Teyana Taylor (born December 10, 1990), is a former American recording artist and actress from Harlem, New York. In 2007, Taylor signed a recording contract with American musician Pharrell Williams' Star Trak Entertainment imprint, before making her first national appearance on MTV's My Super Sweet 16. In 2012, she signed to Kanye West's GOOD Music label and The Island Def Jam Music Group, after asking for her release from Star Trak.
Life and career
1990–2006: Early life
Teyana Taylor was born and raised in Harlem, New York City. She is of African-American and Trinidadian descent. Taylor is an only child on her mother's side. On her father's side she has two brothers and one sister. Her mother raised her with her family and is currently her manager. At age 9, she reportedly picked up a microphone in front of a crowd and began performing. Teyana was enrolled in many different talent competitions, including the Apollo Theater National All-Stars talent search, although she never won. Taylor had strong influences from Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder and Michael Jackson. She first came into the public's awareness via her episode on MTV's My Super Sweet Sixteen, a show depicting over-the-top 16th birthday parties of rich teenagers.
2007–11: Career beginnings with Star Trak
Before Sweet 16 aired, in 2007 Taylor signed to American recording artist and super producer Pharrell Williams' Star Trak Entertainment imprint, through Interscope Records. In late 2007, Taylor appeared in the music video for Jay-Z's single "Blue Magic", where she can be seen dancing and popping.
Taylor released her commercial debut single "Google Me", in February 2008. The song was released as the lead single from her debut full-length project, a mixtape titled From a Planet Called Harlem. The tape features production from Jazze Pha, Pharrell, Mad Scientist, Frost, Shondre and Hit Boy. The tape also features a mix of throwback break beats, futuristic boom bap, and melodic renderings is the perfect backdrop for the starlet's musical mayhem. "Google Me" peaked at number 90 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. From a Planet Called Harlem was ultimately released on August 16, 2009, online for free download and billed as "the mixtape before the album".
She was a member of a band called U.G.L.Y., along with band-mates Mijo, Braxton and Ethan. A snippet of U.G.L.Y.'s single "Wasted" was released early 2010. No further releases from the band have since been mentioned.
In 2010, Taylor ventured into acting, appearing in the sequel of Stomp the Yard, titled Stomp the Yard 2: Homecoming, which was released in August. She also made an appearance on the debut episode of House of Glam on Oxygen, which aired in October 2010.
In late 2010, just hours before Kanye West's fifth studio album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, had to be turned in, West called Taylor to the studio to look at some fashion pieces. Taylor had struck up a friendship with West and the GOOD Music family before, first meeting West on his Glow in the Dark Tour, with Pharrell's band N.E.R.D. and Rihanna.
While in the studio, Taylor was determined to make an appearance on West's album. She purposefully hummed along with the tracks he played for her, to get his attention. He eventually asked her to put vocals on a few tracks, notably "Dark Fantasy" and "Hell of a Life". Upon recalling the experience of recording "Dark Fantasy", Taylor stated that "at the time it was pretty empty, just verses." She remembers that West "put [her] in another room by [herself] and said, 'Go'." Taylor came back with the "intro and chorus," and "did all the scratches and the cuts [herself]." She admitted that she was "nervous" upon letting West hear her contributions to the tracks, trying to cover her nervousness by stating that she "hadn't been in the studio for so long."
Towards the end of 2010, Taylor contributed to one of GOOD Music's GOOD Friday tracks, entitled "Christmas In Harlem". The track was released in a shortened version to the iTunes Store on December 17, 2010, featuring American rappers Cyhi the Prynce and Kanye West.
Teyana has appeared on runways during Fashion Week and also occupies herself using her talents for promotional use, such as her inclusion on the title track on Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. As an aspiring songwriter, Taylor has worked with and written records for major artist such as Usher, Chris Brown, and Omarion. She was expected to work alongside Brandy as well in the future.
In 2010, Taylor, alongside American rapper Bow Wow, were offered roles for Tyler Perry's play-turned-film Madea's Big Happy Family, the latest instalment in Perry's series, which was released on April 22, 2011. Shortly after, Taylor delved back into music and was featured on the hook of the single entitled "Party Tonight" with rappers Randyn Julius, Jim Jones, and Cam'ron. Randyn Julius later enlisted Junior Reid to do the remix which also featured Teyana.
2012–present: GOOD Music era
In January 2012, it was announced Taylor was granted her release from her contract with Interscope and Star Trak. Taylor stated that she and Star Trak founder Pharrell Williams, have remained amiable since the end of their business relationship. She has credited him as a "big brother" and sees her early signing to Star Trak as a "blessing." Taylor has stated on many occasions that her release from the label was necessary because she wanted to have a level of independence in the music industry. In an interview with DJ Skee, Taylor mentioned that "when [she] was signed for six years, [she] felt like she couldn't do [anything]," and that she "couldn't prove to [her] fans that [she] had the talent" and "couldn't sing from [her] heart."
As an independent artist at the time of her release, she had begun preparing her second release, a mixtape titled The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor. The tape drew influences from 1990s R&B legends like Lauryn Hill and Mary J. Blige. The tape was released in the first half of 2012, and was preceded by the release of "Make Your Move (feat. Wale)" and "D.U.I." (feat. Jadakiss & Fabolous), which was released on February 25, 2012. More positive reviews of the latter track note that "The Harlem songstress channels Janet Jackson as she glides over the smooth Hit-Boy-produced beat with her airy vocals, while fellow New Yorkers Fabolous and Jadakiss ride shotgun".
After some time as an independent artist and taking time to find herself as an artist, Taylor signed a joint-venture deal with Kanye West's label GOOD Music and The Island Def Jam Music Group, on June 14, 2012. Taylor had established a relationship with the GOOD family before her signing. As part of GOOD Music, Taylor appears on the GOOD Music compilation album Cruel Summer, released September 18, 2012. She provides vocals for the opening track "To the World," with Kanye West and R. Kelly, provides the hook and chorus for "Sin City," which also features John Legend, Cyhi the Prynce, Malik Yusef and Travis Scott, and also duets with John Legend on a song titled "Bliss." Taylor and Legend's duet on the album was highly praised, Erika Ramirez of Billboard.com notes that "Teyana Taylor's beautifully brash voice ... illuminates in the electric-guitar heavy, Hudson Mohawke-produced 'Bliss'." Trent Fitzgerald of Popcrush.com also complimented the duet, saying that he hoped to "hear more soulful duets from [Taylor and Legend]."
In addition to being featured on the GOOD Music compilation Cruel Summer, Taylor soon began the process of recording her major-label debut album, to be released eventually through GOOD Music and The Island Def Jam Music Group.
On July 27, 2014, via Twitter, Taylor announced the title of her debut studio album to be VII and revealed it would be released on November 4, through Def Jam and GOOD Music. The album debuted at number 10 on the Billboard 200, selling 16,000 copies in the United States in its first week. In its second week, the album dropped to number 78 on the chart, selling 5,000 copies. In its third, the album dropped to number 160 on the chart, selling 3,000 copies, bringing its total album sales to 24,000 copies at that time.
Taylor was set to be a judge the eighth season of the American competitive dance reality television series, America's Best Dance Crew, which will air its first episode on July 29, 2015 on MTV. On August 24, Taylor released a much anticipated EP titled: The Cassette Tape 1994. The tape pays tribute to the iconic 90s sound and includes many samples from 90s hits.
On December 16, 2015, Taylor gave birth to Iman Tayla Shumpert, Jr. After going into early labor, her fiancée Iman Shumpert delivered the baby with his bare hands at the couple's home.
In 2013, Taylor signed a deal to design and release two pairs of sneakers with Adidas. The first pair released were the Harlem GLC's which hit stores February 16 the same year. According to Adidas Global Director of Entertainment and Influence Marketing, Jonathan Wexler, Taylor currently holds the record for fastest selling sneakers in Adidas Originals history. She is currently focused on designing and releasing her second pair of sneakers with the brand.