The Curious Case of Teyana Taylor

March 15, 2012 2 comments

There’s something unsettling about Teyana Taylor’s lack of success. Perhaps the sheer dearth of contemporary R&B singers amplifies this sentiment, but such contextualization runs the risk of undermining Teyana’s promise as an artist. Face it, Teyana Taylor is interesting. Actually scratch that, she’s more than interesting. She has a soothing contralto tone to her voice, and she also raps. She dances. And it doesn’t hurt she’s been cosigned by some of music’s biggest superstars (that’s Teyana ad-libbing on the chorus).

So what leaves listeners unwilling to engage with the Harlem-bred performer?

In short, she’s guilty of that oft-misused “je ne sais quoi.” Although listeners praise artists like Diddy, Jay-Z, and even Lady Gaga Lite Nicki Minaj for their ability to grow their empires beyond music’s arm span, Teyana has never earned such opportunity. Because she has not established a solid musical foundation, listeners have yet to engage with Teyana the singer.

The public was first introduced to Teyana as an aspiring artist on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16. Then signed to Pharrell’s Star Trak label, Teyana’s arrival seemed promising. She was a female face for the urban skater movement Skateboard P had perfected, and her massive fro was second only to her larger-than-life personality. Unfortunately for her, though, any buzz surrounding her musical debut waned after the release of her “Google Me” single. Besides being laughably elementary, the single (which was produced by Jazze Pha) failed to capture the one thing listeners hoped to hear most, her chemistry with mentor Pharrell.

Since the release of the 2008 single, Teyana has remained in the public eye for various reasons. She’s appeared in a few movies, forged friendships with artists like Chris Brown, and had a slew of nude pics unreleased material leak. The one thing she has yet to do, however, is showcase her own music.

Enter her new mixtape, The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor.

As Teyana looks to carve her niche in the industry, Misunderstanding works as a great (free) re-introduction to musical consumers. The mixtape starts off with the interlude “Words of Wisdom.” Featuring an interview excerpt in which Lauryn Hill admits to praying to “understand them (her detractors) more,” the track sets the tone for the subsequent tracks. The listener travels with Teyana as she not only tries to find her footing in topics like love, but also with her vocal instrument. In many ways, the mixtape is as much a culmination of Teyana’s efforts to help the public “understand” her as an artist, as it is her own exploration of her musical capabilities. But this element of rawness is partly what makes the mixtape so enjoyable.

The other element is Teyana’s versatility. Besides the obvious nod to Lauryn Hill, Teyana makes references that range from Janet Jackson to Tyga’s recent hit “Rack City.” She isn’t afraid to try different things, and such fearlessness is to be commended by a relatively new artist.

Hopefully Misunderstanding renews the music public’s interest in Teyana. While the mixtape is in no way groundbreaking, it accents Teyana’s budding potential as an artist. There’s a freshness to Teyana, and things finally seem to be looking up for the singer. She’s finally turned her attention back to the music, and this is the start of a new journey on which I’m willing to take the ride.

DOWNLOAD: Teyana Taylor – The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor