You may already know Pharrell’s latest protÃ©gÃ© from her extravagant, 80’s-themed coming out party on MTV’s Sweet 16 or as the petite pop locker in Jay Z’s “Blue Magic” video, but her V.I.P. status was established even before the cameos and big name industry endorsements. Teyana Taylor have been catching people’s eye since she was a little girl in Harlem.
With the release of her debut album, From A Planet Called Harlem (Star Trak/Intersope), Teyana finally gets to show off her killer pipes and full-bodied flow to the rest of the universe. The album is a mixture of R&B, pop rock, and rap and deliciously rich with sticky hooks and catchy lyrical play.
Singersroom: We got a little taste of your personality from MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, but who really is Teyana Taylor?
Teyana: I’m just real, like you know, crazy, wild, like to eat a lot of junk food. You know, like to hang out with my friends. Just do the same typical things that any other normal kid would do except I’m a little bit more weird because sometimes I’ll be in my own planet, zoning out, watching cartoons, watching Jimmy Neutron. You know, I like to collect sneakers and hats and watch Superbad.
Singersroom: You are seen as Pharrell William’s protÃ©gÃ©, which is not a bad place to be. Can you explain how you two met and how you got signed?
Teyana: Sure, I was actually set up to sing for Kevin Liles, which is the Vice President of the A&R department at Universal. It was kind of off guard because I found out the same day that I was just riding my skateboard. He was like, “Alright, come here;” he wanted a meeting. So I’m just in my Converse and my skateboard. I walked in and he was just looking and they were like, “This is Teyana” and he was like “Oh really?” I sung and rapped to him and he was like, “Wow. If you had five people to work with who would it be?” And the first three names were Pharrell.
The next day he called me and said that I had a meeting with Pharell that Thursday, the same day Pharrell was up here [New York] for the Good Morning [America] show. So that’s when they set me up with Pharrell and I had went down to the hotel and I sung and rapped to him and we just took it from there.
It was crazy because we actually had on the same exact sneakers in the same exact color. He was like, “Hey, I like your sneakers.” I was like, “Yeah, I like yours too.”
Singersroom: You probably get this question all the time, but, what’s it like working with Pharrell?
Teyana: It’s amazing. It’s fun; we play fight, we wrestle. It’s just like the normal stuff a brother and sister would do. We have our ups and downs, but we always come together. That’s just stuff that family [does]. He’s like my big brother.
Singersroom: It’s becoming increasingly obvious that you are completely different than any other artist out right now. Can you explain the direction and sound of your debut album?
Teyana: Well for my album, it’s called From a Planet Called Harlem, it’s kind of like my own world of Harlem world. It’s like us coming together and collaborating. Everyone who wants to visit says, “Yeah, I want to go to New York!” We got that swag. From the walk to the talk to the way we dress. It’s kind of like our own little planet. So, I named the album From a Planet Called Harlem and it’s so dope because I worked with so many different producers with so many different styles. So, my music is coming from so many different directions as far as rapping, urban, rock, a little bit of jazz. It’s really, really a great little look and there a lot of different great songs.
Singersroom: Can you name some of the producers you actually worked with?
Teyana: I worked with the Neptunes on one of my songs. I worked with Hit Boy, he’s young, he’s nineteen. He did five of the songs on my album. I worked with Mad Scientist, Jazze Pha; I worked with Kelis. Now you get a little vibe of all the different sounds.
Singersroom: Do you know when your album is going to drop?
Teyana: My album drops May 20th.
Singersroom: Where do you see yourself fitting in today’s music industry? Or is it not even about fitting in but more about you just doing you?
Teyana: I just see myself making a change; just really trying to bring the new generation. Just, represent for all the young people, you know, for anybody. Things that everybody experiences and that everybody goes through.
Singersroom: You rap, sing, and dance. With that much talent do you feel like you have any competition?
Teyana: (Laughs) With that, everybody is dope and I guess it is what it is. I can’t really say I’m better than anybody or I can’t say I’m worse. It’s something that the people got to choose. It’s not really my place to say, “I think, I think, I think.” I kind of leave it to the crowd and give it to the young people and leave it for everybody to see what they feel like.
Singersroom: What and who inspires you?
Teyana: Superbad and KRS-One. KRS-One inspires me. I saw him for the first time when I performed at the Apollo and it brought me to tears. He’s amazing.
Singersroom: You’re nicknamed the “Teen President.” What makes you the “Teen President?”
Teyana: When I’m working, I’m working for the young kids. I’m working for the kids my age. I’m trying to make a change, basically. I’m trying to make a change; I’m trying to bring something new to the game. Something new, fresh, young. There are a lot of different ways: when you actually do things for the young teens and actually make things happen and voice your opinion, and interact with people. That’s what makes you the President.
Like, when you interact with your friends on MySpace, when you make videos, and post blogs of what you do in your regular day, let them get to know you.
Singersroom: Who would be your ideal presidential candidate and what characteristics would they possess?
Teyana: You mean between Hillary and Obama?
Singersroom: Well, we can take it there. Between Hillary and Obama who would you pick? I know you’re not old enough to vote, are you?
Teyana: No, I’m actually four weeks short so I’m kind of angry about that. I think both of them are pretty great and I think both of them have certain standards and I think they both want to make a change; they both want to make our world a better place. I would definitely go with Obama.
I Like him; if he was to win, that would show how you really can follow your dreams; always think positive. And while you’re thinking positive, he’s about to be President. I think that would be great. If you really think about and learn his story, it’s amazing. I know he inspires young adults, or anybody going through anything, to always follow your dreams.
Singersroom: You recently appeared on BET’s “Rip the Runway” and took it to the catwalk. You’re a fashion maverick in your own right. Do you have any plans to create your own line in the future?
Teyana: Yeah, definitely, definitely. Maybe down the line I’ll hook up with Heatherette, or something, and design crazy dresses. With crazy sneakers to match. It has to be the dresses with the sneakers.
Singersroom: With you being so young and having accomplished what you have already, where do you see yourself in say, five years?
Teyana: In five years, I definitely see myself making change. Definitely exploring the world, doing a lot of traveling. Investing in different things as far as education and anything for the kids; I would definitely want to be involved.
Singersroom: What’s next for you?
Teyana: Touring and then the album. I’m so excited. I’ll being going on tour on the 18th and I’m pretty excited about that. And then the album comes out, the video is finished, so you should be expecting that really soon.
Singersroom: And is it a national tour you’re going to be doing?
Singersroom: Your fans can get the tour dates from your MySpace, right?
Teyana: Yes, everything’s on the MySpace page. I always keep all my friends posted on MySpace.
Singersroom: Thank you so much for your time.
Teyana: Thank you for having me. —— By: Interview By Bethany N.