Deborah Oluwaseyi Joshua (born Oluwaseyi Joshua; 21st December 1985), professionally known as Seyi Shay (pronounced Shay-yee Shay), is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and actress. She wrote and produced three songs for the soundtrack to Konami‘s video game Crime Life: Gang Wars (2005). She also wrote “You Will See”, a song that was included on Melanie C‘s third studio album Beautiful Intentions (2005). Shay wrote “White Lies”, a song from Chip‘s Transition album. In 2008, she became the lead singer for the now defunct pop girl group From Above. The group signed a recording deal with Sony‘s Columbia Records and was managed by Mathew Knowles‘ Music World Entertainment company. In November 2013, Shay signed an endorsement deal with telecommunications service provider Etisalat. In July 2015, she signed a record deal with Island Records. In 2015, she signed a 2 year endorsement deal with Pepsi. Shay released her debut studio album Seyi or Shay in November 2015. It was supported by the promotional singles: “Irawo”, “Ragga Ragga”, “Right Now” and “Murda” featuring Patoranking and Shaydee. In January 2021, she signed a publishing deal with Universal Music Publishing Group France division, in partnership with Universal Music France.
Life and career
Shay was born and raised in Tottenham, London, England, to Nigerian parents. Her mother was from Northern Nigeria and her father is a native of Ife. She has two elder brothers and an elder sister. She and her siblings were raised by their single mother. Shay grew up in a Christian home. She often felt like a single child during her adolescence as she is the single child between her mother and father. She started visiting Nigeria when she was two years old, and eventually attended the Command High School in Maryland, Lagos.She went back to London to complete her undergraduate studies, where she also attended and graduated from the University of East London, with a BA Hons in Music business management. Her interest in music was influenced by members of her household. Her late mother was a chorister and her sister used to compose songs for the BBC and her brother was a prominent club and radio DJ in London. Shay joined her secondary school choir and started performing at the age of 6. She performed for the London Community Gospel Choir during their world tour, which included 13 cities in Japan. In an interview with Lanre Odukoya of Thisday, Shay said that her mother wasn’t a staunch supporter of her musical ambitions. Moreover, her mother wanted her to become a doctor or lawyer. Prior to departing the Earth, her mother told her to focus on her music career and put God first.
Her music career took an upswing when she signed her first ever record deal with No Apologies, a record company affiliated with Sir George Martin (commonly referred to as the “Fifth Beatle”). In 2006, Shay formed a girl band in the UK called Boadicea; they were managed by Ron Tom, the founder and manager of All Saints and Sugababes. The band separated after two years, and Shay decided to partake in the From Above UK singing audition. After the conclusion of the audition, she emerged as the lead vocalist for the now defunct girl group From Above. The group inked a record deal with Mathew Knowles’ management company after performing for him. They were taken to Houston to undergo energetic vocal and dance trainings. The group supported Beyoncé while she was in the UK for her I Am… World Tour. They presented the Best New Act award to Bruno Mars at the 2011 MTV Europe Music Awards and had their own MTV reality show called Breaking From Above, which aired in over 166 countries around the world. The group later disassembled and Shay had an opportunity to continue her management deal with Mathew Knowles, as well as secure a recording contract with Sony. Instead, she made a decision to join Fly time Music after getting an offer from them. Shay has worked with a number of musicians, including Justin Timberlake, Brian Michael Cox, Darey, Bilal, Michelle Williams, Chip, Rob Knoxx, H-Money, and Cameron Wallace.
Shay was introduced to Sound Sultan during her visit to London in 2011. After listening to some of her demos, Sultan convinced her to relocate to Nigeria and pursue her musical career there. In addition to meeting Sultan, Shay was introduced to Cecil Hammond of Fly time Promotions. Hammond signed her to his record label Fly time Music and decided to launch her solo career in Nigeria. In 2013, Shay left Fly time Music and told Vanguard newspaper that she had joined the label to promote her brand. She also said that while signed to the record label, she was very much in control of her brand. Moreover, she said she still has a relationship with the label.
Although her musical style is primarily a combination of Afropop and R&B, Shay doesn’t conform to a particular genre of music. She believes that her musical prowess covers different genres, and has stated that her music draws from things that inspire her. Shay has cited her mother, Mathew Knowles, 2face Idibia, Beyoncé, Tina Turner, Sound Sultan, Wizkid, and Omawumi as mentors.
Shay performed at the 2013 COSON song awards. In July 2013, she performed at one of Big Brother Africa 8‘s live eviction shows. On 20 July 2013, she performed in Asaba for the 2013 edition of Star Music Trek. On 27 September 2013, Shay graced the stage at the Sisters with Soul concert, which was headlined by Mary J. Blige.
On 20 November 2013, she performed “Bad” with Wale at the Johnnie Walker Step Up to VIP Lifestyle Launch event (held at the Oriental Hotel, Victoria Island, Lagos). Shay was a supporting act on the 2013 Hennessy Artistry 2013 Club. In December 2013, she performed at the Harp Rhythm Unplugged concert. On 15 February 2014, Shay performed with Kelly Rowland, D’banj, Tiwa Savage, Mo’ Eazy, Zaina, Timi Dakolo, Waje, Muna, JJC and Eva Alordiah at Darey‘s Love Like A Movie concert.
Along with a successful music career, Seyi Shay has also lent her talents to acting, making her acting debut in the film “Lara and the Beat”, which is set to premiere on Netflix. She was made a Pepsi, Hollandia and Chinese Mobile phone company, Gionee brand ambassador. She featured in Dionne Searcey of The New York Times novel; “In Pursuit of Disobedient Women”, where she was highlighted and written about as one of Dionne’s most interesting women ever met. More recently Season 6 of hit Tv Reality Show “Nigerian Idol” aired on MNet, DSTV where Seyi Shay is a judge. The series runs until July. Seyi Shay is currently signed to Universal Music Publishing France. She continues to redefine what sexy, fearless, independent and empowering is in her essence into this ‘ Big Girl’ persona which she is taking on to release a Afro-R&B, Hip Hop and Soul sounding body of work that will effect the modern age even beyond the African continent.