Teyana Taylor On Releasing 'The Album' On Juneteenth And Expressing Her Vision NPR's Ailsa Chang speaks with Teyana Taylor about The Album, her anticipated follow-up to the Kanye West-produced K.T.S.E. that features guests like Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott and Erykah Badu.
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Teyana Taylor On 'The Album' And Asserting Her Creative Vision

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Teyana Taylor On 'The Album' And Asserting Her Creative Vision

Teyana Taylor On 'The Album' And Asserting Her Creative Vision

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

For most artists, choreographing a Beyonce music video might be a career peak. But for Teyana Taylor, who did it when she was just 15 years old, it was only the beginning. She was signed to Pharrell's label around that same time. And since then, she has grown up in the entertainment business, acting in movies, modelling, starring in reality TV shows, directing and dancing in music videos. And now she is out with her third record, which is called simply "The Album." She chose today for the album's release, Juneteenth. It's a day that commemorates the end of chattel slavery in the U.S.

I talked to her this week about why she decided on Juneteenth for the release. But, first, we started our conversation where the record starts, with her family.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEYANA TAYLOR SONG, "INTRO")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Inaudible) ...Fire. What's your emergency?

IMAN SHUMPERT: Oh, she's having a baby.

CHANG: Because the album begins with the birth of her first child. Taylor didn't have time to get to the hospital, so this is the actual recording of the 911 call where her husband, basketball player Iman Shumpert, is learning how to help deliver their baby.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEYANA TAYLOR SONG, "INTRO")

SHUMPERT: I have my daughter in my hands.

TEYANA TAYLOR: Oh, my God. Every time I hear the intro, I feel it every single time, like it happened yesterday. It's crazy because that night was, like - it was such - it was scary and, like, a blessing at the same time. Everything happened so fast. I pushed one time; she came out.

CHANG: Amazing.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEYANA TAYLOR SONG, "INTRO")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Is the baby breathing?

SHUMPERT: Yes.

TAYLOR: It felt like a movie. Like, as soon - she wasn't crying. She was just staring at me, looking around the room.

CHANG: Wow.

TAYLOR: That's how crazy it was.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEYANA TAYLOR SONG, "INTRO")

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Is it a boy or a girl, sir?

SHUMPERT: It's a little girl.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: It's a girl? Congratulations.

CHANG: Taylor says she originally wanted to have that 911 call on her last album - "K.T.S.E." - which was produced by Kanye West. And she's been public about being really unhappy with her lack of creative control on that project. She says this new album is quite different.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MADE IT")

TAYLOR: (Singing) Girl, you're working with some class, yeah. You're bad, yeah. Make a fella spend his...

This is really the one, you know? Like, I feel like my fans and followers have been on a long journey with me. And I feel like when people hear "The Album," they will understand what my frustration was with "K.T.S.E." Trying to put a lot of emotions within seven songs is tough. So now to have a full album, 23 songs, you get to literally express yourself and every single part of you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MADE IT")

TAYLOR: (Singing) Girl, you made it. You made it. Oh, yeah. You made it. You made it. Baby girl, you made it. You made it. Oh, yeah. You made it.

CHANG: You've been in the music industry for a long time. I mean, you were choreographing a music video for Beyonce when you were, like, 15 years old, which is so incredible to me. I mean, you claimed a place in this industry very early. So why do you think it took you almost a decade and a half to be like, OK, I am ready to call the shots now?

TAYLOR: I mean, me coming out that young, I felt like all my mistakes was kind of on an open platter, you know, where you have other artists that, you know, it looked like they became successful overnight, but they'd really been grinding it out behind closed doors for nine, 10 years.

CHANG: I mean, do you wish you could have had the chance to make mistakes without people watching?

TAYLOR: You know, I don't regret it, I think, because the people was able to watch me grow.

CHANG: Yeah.

TAYLOR: So now I feel like it will make them appreciate this body of work even more because it's like, we watched his girl come so far. You know, I don't regret anything, and like I say, I don't question God, you know, and I don't question his timing, you know. And like I said, time's definitely get hard, where I get a little frustrated and a little disappointed. But, you know, I eventually pull through.

(SOUNDBITE OF TEYANA TAYLOR SONG, "WE GOT LOVE")

CHANG: You have said that you wanted to release this record at the right moment. So I want to ask, what made you decide that today, Juneteenth, was the right moment?

TAYLOR: I personally felt like it was only right because it's a celebration. You know, it's a celebration for my culture, my people, you know...

CHANG: Yeah.

TAYLOR: ...To show that no matter what we go through, we always pull through.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOT LOVE")

TAYLOR: (Singing) Play catch with the hundreds. Love is the new money. I'm just chilling with the homies. Home is where the heart is. We got love, love, love. You better believe it.

That's what I stand for. I stand for Black power. I stand for Black magic. Like, I stand for that.

CHANG: You have posted pretty openly about how police violence against Black men, how community violence against Black men, those are things you think about every day. I saw that you wrote about your husband on Instagram. Can you read that post for us?

TAYLOR: OK. So it says, (reading) though you are the love of my life, my king, my husband and an amazing father, you are still a Black man first, before anything. And that's the risk that I take as you leave my side and walk out the door every single day. I could have lost you yesterday. I could lose you today. Or I could even lose you tomorrow.

CHANG: Can you talk about that some more? Like, what is it like to raise a family feeling that all the time?

TAYLOR: It's tough. It's tough when you really sit back and realize that it doesn't matter - no amount of wealth, no amount of fame, no amount of anything. When you are asleep and I wake up and I'm just crying, just staring at you, like, I'm looking at a Black man. I'm not looking at an NBA star. I'm not looking at a champion. I'm not looking at anything else but a Black man. You know, I look at my daughter, and I'm not looking at anybody else but a Black young lady.

CHANG: Yeah.

TAYLOR: And I even look at myself in the mirror and I'm a Black woman, which I feel like, you know, sometimes even Black women voices go unheard or go unnoticed.

CHANG: Yeah.

TAYLOR: It's just Black people, and I feel for my people. And it's been the most emotional thing to even - trying to find the balance of staying strong, you know, for my daughter and spreading knowledge to her and then, like, being very enraged, being upset...

CHANG: Yeah.

TAYLOR: ...Because, clearly, they don't hear us.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAKE UP LOVE")

TAYLOR: (Vocalizing).

CHANG: Even though, yes, you have been experiencing a lot of anger and pain during this time that we're all in, when I listen to your album, there's a lot of joy that I'm hearing.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WAKE UP LOVE")

TAYLOR: (Singing) Wake up, love - wake. These sheets won't comfort me. Please wake up, love.

CHANG: In a lot of the songs here, you sound like you're in this really good place now with your marriage, your family. Does it feel like you are still able to be in touch with a lot of that joy right now?

TAYLOR: Of course, you know, because...

CHANG: Yeah.

TAYLOR: ...Even with all the painful things going on in the world, we just got to make sure we're all doing our part to help but all still making sure that Black people are celebrated 'cause I feel like we're not celebrated enough, and it's always some type of negativity that somebody brings. And then it's like, they make us stereotypes, as if we're always upset and we're always angry, and that's not that. We're just tired. So in the midst of when everybody's kind of tired, I just want to show them that, like, you are loved; you are appreciated even through the toughest times.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOT LOVE")

TAYLOR: (Singing) We got love, love, love. You better believe it - love, love.

CHANG: Teyana Taylor's new album is called "The Album." It's out today. Thank you, Teyana, so much for sharing this time with us.

TAYLOR: No problem. Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WE GOT LOVE")

TAYLOR: (Singing) Play catch with the hundreds. Love is the new money. I'm just chilling with the homies. Home is where the heart is. Play catch with the hundreds. Love is...

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