Since we saw her on MTV seven years ago, it seems like Teyana Taylor has been in the limelight for quite awhile. The G.O.O.D. Music and Def Jam Records artist finally has her debut album, “VII”, on the shelves and she can’t be more happier. With her music, fashion ventures, and a new, loving relationship, this is a different woman than the little girl we saw on “My Super Sweet 16.” I had a chance to talk to Teyana about all of these things and more, and I learned quite a lot about the Harlem songstress.
EBONY: In attending your album release party, I had a chance to see that not just media and celebrities were in attendance, but a lot of your family and friends were there, as well. For being in the industry for 7+ years, how does it feel to finally have your album on shelves in the stores?
Teyana Taylor: It feels great! I’ve been waiting for this for so long. Most artists are focused on first week sales, and numbers, when I’m just relieved and happy to say this project is finally out. This is my first full body of work, and this is all me, which is why I didn’t rely heavily on features. I wanted the people to see the real me and what I’ve been working on. People will nit-pick at any and everything especially when they don’t want to see you do great, and that’s because they’re afraid. The more afraid you are, the more you’ll hate. As you should be, because it’s no turning back.
EBONY: What was your creative approach when recording the album?
TT: It took 2 years to complete the album, but overall it made me have no regrets of my past situations, because I wouldn’t have made the same album at 15 that I would’ve now. This album I have today is genuine, it comes from a pure place. The things that I’m singing about now aren’t things that I had experienced back when I was 15, I hadn’t been through the heartbreaks and love, but I was able to find myself as a woman and it shows on the album.
EBONY: Does it pull at the heartstrings, is it an emotional album?
TT: Vocally, yes. But the album is more toward sexy and relaxing. I feel like music has been missing that sexy sound since Janet (Jackson) and R. Kelly. A lot of music nowadays will be smooth but then have those pop records that sends the album all over the place. I wanted to make a sexy record that you could clean the house to. I feel the new way of “playing it safe” IS talking about heartbreak. I think that’s what they expect from Black women artists, to be that hurt, bitter woman, so when I make songs about heartbreak, I want you to realize how much it hurt me, but that I was able to move on from it. But, yeah, the album is very sexy, you can get your massage to it, you can clean the house to it, it’s smooth.
EBONY: Since you were younger, people have known who you are. And you’re very representative in where you’re from as a native New Yorker and Harlem resident. What do you think about the state of New York music?
TT: I love it, I love that more music is coming from the city, especially from Harlem. No offense to any other boroughs, but Harlem has always been known for the hustle and being hungry, but being fashionable at the same time. Harlem is like a big runway, we’re too cool for school, it’s as if Harlem has that laid back, yet trend-setting nature about us. But it’s great that New York is being well represented in music, from all boroughs here.
EBONY: I know one of your G.O.O.D. Music label-mates Pusha T has been very vocal of the similarities and differences in working with Kanye West and (current EBONY Magazine Cover Star) Pharrell. What are the similarities and differences that you’ve noticed, and what has it been like overall working under two of the greatest producers of our time?
TT: One thing that they both share is that they are perfectionists. I’ve been blessed to be in very good situations to learn from them, and they teach you to be perfect. It doesn’t even have to be said, the way they go in the booth or vibe to the track, you just pick up on it. I’m a very visual learner, sometimes I’ll just get into my own zone and space out, but picking up some of their traits, that’s what I’ve learned the best.
EBONY: In being on G.O.O.D. Music now, we always hear stories of Kanye’s recording process. What’s that like?
TT: It’s so vintage. When we recorded “Cruel Summer,” it was that old-school feel of ALL of us on the label being in the studio at the same time. It’s that old-school feel of how crews and squads used to be back in the ‘90s, like that Bad Boy, that Wu-Tang feel.
EBONY: How does that “old-school feel” affect your creative process?
TT: We have a strong squad in G.O.O.D. Music. We support and are fans of one another, we all have our own lane and sound, so when we hear each other, it pumps us up. The rap side doesn’t affect me as a singer, I’m the baby of the team, I’m like the princess, so they treat me like that, and it helps me get into my zone.
EBONY: So with your album coming out and your boyfriend (NY Knicks Guard) Iman Shumpert starting his season, how are things at home with you two?
TT: Well when I was recording, I was also on tour, so he was more of the “house-band.” Now that the season is starting, we’ll both be busy, so we’ll be able to appreciate our time. I support him, even though I’m a die-hard (Chicago) Bulls fan, it’ll be tough when my favorite team goes against my man, but we’ll get through it. I’ll just have to get a half Knicks/half Bulls jersey for whenever they play each other. I get the pass because he’s from Chicago, so it all works.
EBONY: Who has the better footwear, Iman or Teyana?
TT: I’d say it’s a tie, I would say I would win if I included my heels and shoes, but he has his Balenciagas, and his Rick Owens so it balances out. I WOULD say that I do put him onto the pieces, the vintage sportswear stuff. So it may end up being me at the end of the day.
EBONY: So to bring our time to a close, what should people look forward to with your album?
TT: People are going to get me, they’re going to get where as I am as a young woman, and creatively as an artist. I’m excited to see what comes from it, but I’m happy that this moment is finally here.
Cory Townes was born and raised in Philadelphia, and currently lives in Brooklyn. A devout Philly sports fan, Townes is the Social Media Manager for EBONY.com. When he’s not planning his cheering on his Philadelphia Eagles or creating musical playlists for the people, you can reach him on Twitter @CoryTownes.