Who is Wanya Morris?
Wanyá Jermaine Morris is a soul music artist currently affiliated with the R&B group Boyz II Men. He is also popular for his appearance on the season 22 of ABC’s ‘Dancing with the Stars’. Morris had known hardships as a child, having grown up in a broken home, but music always gave him the necessary refuge. While attending the prestigious Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA), he sang alongside his future bandmates in the school’s choir. In 1987, he joined their band Unique Attraction, an early version of the group. Over the course of the next few months, this fledgling conglomerate of young and talented singers went through several changes and they officially renamed themselves after the song ‘Boys to Men’ by New Edition. Since then, the group has become one of the most iconic bands in R&B history, releasing 12 albums and winning four Grammies. Morris is active as a solo artist as well. He put out a mixtape titled ‘Unreleased’ in June 2007.
Wanya Morris became a permanent member of the group Unique Attraction in 1987. Formed in 1985, Unique Attraction had originally consisted of friends Nathan Morris, Marc Nelson, George Baldi, Jon Shoats, and Marguerite Walker-- all students of CAPA. Within the next few years, Baldi, Shoats, and Walker left the group following their graduation and in their place, Shawn Stockman and Michael McCary were recruited in.
They were heavily influenced by New Edition, an R&B group based out of Boston. So it was only fitting that they would rebrand themselves as Boyz II Men, with New Edition’s song ‘Boys to Men’ from their 1988 album ‘Heart Break’ serving as the inspiration. The group became a quartet after Nelson, a founding member, left due to the delay in recordings of their own materials and the alleged disputes with others. McCary departed in 2003 due to chronic back problems.
Their debut album, ‘Cooleyhighharmony’ was released in 1991 through Motown record label. Produced by New Edition member Michael Bivins, it has received 9x Platinum certification from the RIAA and won the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals Award at the 1992 Grammy Awards.
Boyz II Men has since released ‘II’ in 1994, ‘Evolution’ in 1997, ‘Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya’ in 2000, ‘Full Circle’ in 2002, ‘Throwback, Vol. 1’ in 2004, ‘The Remedy’ in 2006, ‘Motown: A Journey Through Hitsville USA’ in 2007, ‘Love’ in 2009, ‘Twenty’ in 2011, and ‘Collide’ in 2014. Their most recent studio album is ‘Under the Streetlight’ which was released on October 20, 2017.
‘II’ is their most successful studio album to date. Not only it has been certified 12x Platinum by RIAA, it also topped the US Billboard 200 and the US R&B charts at the time of its release. It was conferred with the inaugural Grammy Award for the Best R&B Album in 1995 and one of its tracks, ‘I’ll Make Love to You’, clenched another Grammy for the Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
In the 1990s, Boyz II Men was at the vanguard of the artistic movement to bring R&B music back into the mainstream. Their hip-hop beats were nothing out of the ordinary but focusing primarily on the harmony, they ushered in changes that forever affected the entire music industry.
Morris teamed up with professional dancer Lindsay Arnold to compete in the season 22 of the dance reality show ‘Dancing with the Stars’, eventually coming in fourth overall.
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Controversies & Scandals
Wanya Morris received much criticism and backlash due to his alleged relationship with the then-underage R&B singer Brandy. There were rumours that Brandy, then 15, was dating Morris, who is six years older than her, but they both vehemently denied them. For the next two years, their respective management teams painstakingly kept the relationship a secret. They reportedly broke up a month before her nineteenth birthday. Despite this, they worked together on her album ‘Never Say Never’ (1998). Brandy has since admitted that the collaboration helped her to “come into her own”.
A Philadelphia native, Wanya Morris was born on July 29, 1973, to parents Carla Morris and Dallas Thornton. Never having married, his parents parted ways when he was young. He was raised by his single mother alongside his three siblings. He developed a deep interest in music as a young boy. Besides music, he was also interested in art and drawing in his early years.
On May 11, 2002, he married designer Traci Nash and has children with her. The family presently resides in New Jersey. Morris is a practitioner of the Hebrew Israelite faith, which, among other things, allows polygamy. He has been allegedly involved in an affair with Australian Dora Gutierrez for quite some time now and the former groupie has come to be viewed by many as his spirit wife.
As Boyz II Men annually performs at The Mirage Resort & Casino, Morris becomes a temporary resident of Las Vegas every year.