Teedra Moses is quite possibly the most underrated singer-songwriter to integrate R&B and rap in the new millennium. According to Teedra, she weathered one hell of a storm through the abrupt death of TVT Records and managed to stay highly appreciated within the foreign tour circuit. When most would have given up, she decided to stick it out, which undoubtedly strengthened her artistic thirst.
No stranger to the pen, Teedra has written for some of the best in the game, including legends Mary J. Blige, and Raphael Saadiq. While producing her own sound, her dedication landed her with a new, unique opportunity to become the first lady of Maybach Music Group’s (MMG) label, under the expertise of Rick Ross. Now, it seems that Teedra’s moment is finally near, as she works on her debut release under MMG, and fans wait with great anticipation. Teedra never bites her tongue in expressing her music or her interviews. Take a moment to reflect on her wisdom as she talks to AllHipHop.com:
AllHipHop.com: Teedra, I know your mother was a singer in gospel. How much of her work influenced the powerful voice that you have today?
Teedra Moses: Initially, I didn’t think that I was influenced by it much because I didn’t hear gospel in my voice very much. The more that I’ve developed my instrument, my mother comes out a lot, and I think that her influence starts to come out more so during my stage performance. Before my album, I didn’t do many stage performances, but since my album, that’s pretty much all I’ve been doing. The gospel side of me, the powerfulness of my voice, definitely comes on stage.
AllHipHop.com: I read that after you broke your leg you had the “light bulb moment” where you decided to pursue your music. What’s the story with that?
Teedra Moses: Yes, because I was a wardrobe stylist. As much as I enjoyed hanging with my friends and traveling around the world and working around music, it wasn’t my passion. It was something I was doing because it was there at the time. You get to an age where you’re trying to figure out what it is you want to do. You’re trying to figure out what your purpose is. I think when I broke my leg on the video shoot, I was sitting there on workman’s comp and just couldn’t move, I started thinking about what it is that I really wanted to do.
I love music. My children’s father was a rapper, and he would bring beats home, and I would freestyle songs over them all the time. So, I just decided to pursue something that was a little more passionate to me, and really more so because I needed to figure out a way to make money for me and my kids. My children’s father and I weren’t together anymore, and that was my way to make money. And it became something that I fell in love with, and it became less and less about the money. It was more about me finding something that was my purpose.
AllHipHop.com: Your last album, Complex Simplicity, was amazing, but it may not have achieved the same amount of commercial success as some of the other R&B starlets’ albums. Looking back on that situation, what would you say that you’ve learned from that musically?
Teedra Moses: Keep doing what you want to do. It doesn’t matter if they like it or not, as long as you love it. I think what I learned from not selling records is that you can have a really great product and it still not mean anything. I really feel like it was a wonderful album. I didn’t know then how to hustle my music; now I’ve learned more about that. I didn’t know then how much you can’t rely on a label; now I’ve learned more about that.
It’s less of what I should change about how I make music, but more of what I should incorporate or how I hustle my music. I really don’t feel like we made a bad product. I feel it was a really good product; a little bit before it’s time, and it was also on a label that didn’t understand it. I learned that I have to be more than an artist that writes, sings, and chooses my tracks. I have to really see a vision for the entire process of my career and kind of tell people what I’m looking to do so we can work from that – to not have someone dictate to me what’s going to happen.
AllHipHop.com: I know that you’re not just an artist. You’ve had a lot of success as a songwriter. I’m sure you love them both, but do you fancy one over the other?
Teedra Moses: I definitely like writing for myself more. I definitely like being an artist. I like writing period, before singing or performing or anything. I like writing for myself more, because you have to strip yourself down a lot when you write for other people. At this point, I just write songs. If someone happens to like a song that I write, then that’s great. Or, if they see a resemblance of themselves or can relate to it, that’s great. I stopped writing for other people two to three years ago, because I saw that it was taking away from my chops. As the individual that I am as an artist, it was taking away from that. So, I really would have to lean towards being an artist, because initially that’s what I wanted to be. I started writing for other people because they liked the songs; not really because that’s what I wanted to be – a writer for other people.
AllHipHop.com: Your writing style and lyricism is like the perfect cross of beauty and gangsta. How is it that you can go back and forth between two opposing styles with such ease?
Teedra Moses: That’s just my life. I have friends in every tax bracket. I come from a place called New Orleans. If you’ve ever seen pictures or been there, you know it’s a very colorful place. It can be quite ghetto at points. I grew up in an area that you can consider ghetto, but my household was not that at all. Then I went to private school and after that I moved to L.A. where my friends were a little more polished. Then I became a stylist, and I was around all of these so -called elite people. And my life travels is how my music comes out. It comes out in the life I’ve lived, and I haven’t lived just one way.
I’m a very real person, but I’m a chameleon as well. You can put me in any place or with any people, and I wanted to portray that in my writing. Even though it’s very real and I may say something that, you know, “Okay, she may be from the hood.” You can also tell that I’m classy as well. People are no one-way. We are very dimensional people. I wanted to write my songs to where a guy could listen as well as a girl. A guy may not purchase it, but he could hear a girl play and like it, and want to listen to it. Because it’s just coming from the perspective of a human being, a different dimension, not just one place. That’s been my objective from the rip; just to be myself, and that’s who I am – the person that you hear in the music.
AllHipHop.com: You’ve been pretty consistent in the mixtape circuit as an R&B artist for some years. I know you mentioned hustling earlier. When it comes to putting out mixtapes, why did you choose to go that route? And, how has that helped build your brand through the years?
Teedra Moses: My first mixtape came about before any female R&B singers were doing mixtapes. It came about because I was very frustrated with TVT. I was like, we put out “You’ll Never Find” a year ago. The record got bind, we got Jadakiss on the record, and you don’t shoot a video; you’re not doing anything. So, I took it upon myself to put my voice over different Hip-Hop beats I like or whatever. I might put a hook on certain rappers’ records. I took it upon myself to express myself and get it to the people. When I listen back to my first mixtape, it was really raw. It was a lot more hard a total different contrast from Complex Simplicity. Complex Simplicity was really sweet and soft, even though you heard different ways I would speak, and you’d be like, “damn, that’s kind of gangsta.” But you really didn’t hear how hard I came off on the first mixtape and most of that frustration.
I just wanted to express myself. The second one came about because I had been touring and doing shows around the world and people still didn’t really know who I was. So I wanted to show people that, not only can I write records and sing songs, but I can perform live. That’s when I put together a live mixtape. Then the third mixtape came about with frustration as well, with being held on TVT, wanting to put out another record, and them not doing it. I felt like a woman in a bad marriage. I don’t know how not to express myself. If I don’t express myself, I get depressed. So it was really just a need to put out music.
Lionhearted was really a time when I felt like I had to be courageous because TVT was crumbling right before my eyes. I’m not the kind of person that’s going to run and jump on the next thing. Just because TVT was crumbling, I’m not going to go out and try to jump with the next label. I just had to be courageous and not make quick and drastic decisions. Royal Patience was just that, me trying to be patient in the fact that the label had totally crumbled. And I have to give these people music. It was also me getting back to writing for myself, and not writing as much for other people, because when you write for other people, you have to strip yourself. I was getting back to myself.
And then Luxurious Undergrind, which is really the epitome of where the f*ck I’m at in my career. I’m at the bottom but I’m shinning like I belong at the top. I’m getting frustrated with being at the bottom. I want to be at the top now. Not in a sense of I want to be famous, but I want my music heard. I want to be on a shelf so someone can say if they like it or they don’t. That’s where my mixtapes come from, my anxiousness, and my frustrations. I have to give music because I feel like I’m good. If the music is good and the people connect to it, you can’t deny the sh*t is good. You know?
AllHipHop.com: You’ve talked about the frustration with TVT being with a label that didn’t know how to market and promote you. When TVT was at the peak of failure, crumbling, and heading towards bankruptcy, were you happy because you would gain label freedom, or were you more worried to be out there starting over?
Teedra Moses: I mean f*ck, it couldn’t be any worse! [laughter] I haven’t had a boyfriend for nine years. I’m a person that doesn’t get into things easily. I didn’t feel like I could just go out and just get with any label. I didn’t shop for any deals or anything because I was leery. I felt like when I was at TVT, I got to see how it goes. It’s like you’re not a person to them; you’re a product.
That whole thing f*cked my head up a little bit. I didn’t like how that whole thing goes. So, I just stayed to myself and fell back. It built my confidence as an artist. I felt bad Steve, I felt bad for the people that worked there, because they lost their jobs. But for me, I was happy. I learned what I needed to learn while on TVT. A college for an artist should be to go be on the label that’s independent and really doesn’t know what to do with the kind of music you make. I’ve learned a lot. So after everything went debunk, it wasn’t hard for me to continue, because cause the relationship with them was pretty much over anyway, so I was happy.
AllHipHop.com: Obviously, being a little leery of labels, tell me how you came to the attention of Rick Ross, and how that kind of spun off into the deal.
Teedra Moses: Rick Ross hit me on Twitter in a DM. And I’m not one of those people that have Twitter and everything coming to my phone, so it was a while before I saw it. I don’t even check DMs all the time. I pretty much do it for the people that are fans of the music. I just appreciate the people that rock with me, so I try to communicate with them, give them information, make it real personal. So I checked the DM, and he was saying that he’s a fan of the music and that I have a deal. Off rip, I was like damn, that’s crazy, because I like his music and he liked my music, so it was a compliment. I hang out with him and meet him at his house. Meek Millz was there, Wale; he had already gotten them on board. He was just like I’m trying to build this team or whatever. So I just hung out and watched.
They were shooting videos at different times. I’m just that kind of person where I don’t just jump into things. I just hung out and watched, and what I saw was people hustling; listening to him speak about how he felt about his situation with labels and things like that was very familiar to the things I felt. They hustle and get straight to the people just like I do. They believe music is what matters, and I was like I can rock with them. It was simple; it looked like a situation I could see myself fit into. I didn’t feel any pressure of anybody not wanting me to be who I was. So it seemed perfect to me.
AllHipHop.com: So you feel zero pressure being the first lady on a male-dominated rap label? Or, it’s all good?
Teedra Moses: No, ain’t no pressure or nothing. People always ask me that, and I don’t really understand it, because I’m grown as sh*t. I don’t know if people know this or not, but I’m grown as sh*t, though. [laughter] So, I don’t really feel the pressure from them. I feel more pressure pleasing myself. I feel more pressure about smashing out a great product that I can say, ‘I did that and I’m happy about it.’ I just think they want to win; I want to win. That’s where we relate, and it goes from there.
AllHipHop.com: I know you’re currently working on your new album, The Lioness. Tell me about the concept of that and where you want to go with it.
Teedra Moses: Over the years, I’ve always worked on The Lioness. With a label or without a label, I didn’t care. I was going to put out this album. If you look at my thank yous from Complex Simplicity, I say 'Sincerely yours, The Young Lioness,' because this was my vision from then. What I would’ve made The Lioness to be then is not what The Lioness is going to be now. I held on to four to five records that I didn’t put on mixtapes; that is the beginning of what’s to come. I want The Lioness to sound big. I want it to be a press play album. Not an album that’s based on just singles, but an album that you can let play from start to end.
You know, clearly, I’ll still have singles for the radio and everything, but also have the songs that grow on you. I don’t want a bunch of kick you in your face *ss records. I want music that will grow on you to the point that they become lifetime records. So anytime that you hear them, you love them. That’s my goal – classic, timeless music. I’m influenced by so many things. I listen to so many old records. This album has to show all of my influences, but cohesively, though – with a lot of live instrumentation, but not jazzy though. I want hard drums, sweet melodic melodies, to the point words, and relatable topics.
AllHipHop.com: You released “Another Luvr” with Wale. Can the people expect more collaborations in the future from other members of MMG on your album?
Teedra Moses: I definitely want to do another record with Wale, because I was a fan of his music before MMG. And as well Rick Ross, I was a before. I became aware of Stylie Yuri when he signed to MMG. Those are three artists that I’m really drawn to. I also like Magazine, the reggae artist on MMG, as well. I’m about organic connections in music, not forcing it. And those are the people that I feel that I can make an organic connection with for The Lioness. I definitely want to do something with those three artists.
AllHipHop.com: Do you have a tentative date for the album, or is it still to come?
Teedra Moses: I have been working on scratch material for The Young Lioness. Scratch material to me is the skeleton of an idea. I’ve been working on a lot of skeleton work to bring you specific producers and musicians. I haven’t started the recording any of the scratch material yet. I’m hoping I can start that in the next couple of months. I would love to put out the album in February. But I don’t know what date I’m actually putting the album out. All I can tell you is that I’m going to start completing it and making this it. I can’t give you any more music for free. I’ve done that for like seven years now. I mean, I will give up a song here and there, but 12 tracks for free? I want to just hold it this time and really give you The Lioness.
AllHipHop.com: You stay on the road doing shows. Tell me the best part of a live Teedra Moses performance.
Teedra Moses: I don’t know what I’m going to give you, so I know you don’t know what you’re going to get, and that’s the truth. If you like very contrived shows, then you might not like my show. My show is very in the moment. I might call somebody on stage with me. I might give someone else the mic. Or I may even forget the words and start a freestyle on some whole other sh*t. I just like being myself. I want people to feel like they know me because I want people to know me.
At my show it’s very personal. As I grow and I’m performing in stadiums, I still want it to feel like you’re in a club and remain intimate and personal. I want people to feel like I’m touchable. I don’t want to be on a pedestal because b*tches on pedestals gets knocked the f*ck down. I want to walk on the same ground that everybody else is on, so when you look over it’s like yeah, ‘That’s my girl; I can call on a Teedra record or a Teedra performance when I need someone who understands me.’ That’s what I think you get when you come to my show; a real relateable chick.
AllHipHop.com: For people that may not be familiar or be a fan yet, can you direct them to a song that you would say best defines you as an artist? What song would you refer them to?
Teedra Moses: That’s a little tough. I don’t know if I could pick one that defines me as an artist because I’m a songwriter, and I have so many different emotions. But I know the song that gets everybody is “Backstroke.” It’s from my first album, Complex Simplicity. That song…anybody that hears it – no matter what gender, ethnicity, or otherwise – likes it. Everybody can relate to sex being something that drives your decisions. I think “Backstroke” is the most relateable song I’ve ever made.