Even though these four teen-age girls were raised on good old-fashioned gospel, it's the hip-hop laced bass lines that make Ramiyah's (pronounced Rah-my-yah) self-titled debut album so inspirational for a new day. But don't question their holy praise. They set the record straight with the first single, "Turn it Out," a radio-ready track with strong beats and a rap verse that scoffs those quick to judge Ramiyah's non-traditional style. Call it divine intervention, but when the hit production team PAJAM (J. Moss, Paul "PDA" Allen and Walter Kearney)--who've worked with platinum performers like *NSYNC, Boyz II Men, Dru Hill, Kelly Price to Karen Clark Sheard, and Hezekiah Walker--brought together Detroit-bred singers Sherise Staten, Tracy Bryant, DeLaurian Burton and Stephanie Bonner, it was a match made in heaven. "We're like sisters," says Tracy. And it's obvious that things click for Ramiyah, who've already turned out soul-stirring performances at the 11th Annual Trumpet Awards, the 2003 Stellar Gospel Music Awards and "Showtime at the Apollo." "Each of us brings something to our sound," adds Tracy.
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A mighty sound indeed, with lyrics written by PAJAM, Ramiyah is a gift of classic religious themes based on everyday experiences. "It's not common for young people in this day and age to listen to gospel music," says Stephanie. "We show them it's cool to stand up for God," adds DeLaurian. A declaration that's heard loud and clear on the up-tempo track, "Here We Go": "If you came here to dance/and to clap your hands/and to praise Him like it's like your last chance/can you holla/holla."
But the uplifting messages on Ramiyah are also delivered in contemporary ballads like "I Told You," that tells of a young woman who finds balance when she decides to face her loneliness and challenges with faith. Then there's the symphonic backdrop and powerful harmonies on "Waiting," a prayerful wish for redemption, which showcase their vocal range and choir trained roots. "I was about 5 years old when I started singing with the choir," shares Sherise.
Though it's tough nowadays for them to make it to regular services, "all of our churches have been in full support of what we're doing," says Stephanie. Undoubtedly true since they've spent most of their lives worshiping in the house of the Lord. Each of them even heard about the auditions to be in the group that way. "Paul Allen and I attend the same church so he asked me to audition," says DeLaurian, one half of the rap force in Ramiyah. "They approached me at a gospel concert," adds Sherise, the other rapper of the bunch. "I was referred by Sherise," laughs Tracy. "I was singing at a talent show for my church when they asked me to audition," says Stephanie.
The strength of Ramiyah might be their energy, performance, and solid production but these young women are aware of the reality that most girl groups don't last, "But when you're chosen to do something there's no getting out," adds Stephanie, "this is ordained by God."
It's that type of conviction that shines in every song on Ramiyah and ultimately certifies them as one blessed act here to stay.
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