Teyana Taylor


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Back in 2008, Harlem-bred Teyana Taylor was a teenager signed to Star Trak. While with the Neptunes' label, she released only one single, the Jazze Pha-produced "Google Me." It was an attitudinal trifle that barely scraped Billboard's R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Apart from some background moves, like the co-writing of Chris Brown's "So Cold," Taylor's career stalled. During a meeting to appraise some couture obtained by Kanye West, she got to hear the rapper/producer's in-the-making My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy and added her own runs and embellishments as she listened. When Taylor left the premises, she had recorded vocals for some of the album's tracks. West eventually signed Taylor to his Def Jam-supported GOOD label, then had her appear on three Cruel Summer tracks, including compilation highlight "Bliss," where she duetted with John Legend. In June 2014, Taylor released "Maybe," her second proper solo single and likely what she'd prefer to call her real debut single. The slinking, atmospheric slow jam is filled with as much attitude as her 2008 single but replaces youthful swagger with something more grown. Her newly refined approach is seductive and don't-you-dare-cross-me at once. More importantly, the song made it evident that she was no joke as a singer. "Business" and "Do Not Disturb," additional previews of VII, followed as singles. The former is particularly great, with its creeping bassline, lurching drums, and gauzy effects -- co-produced by Brian Kennedy and Mr. Franks, presumably not Zen songsmith Michael Franks -- an ideal frame for Taylor's response to involvement in a mutually on-the-rebound tryst. The part-reggae "Put Your Love On" comes off like an Estelle castoff, but VII otherwise sticks with high-quality slow jams where Taylor's casually commanding, faintly coarse approach is in full effect. There's evidence that she has studied the classics, like the point in "Broken Hearted Girl" where she quotes Teena Marie, and the quietly dazzling, Janet Jackson-like way in which she conveys longing throughout "Request." At the same time, she leaves a mark of her own with this, one of 2014's superb debuts.

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