Teyana Taylor finally claims her space on "VII".
We first heard from the young Harlemite in 2008 when she released her first single, “Google Me,” from her debut project, a mixtape titled From a Planet Called Harlem. The Jazze Pha-produced single sank low on the Billboard charts and left Teyana Taylor with something to prove. Before her musical debut, Taylor was featured on MTV’s “My Super Sweet 16,” showcasing her over-the-top birthday bash, which was the start of people pegging the teenager as just another socialite without any real talent.
Back then, the singer, rapper and dancer was signed to Pharrell’s imprint, Star Trak Entertainment, through Interscope Records but seemed to be frustrated and confined, leading her to eventually be released from her contract in 2012. Before that Taylor dabbled in acting and modeling for a while, putting her music career on the back burner besides a handful of guest appearances (Kanye West, Trey Songz, Missy Elliott, Fabolous).
Early 2012, Taylor released her independent offering, The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor, an ode to Lauryn Hill. The release was a substantial effort highlighting Taylor’s growth as a rapper and singer, but not enough to anchor her as a heavyweight contender. With VII, Taylor can finally hush up naysayers because her vocals are more mature than ever before. On this record, she exudes the type of confidence that isn't taking no for an answer and proves that she has finally carved out her space in the music industry.
VII, opens up with the one minute and eleven-second interlude, “Outta My League,” where Taylor sings about being invisible to a dude that’s unobtainable. It’s clear that Taylor has studied those that came before her, specifically Brandy. On “Just Different,” she channels the “I Wanna Be Down” singer with her airy vocals over the soulful track that has a melancholy feel. Taylor then switches gears and taps into her sultry side on the steamy “Request” and seductive “Do Not Disturb,” which features her longtime friend Chris Brown. Fabolous makes an appearance on “Broken Hearted Girl,” but don’t let the title fool you. The song is far more than just about a love lost. At the end, the 23-year-old interpolates the late Teena Marie’s famous run from “Porteguese Love.” Although it’s not executed exquisitely (it would be much better sans echo) a true R&B fan would appreciate the reference.
“Put Your Love On” and the Pusha T and Yo Gotti assisted “Maybe” are about the only tracks that are dance worthy, which is interesting being that Taylor came out the gate showcasing her moves. But it’s understandable why Taylor decided to focus on her vocals vs. offering a bunch of attempted club bangers. The new hair line owner sings her heart out on the bittersweet ballad “Sorry.” “You had your cake and a gift that day/ Something that our love didn’t create/ Now as you watch from far away. All I can say is I’m sorry,” she sings. Taylor reminds listeners of Ginuwine’s heyday on the sassy song “Business,” which is also the only place she can be found rapping. She finishes up the 14-track album with songs that highlight her vocal capabilities such as on “In the Air” and “It Could Just Be Love.”
Overall, the Harlem songstress has proved that she’s not the same teenager that we were introduced to seven years ago on MTV. She’s a grown woman who has had her share of heart break and is now assertive. Taylor has no qualms about asking for what she wants and letting who she wants know exactly who she is and what she’s about. VII is a clear example of that.