What good is a dynasty without a reigning queen or perhaps a princess in the case of Roc-A-Fella Records? Meet Teairra Mari, a 17-year-old Detroit native who is the sole female artist on the label, and is currently the only R&B act. She may not be old enough to vote yet, but don’t get it twisted – Teairra’s been on the grind for a minute now.
At the ripe age of 12, she began recording rough demos in her cousin’s basement. It wasn’t long until her talent was noticed, and Teairra scored a radio hit with one of those earlier demo songs. Four years went by without much progress, until Teairra’s demo landed on the desk of Island Def Jam Group Chairman, Antonio L.A. Reid. After hearing her voice, Reid signed her on the spot, and soon Mr. Shawn Carter himself caught wind of the teen sensation. He immediately recruited her to Roc-A-Fella Records.
While Teairras debut album is being prepared for release and her first single Make Her Feel Good is burning up the charts, this princess wants AllHipHop.com Alternatives to know that fairy tales do indeed come true.
AllHiphop.com Alternatives: Congratulations on your newly appointed position as the “Princess of the Roc”. How did this all come about?
Teairra: I was working a long time recording me demo with this local production company, KISS Productions. That demo landed on the desk of L.A. Reid and I was signed to Def Jam for about a year. Then Jay-Z had just got his position as president of Def Jam and L.A. wanted me to meet him formally as the president. As soon as I met him, he was blown away. He said that he wanted to move me to Roc-A-Fella. So that was really really good! He said your music is really street and edgy, so we got to bring you there.
AHHA: How involved has Jay been as far as your album, your development, and your career as a whole?
Teairra: He’s involved in everything. He’s very hands on. Every song that I do, he listens to it and he “yay” or “nays” it. You know, all my imaging – he let’s me know what he likes and doesn’t like. He even makes sure I’m with the right photographers and video directors and all of that.
AHHA: There’s a prominent Eric B. and Rakim sample on your lead single, “Make Her Feel Good”. I know it was a little before your time, but I’m sure you know how legendary these guys are in the Hip-Hop world. What was going through your mind before you laid your vocals down on the track?
Teairra: I thought that it was huge, but simple. I knew that it was already a hit, so I said let’s redo it!
AHHA: You got a lot of talented women out there in the R&B world. Do you feel pressure to be different or try something new to stand apart from all the other female artists out there?
Teairra: There’s no pressure for me, because I’m just going to be myself.
AHHA: Which artists do you draw influence from?
Teairra: I have to say SWV – they’re my favorite. I just love their music and their vocal abilities.
AHHA: You’re from Detroit – is that something youre going to consciously put out there in your music, or is it something you’re not really going to harp on?
Teairra: Detroit is where I’m from and it’s home. That’s me. It’s a part of me, so I’m going to rep it. I’m going to do music that represents it. For instance, I’m not going to do a “Crunk & B” song because that’s what’s popular. I’m not from the South. I’m from Detroit.
AHHA: What’s the Detroit sound?
Teairra: It’s just edgy – it’s a little more simple and laid back.
AHHA: Any collaborations you’re excited about that’ll be on the album?
Teairra: Right now, we’re still wrapping it up so I’m not going to say that we do or we don’t. But as far as producers that I know are confirmed, Sean Garrett [Usher, Destinys Child] executive produced my album. I have St. Nick on there. I have a lot of up and coming producers. Oh, and Polli Paul who did “Dip It Low” for Christina Milian. I have a lot of nice people on there.
AHHA: Did you write any of the songs on the album and is songwriting something you want to do more of?
Teairra: Right now I’m focusing on everything that I can. I’m learning from these veterans. I don’t want to come in all overbearing, but on my demo I wrote a majority of the stuff that’s on there. Of course I do some co-writing and try to help out, but I’m not trying to take over because I want to learn from these talented people around me and better my craft.
AHHA: You’re only 17 years old. I can only imagine what it’s like for a person so young to be launched into the volatile world of the music industry. Is there anything that surprised you or caught you off guard as far as the industry is concerned?
Teairra: No, not yet. Everything is pretty much what I expected. And plus, I’m kind of protected. Everyone on the label looks out for me. It’s like the little sister relationship with everybody and it feels good because they have my back. They all watch me…Bleek, Young Gunz, and of course, Jay.
AHHA: So what else lies in the future for you? You’ve got an early start, and I’ll bet you have a lot of other aspirations in addition to the music career.
Teairra: Right now I’m solely focusing on [the music]. But I know that I want to do other things. I won’t say what that is right now, because I want to focus on the music first.