One of the first artists I had the pleasure of meeting early in my writing career was Teedra Moses. Back in 2008, she was struggling to get out of a dead-end label deal with TVT Records in order to release her sophmore album The Young Lioness. Here, we dicussed her past relationship with rapper Ras Kass, whether she’s ready to love again, and where she sees her career going. Today, the Young Lioness album still does not have a set drop date, but is slated to be released this year. Below is the orginal interview in its entirety.
Sometimes, it pays to be selfish. Just ask Teedra Moses, who for years has penned hits for Christina Milian (“Dip It Low”), Trina (“Here We Go”), and Macy Gray (“Finally Made Me Happy”). With a new mixtape (Royal Patience: The Young Hustla Volume 3) dropping this month, and her sophomore studio album (The Young Lioness) completed, R&B’s best kept secret is now putting her career first. And due to her label (TVT Records) filing bankruptcy this past February, Teedra Moses’ initiative could not have come at a more crucial time.
Ismael AbduSalaam: I’m here with the lovely Ms. Teedra Moses, how are you doing today?
Teedra Moses: I’m very blessed and I like what you said…”lovely Ms. Teedra Moses.” That sounds so nice (laughs).
Ismael: No problem (laughs). I was able to attend your recent Atlanta concert, which was a really great show. The main thing I noticed was how diverse the crowd was. There were also many celebrities in attendance from Sanaa Lathan to Lil’ Scrappy. What elements in your music allow you to have such a diverse and loyal fanbase?
Teedra: I couldn’t tell you….I don’t really know. I don’t even think about it, (but) I’m very appreciative that I’ve reached different groups of people. If I have to give an answer I’d say just me being honest with myself. People can relate to that.
Ismael: Your new album was supposed to come out last year, and I know you’ve had a lot of pushbacks with TVT. When the news broke about them going into bankruptcy, what were your initial feelings and reactions?
Teedra: To be very candid with you I started feeling like “God is so real,” because I’ve been battling (them) for a long time trying to get the opportunity to go somewhere else. Trying to do that with them not going into bankruptcy would’ve been really hard. Now it’s an easier task with them being in the situation they’re in.
But a little bit of me also felt like “well dang, how did it even get to this point?” Now I’m understand a little bit clearer why things were they way they were with my project (The Young Lioness). Sometimes you just want your music to come out so bad but it’s not (God’s plan) to come out on that label. Then I’d have a situation where I’m not well promoted, and they really couldn’t facilitate that at the time.
So it was a blessing. Part of me was like “yeah!” and the other part was like “dang!” But it is what it is.
Ismael: Before they went into bankruptcy I’m sure you had a lot of meetings with them about the album and the release date. What reasons were they giving you about why the album had to keep getting pushed back?
Teedra: Our communication was just horrible. The person I was dealing with (from TVT) was Brian Leech. He was the A&R that came to the studio and listened to what you were doing. Through him I was able to communicate with the label.
I’m not the type of person that can easily sit in the midst of all the technical stuff. I try to stay away from all that so I can be creative and do what I do without the restraints of thinking about what they (A&Rs) have to do. That’s why I have people around for those jobs.
So once Brian left there was really no way to communicate with them as an artist. There was no music person there. There were a couple other A&Rs but they used to be assistants. There was no music person to really communicate with that could understand the vision I had. You have to have that person to translate the vision to the label. It was a hard situation because everything was in disarray, and after Brian left everything just started to fall apart. (There) were a lot of people underneath Brian that left too, and it kinda fell apart, unfortunately.
Ismael: So are you a complete free agent at this point?
Teedra: Not exactly, I’m not off TVT yet. But it’s something I’m moving towards. It’s very, very near.
Ismael: You’re one the few R&B artists out there that has an ongoing mixtape series (The Young Hustla Volume 1-3). What this originally your idea, and how do you approach the mixtapes as opposed to your albums?
Teedra: Definitely my idea. I just thought it would be really fun. With the first album they (TVT) had it for a long time, too. It was held up for a long time (so) I wasn’t going to the studio working for me, it was working on songs for other people. And that’s cool, but I didn’t get a chance to express myself as myself, and not as a ghostwriter.
So I went in and just started rocking over beats that I liked on the radio and other albums. That’s kinda how it started. And Volume 2 was me picking old stuff that was never released, still rocking over other people’s beats, and incorporating live stuff from Complex Simplicity.
The third one is more just my impatience, my impatience about really wanting to put out music the proper way. But I have to take it back to the hood because they (TVT) are not in that situation right now. So it’s more about what I have to do to be heard.
Ismael: The music industry is known to make artists into stock characters. For example you’ll have your vixen/seductress, then your earthly, spiritual types…
Teedra: (Laughs) You’re so funny…
Ismael: (Laughs) Now you were able to get away from that with your first album. And you really haven’t had that problem of being classified that rigidly. Do you feel that the industry and fans are now more open to three dimensional artists over the caricatures we’ve seen in the past?
Teedra: I hope so! But I don’t know…people are just very comfortable putting labels on things so they can understand it. People have a hard time seeing something as a whole. They rather just see a piece.
I’m hoping that now the world is willing to see things more three dimensional, especially in America. I think a lot of times other countries don’t have this hard of a time accepting things without having to stuff it in some type of box.
It’s about time! Things aren’t just one thing. Green is green, (but) you can sit on a street and look at green, and see 20 different types of the color.
Ismael: On the new album you talk about how your children’s father (rapper Ras Kass) didn’t love you the way you needed to be loved. What is true love to Teedra Moses?
Teedra: (Pauses) That is hard, but thank you for mentioning those words. Love for me is accepting exactly who I am. That should be love for anybody. You love that person not for anything that’s around them but for the core of them. Even though you may see fault in that person you only try to build them up and make them better. You don’t take advantage of someone’s faults.
Ismael: Also on the album you talk about how you’re now ready for true love. What has happened recently to make you feel this way?
Teedra: I am ready for that. When I listen to Andre 3000′s The Love Below I totally get it because you want someone to go through this life with. Me being a woman in a business where you have to be tough, I want someone I can be soft with. The “young lioness” is a part of me but there’s a softer side to me that only a man can bring out. And I’m ready to not have to force myself to do that, but have a…pardon my French, a nigga to bring it completely out of me (laughs). A true man to bring it out of me, that’s what I’m ready for.
Ismael: Now obviously the next thing people will want to know is what does Teedra Moses look for in a mate? What catches your eye and more importantly what keeps you stimulated with a partner?
Teedra: I love intelligence and confidence. When I say intelligence I don’t mean a dude who is just a scholar. (I mean) you have been going through life observing, going through phases, and learning. And can (now) teach me something. That is very attractive.
And I also like confidence. Someone who is secure enough in themselves where they can be comfortable in any situation, like a chameleon. So no matter where you take them that can fit right in and be comfortable. Those are very strong characteristics I like in a man.
And I like a caretaker. (laughs) You know, a man that wants to be a man. I’m not trying to be the breadwinner, go out and do everything, and come home and take care of you. I’m willing to contribute (laughs). I like a caretaker. So those are the main things.
Oh and spiritual…have to mention that as well.
Ismael: Sophmore albums can be just as important as debuts in establishing an artist. Did you feel the pressure in making sure The Young Lioness builds on the success of your debut?
Teedra: For a quick second I did. I can’t even front I was shook for a minute. I got to the point where I was saying “What if they say I’m doing the same stuff I did on the last album?”
But then I said (to myself) “Teedra, this was never about the music industry or fame…it was always about what you felt…what moves you and feels good to you.”
And I know I should have responsibility at this point because people have taken to my music. But I can’t take that on. For me that would take away from me as an artist to think too much about things that I never thought about before. So for a second I did, but I had to let it go.
I read in one of those life books that you can’t hold onto something and worry about what’s going to happen. You have to either create it and let it do what it’s gonna do or don’t even do it. So I had to let that go.
Ismael: It’s been four years since your last album, and that’s a lifetime in the music industry as far as trends coming and going. What has stood out to you in the last couple years?
Teedra: (I like) the trend of more dance music and bigger sounding records. Not really Hip Hop dance music but club dance music. I really like that style. Madonna has always done it. I’ve liked the 2 step sound. It’s more of a consistent bass, kick and snare.
I like the vintage dance sound of Amy Whinehouse too.
Ismael: On the new album you’ve enlisted some new producers like Cool and Dre to compliment your established collaborators like Poli Paul and Raphael Saadiq. Was there a particular sound you are going for on this record?
Teedra: It wasn’t really a sound, more so a feeling. I established a certain sound with my first record. It was very cool with Pol to see what our chemistry brought about, and that helped me to establish my sound as an artist. I took that and tried to mesh it with different feelings. Sometimes it produced the same sound, but sometimes it didn’t. So I really didn’t put much emphasis on the sound as I did the musical journey I want listeners to have.
Ismael: You have a very strong singing voice, but there’s an undercurrent of delicacy and vulnerability to it. With those elements in your voice have you ever considered doing a straight jazz album down the line?
Teedra: Oh lord I was just talking about that with my brother in law. I would really love to just do a whole jazz set, I really would. When I get myself to a point where my level of notoriety as an R&B artist is there, the next thing I would do may even be starting a group.
I’d have a bass player, piano, and do different genres of music, not just jazz. (It) would be some side stuff…it ain’t gotta be about record sales, it would be about just making music.
I would love to sing jazz. I’m from New Orleans so that’s my base.
Ismael: One last question. A lot of people believe that going independent solves all problems. You get $9 a CD, you control your whole project etc. Let everyone know out there that’s it not that simple.
Teedra: (flabbergasted) NO! You’re independent, that means no support (laughs). A lot of things you get on a major label, like the relationships they have with other labels and radio stations aren’t there and makes it less easy. (But) I liked the feel of coming into this thing independent and being able to do what I wanted to do.
But even on an independent label they’ll get involved and start telling you what they want. Because even an indie label the whole time wants to get as big as a major. All they want to do is revel in the fact they’re independent and selling records like a major. It puts pressure on you and they’ll get all up in your shit just as much as a major label. It’s the same game just on a smaller level. And there’s more pressure since your handling everything on your own.
Ismael: Final thoughts?
Teedra: Thanks for coming out to the Atlanta show. The new mixtape Royal Patience: The Young Hustla Volume 3 drops April 23rd.