There is an ever-increasing debate about the importance of the album in the digital era, which places far greater significance on the singular than the cohesive. For lovers of both the album and R&B – another sect of music facing its own questions of relevance – very few examples of why both still are very much important come better than Teedra Moses. The singer songwriter released her first album, Complex Simplicity, in 2004 and only now has given fans her sophomore offering, Cognac and Conversation.
For those unfamiliar, Moses was originally signed to TVT records, at the time more known for acts like Lil' Jon and the Eastside Boyz and the Ying Yang Twins than then her wavy brand of R&B. A brand that might not have come out booming at the time, but had meaningful impact to fans stateside and broad. The same goes for her varying co-signers, notably Raphael Saadiq and Rick Ross, the latter of which appears on the new album and has offered Moses spaces to lend her vocal talent on Maybach Music-related releases.
Moses’ label may not have handled her remarkable debut well, but that never stopped those who heard it to spread it as gospel. And pine for another album. Moses has actually released plenty of other music since then – mixtapes, singles here and there, and more recently, an EP. Yet, there is nothing like an album.
Now that we have Cognac, the obvious question becomes whether or not it was worth the decade-long wait. The answer is just as obvious. If you have traveled with Moses on this lengthy journey to release a sophomore project, you know by now her main collaborator from the debut, Paul Poli, is gone. There is an obvious shift sonically and has been for some time now. Moses' voice, ever soothing but nonetheless strong in its simple delivery, was always the guiding force, but Paul facilitated through different channels.
For this album, she explained in a previous interview, “Some people who made a record on my album have never published a record in their life. But it’s good stuff and that’s what matters to me.” Indeed, what matters most – the voice and words that drive them – remain intact.
It’s love. It’s sex. It's romance. It's remorse. It’s all the intricacies of intimacy. It's moving words that reel you in back into a more uplifted reality. And all of it is gorgeously sang.
And for me, Cognac and Conversation instills certain nostalgia. It takes me back to being a college junior writing his first album review and doing his first interview for Howard University's The Hilltop, both centered on Teedra Moses. I remember hearing her first album and being blown away, feeling like I discovered something amazing and wanting to tell as many as possible.
Cognac and Conversation is no different and there are certain familiarities between both albums. “All I Ever Wanted” with Rick Ross takes me back to “You’ll Never Find (A Better Woman)” featuring Jadakiss. “Skin Diver” shares a similar sensual theme as “Backstroke.” “That One,” a duet with Anthony Hamilton, makes me think about “Take Me” with Rapahel Saadiq. This is not a bad thing; this is a reminder of an artist who knows what her fans want and gives them such while still evolving as an artist. The familiarity doesn't make them any less fantastic.
It's been a solid year for R&B, but my main complaint in 2004 is just as true as it is in 2015: for all that is out there, Teedra Moses stands out. She should be a bigger part of the R&B conversation. Get to talking already.