Teyana Taylor: Our New VBF
The singer has upped her game with her new Kanye West-produced album K.T.S.E.
Teyana Taylor performs at 2018 BET Experience Staples Center Concert. Photograph: Ser Baffo/Getty Images
Teyana Taylor’s solo singing career has been a long time in the making. While some people may know her as the physically perfect and threateningly ripped dancer from Kanye West’s video for Fade or from her reality show Teyana and Iman, others might remember her as the girl who made her entrance on My Super Sweet 16 in a Barbie box in 2007. Either way, with the release of her second album K.T.S.E (Keep That Same Energy), the limelight is finally adjusting and is now on Teyana Taylor.
Produced by Kanye West as part of his five-part Wyoming Sessions, which also saw him produce albums for Pusha T and Nas (all released through his G.O.O.D Music label), K.T.S.E is the perfect reintroduction to a star that’s been on the periphery of pop culture for so long. As this week’s candidate for our new VBF, we’ll get you up to speed with the R&B singer and dancer.
Initially signed to Pharrell Williams’s Star Trak Entertainment music label, the Harlem gal had already cut her teeth as a choreographer when she was just 16 years old, helping Beyoncé perfect the moves as a bunny-boiling character in her 2006 video for Ring the Alarm.
Kanye West - Fade
Teyana Taylor - Rose in Harlem
While her own solo career was slowly beginning, releasing radio-friendly songs like Google Me in 2008, she began orbiting into West’s world. He added her vocals to Dark Fantasy and Hell of a Life as a last-minute addition on his 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Moving in the right circles, and continuing to contribute to G.O.O.D Music releases, her 2012 mixtape The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor drew comparisons to Janet Jackson.
Her debut album VII was finally released in 2014, and though it didn’t completely set the world alight, her career continued to grow when she landed a role as a judge on America’s Best Dance Crew, putting her urban dance skills back to the forefront. But the moment that made everyone take a second look was her appearance in West’s video for Fade, taken from 2016’s Life of Pablo. With an anatomy carved by the gods, her oiled-up body slinks around a gym, with muscles bulging in ways you never thought possible. Bad-ass, sexy and incredibly strong, the new attitude pushed Taylor to a higher level.
Her rich voice glides over soul samples; she subtly slips into laid-back raps on tracks like No Manners; painfully pours her heart onto Rose in Harlem; and then flips that energy for the Mykki Blanco-produced track WTP, which stands for Work this P*ssy. Designed for ballroom voguing, it’s not just a cheap gimmick to attach to the mainstream perception and consumption of drag. It’s sharp, vicious and camp at its most serious.
While West is a problematic character of late, he put his own ego trip aside and returned to his old style of work on K.T.S.E., carefully picking 1970s soul samples like Can’t Strain My Brain by Sly & the Family Stone and I Gave to You by the Delfonics. Working behind the scenes as a choreographer and even owning a 90s-themed nail salon called Junie Bee Nails in Harlem, which cites Missy Elliott and Lil’ Kim as clients, Taylor is something of a tastemaker so it’s hard to imagine her taking a wrong move with her career.