NEW YORK — Her album came out Tuesday, she has one of the hottest songs on radio, and her first video just hit the airwaves.
This is what Lumidee Cedeño has dreamed about doing for many of her 19 years, but even she will admit that sometimes it seems like things are moving too fast.
Three months ago, the Spanish Harlem native didn't have a record deal with a major label; six months ago, performing in front of more than 50,000 people at Summer Jam was just a dream. And when it happened, the reality was Lumi had to overcome stage fright for what was only her third concert ever.
"I've been recording like two and a half, three years, but [my producers] didn't really try to shop [for a record deal] because I wasn't ready mentally," said the lifelong around-the-way girl. "I could record, but I was too scared to perform in front of people. So they was like, 'You gotta break out of that because things could change from one day to the next. What if people want to sign you?' "
The prophecy of her producers Trendsetta and DJ TedSmooth panned out just as her hit club banger "Never Leave You (Uh-Oooh)" started taking off in February. Incorporating Lumi's now signature "Uh oh, uh oh" croons and the same irresistible Diwali riddim that fueled Sean Paul's "Get Busy" and Wayne Wonder's "No Letting Go," the record has become one the most played in the clubs this year and is climbing the charts.
" 'Uh oh,' I can't take credit for that," she admitted, sitting in New York's Right Track studios. "The song was too short and Ted said, 'Write a bridge.' He was like, 'Just say "Uh oh." ' I recorded it and I hated it. But it's just so catchy. I think it just blew up like that because it's different. It's like, 'What is she singing?' Either you not gonna like it or you gonna love it. Some people be like, 'I hate this sh--.' And the people who like it really like it. I don't know, I don't have such a strong voice, but it's different. I don't sing like I came straight from church, but it's different. Whoever likes it wants to hear something new."
While fans of the song may be falling in love with how it mixes R&B, reggae and smidgens of freestyle to create a fresh sound, they're actually hearing an old song. Lumi recorded it almost a year ago just to give TedSmooth something to spin in the clubs. As it picked up during Smooth's gigs, he passed it along to his fellow turntablist friends, and eventually it popped on radio.
Smooth, who signed Lumi to his Straight Face label, was soon fielding offers from heavyweights like Def Jam, Roc-A-Fella, Epic and Arista. They eventually decided to go with Kedar Massenburg and Universal in late April, leaving Lumi to quickly master multitasking. People were clamoring to book her for shows, but she also had to abruptly turn around and record most of her debut, Almost Famous, in a matter of weeks to make the June 24 release date. She said doing both put a strain on her voice, but she worked through it.
"We have to rush," Lumi said in early May, two weeks after signing with Universal. "I was always recording, so that's good or I would have been real stuck. A lot of stuff was reference tracks, so we went back and re-recorded everything."
Lumi did have a little help on the mic. She already had a song with Nore, the probable second single "Crashin' a Party," and Busta Rhymes and Fabolous reached out to her to be on the remix of "Never Leave You."
"I was loving her song," Fab said. "I had the chance to call up and speak to her one day and she said she'd love to have me on the song. We made it happen from there."
"All these people, of course I would look to them to be on my songs, but we ain't got Busta and Fab money," she said. "We don't have Nore money. They just hollered at us like, 'Yo, that is hot; I want to get on that.' All this is just amazing."