big Things a Gwaan, was released in 1994 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. But she was not totally comfortable with this musical direction. 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 weeks. The album was totally sold out in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. The track ‘Come A Long Way’ is acclaimed for its dedication to black leaders.
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.
Stephens has a daughter, Kelly, born in 1994.
In 2006, Stephens sued American rapper Lil' Kim for plagiarism on her song ‘Durty’ from The Naked Truth album asking for all rights to the song, past, present and future. Stephens claimed that Kim used the lyrics from her song ‘Mi and Mi God’, stating that "she even used a West Indian accent". Stephens claimed that in 1999 she was flown out to New York by Kim, who claimed to be a huge fan and owned her albums. Kim wanted her to record for an album, but her vocals were never used.
In a talk in 2011 at the University of the West Indies, Stephens 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 an online Business Management degree 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.
Stephens also owns Tarantula Records, founded in 2004 with business partner and producer Andrew Henton which has handled all of her music since then.