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Taken from DancehallMag (Mar 26, 2024)

The Story Behind The Song: Tanya Stephens' 'It's A Pity' Was Written From Personal Experience

by Sade Gardner

Tanya Stephens. Courtesy Image
Tanya Stephens. Courtesy Image

Tanya Stephens hardly ever writes for entertainment. In her own words, "I write for expression, and then I try to make the expression entertaining."

With more than 45 million Spotify streams, It's A Pity is her most commercial expression. The Doctor's Darling hit chronicles the fantasies of her untimely tryst with somebody's Mr. Perfect, though she, too, has a passing partner. The track forms part of her critically acclaimed Gangsta Blues album, which turns 20 on Saturday.

"I kinda stick to mostly my experiences or the experiences of those very close to me that I live through with them," Stephens told DancehallMag. "You know when friends bawl pon dem one another and thing? Mi will change up dem story fi nuh give weh dem business, just enough poetic coverage. But yes, that was my story."

Referencing social media influencer Mackerel's stance that "other people man comfortable," the unvarnished artist relishes her personal space and freedom, with relationship benefits sprinkled here and there.

"That's what It's A Pity pretty much summed up; the longing to be normal and having all of the things, but this is unfortunately what life is. You already have a woman and me have somebody weh a pose as a man."

She revealed, "To be honest with you, back inna the days, mi nah go lie, I had encounters with quite a few people man. It wasn't something that they liked and it wasn't something that I had any pride in; it's just life, it just happened. But I had serious commitment issues. I didn't want a relationship of my own."

The musician said her experiences with sexual abuse contributed to her struggle with commitment. Stephens was first raped at 17 by someone in the music industry. Two years later, she was gang-raped at the control of her boyfriend, whom she said knew of her prior sexual violation.

"The first time I got raped, it was by somebody who was kinda my mentor, so I learnt not to trust people," she shared. "The second time, it was by someone I was 'so-called' in a relationship with. He set up what was a gang rape wth some of his friends, who I was also familiar with, so it did give me severe trust issues. Mi develop acute paranoia, whole heap of stuff come out of that. It's the gift that kept on giving and it gave for a few more decades. Fortunately, it has run its course and I am much better now and able to see all of it."

The story of It's A Pity started around 2001 when Stephens was en route to a studio in Germany, with the Doctor's Darling riddim - produced by Pionear and Seeed - on repeat.

"I want to big up Little T because Little T is a sound system guy in Germany and they embrace our culture so much and really revere it," she said. "He was my road manager for part of my sound system tour, so he was driving me to the studio from Berlin, I think. He was stoked that he had Tanya Stephens sitting in the passenger side of his car, and we drove for hours in the night. I was actually writing a song in his car and he was just like 'oh man, oh man!' the whole journey."

"I was basically performing a new song for him the entire ride. He heard the bits that I threw out, he heard the change of ideas and stuff until I settled on what song I was gonna focus on. I think I recorded it in Kemnitz or Chiemsee. The bad thing is that we didn't get a video of it. If it was these days, maybe we'd have a video."

Tanya Stephens. Courtesy Image
Tanya Stephens. Courtesy Image

She was 30 when Gangsta Blues debuted in 2004 and she said her philosophy on some subjects was myopic at the time. When it comes to the hope that someday "the world will be evolved enough, we'll share you in a civilized manner between the two of us," her viewpoint remains.

"I'm not the kind of person you can cheat on, if we're honest, because I don't feel like I need to own a human and I don't feel the need for exclusivity," she explained. "I don't think anybody should own me either. I feel we should be honest and open and if there's a human out there that does something for you in a meaningful way and you want to explore it with them, I think everybody should be mature enough to accept that. I am of the opinion that the rules that we set for ourselves are unrealistic cause that's not how we are psychologically and biologically wired to be in this inclusive institution that we call marriage. I mean, if it was an institution, you should have a parole, a release date, or a graduation day...

"But we've set up this institution in a way where it's more like a prison sentence, a life sentence, and you say, 'Until death', but how do you know who you're going to be tomorrow? We're always changing, and if you're not, you're stagnant and that is not the intention of life. How do you know that you will still want to be with this person in 10 years? That is why I say, 'Maybe one day the world will be evolved enough', because I feel we are not evolved the way we socialise, and I would be comfortable sharing someone responsibly. I mean, I have done that repeatedly. I don't care enough about exclusivity to lock somebody. I want you to be happy and free. I wouldn't want to be the reason you leave a part of you unexplored because you didn't want to hurt my feelings. My feelings nuh dat fragile and dem nuh predicated pon your imprisonment either, so that was very reflective of my thought process, and it's still applicable."




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