Teyana Taylor: Harlem Girl, Taking Over the World

By: Lauren Robinson

The last time we heard music from G.O.O.D Music artist Teyana Taylor was about three years ago. Since then, Taylor has been seen at fashion shows, supporting her fiancé NBA player Iman Shumpert, and enjoying motherhood with her first-born daughter Iman “Junie” Tayla Shumpert. But before taking the world by storm with her amazing “snapback” body in Kanye West’s music video for “Faded”, she was just a young girl with some dreams from Harlem, New York.

In 2007, Taylor signed a record deal with Pharrell Williams’s Star Trak Entertainment and around the same time she made her first national appearance on MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16”. But because she was seen so quickly after her record deal people expected her music to come out instantly, not knowing she would need some PR training and time to record in the studio. In February 2008, she released her commercial debut single “Google Me” which was to be the lead single for her debut full-length project titled “From a Planet Called Harlem”. The single itself reached number 90 on the U.S. Billboard’s Hot R&B/ Hip Hop Songs. The tape was released on August 16th, 2009.

In 2010, she was filling in as a member of a band called U.G.L.Y. in which released the snippet of their single, “Wasted”. But 2010 was the turnaround year for Taylor’s career, because not only did she venture into acting but she was able to put her vocals on Kanye West’s fifth album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. She hummed while hearing the tracks hoping to gain his attention and appear on the album. Eventually West asked her to put her vocals on tracks like “Dark Fantasy” and “Hell of a Life”.

Taylor struck up a friendship with West and the G.O.O.D. Music Family and appeared on “Christmas in Harlem” which was a part of a movement West was doing on Twitter (almost each week he would drop a new song). In 2012, she was released from her contract with Star Trak and received a deal with G.O.O.D. Music label through Def Jam. During that time, she was an aspiring songwriter and worked with Usher, Chris Brown, and Omarion.

But while she was an independent artist before signing to West, she released a mixtape titled The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor. This tape was my first personal exposure to Taylor and I fell in love with her talent immediately and was able to recognize that the time she spent under Williams and West was worth the wait for her to continue sharpening her craft. The mixtape drew influences from 1990s R&B legends like Lauryn Hill, seen in the title and artwork, and Mary J. Blige.

Once under West officially, she appeared on the G.O.O.D. Music compilation album, Cruel Summer. At this time Taylor also readied her debut studio album VII. The album debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200 and sold 16,000 copies in the U.S. for the first week. In the second week, the album dropped to number 78 and sold 5,000 copies. In the third week the album dropped to 160 and sold 3,000 copies bringing the total to 24,000 copies at the time.

In 2016, Taylor released her single “Freak On” which had guest vocals from Chris Brown and was produced by DJ Mustard. The song samples “Freak Like Me” by Adina Howard and is set to be the lead single from her second studio album.

Taylor’s career has been somewhat of an underdog story, but I predict it will be worth the wait once she is able to prove her abilities to the mainstream audience with the right single or sound of a project. I believe she has all the tools at her disposal to becoming a force to be reckoned with as an entity in the music world.


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