Teedra Moses: Simply Complex Part One

Teedra Moses is one of R&B's most talented, yet under exposed artists in the industry. Although it didn't make as big of a stir as it could have on the charts, her debut album Complex Simplicity ranks as one of the best of 2004. Those who experienced that work know that they own a diamond amongst the many coals that line the shelves of your local record store.With her smooth, soulful voice and drama-filled lyrics, Teedra Moses unfolds her story of love, life, death and betrayal, baring her soul for all to see. Teedra is now set to release her sophomore album The Young Lioness early next year. While she openly admits that that this album is much “lighter” than her previous work, it isn’t without the heartfelt substance that she feels is lacking from radio-friendly music. Teedra sat down with us to break down her label problems, heartache, and forever being a Queen. Openly honest and not afraid to shine, Teedra Moses is already a star. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: What have you been up to since the last album?Teedra Moses: Well I’ve been very blessed. I’ve had a lot of opportunities to work with other artists behind the scenes; writing for their projects. But for the past year and a half, I’ve been really focusing on my own project.AHHA: Talking about writing for others, when I interviewed Macy Gray last month, she mentioned that you were the only person she trusted to help her with her lyrics for her current album. Teedra Moses: Awww that makes me want to cry! That’s so sweet. Macy Gray is huge, and for her to ask me to help her at all was very cool. It was an honor, because I think she’s such a big talent. She really respected my process. Macy Gray has sold like over fifteen million records, but she would still let me do me. I really like to write for myself, you see, and get into my own zone. So it was a real big compliment to me that someone of her stature would work around me. AHHA: I absolutely loved your last album, and you received rave reviews and a lot of critical acclaim, yet it failed to chart well or break you into the mainstream. How do you feel about that?Teedra Moses: Well at this point, I think it did exactly what it was supposed to do. In this industry today, there’s a lot of pressure for artists to shoot off from the gate and become superstars. I had no intentions of that, and that’s probably why that’s not what happened. I just wanted people to listen to my music and to really listen to my heart. I’m with an independent company TVT Records and their ability is not as strong as say, Sony, Geffen or anything like that, so I didn’t really have high expectations of their promotions and marketing. Not so much the staff, but I just had a feeling it wasn’t going to shoot off the gate like that. The great thing is, people weren’t force-fed my album down their throats. So to me, it became a huge compliment that all of the write-ups I read about my record were really good. I had people walk up to me on the streets and say, “I love your album” and quote all the lyrics back to me; that meant a lot to me. As you didn’t hear my song on the radio twenty million times a day, and you didn’t see my face on covers of magazines – sometimes not even in the magazines – so it gave me a lot of confidence in what I was doing, because it felt like in a way the people choose me.AHHA: So would you like to move to a major record label?Teedra Moses: You know, if you would have asked me that question, say a week ago, I would have gone, “Oh no, definitely not…” But I don’t know, the more I deal with TVT, the more I feel that it might not actually be the place for me. I’m a very spiritual person, you see, and I prayed that God would send me to a place that I could be myself and get my music out there. With the first album, and during the process of making the first album, that was the case. I had a lot of control of what I was doing. With this second album, that’s no longer the case. Most of the key people who worked at TVT with me during my first album are no longer there, the Vice President of A&R who was the guy who actually signed me, he’s gone. There’s just a lot of different things going on and people who I don’t feel are capable of doing the job that I feel needs to be done to make a project successful. So at this point, I would have to say that I would love to go somewhere else. I used to love the fact that I could make the record I wanted to make at TVT, that I could put my vision out there and TVT trusted in it, but I think at this point TVT is just scared altogether, as a lot of the success that they had is starting to crumble. So I think they feel they need to start taking the control back, and they feel by taking all creative control that they are doing that.AHHA: So are they not backing your current project the way you feel they should be?Teedra Moses: I don’t know if I can say they are not backing it, I don’t know if they know how to back my kind of project. I really don’t know, and I’m not bullsh*tting you, because I wouldn’t. But I really am not sure... Fear is one of the worst things any person can have. Fear hinders you a lot, and fear stops you from taking risks, but you have to take risks to get somewhere in life. If you don’t cross the street, how the f*ck do you know what’s on the other side? Do you know what I mean? I feel that TVT is just really afraid right now with everything that they are doing. The company is in shambles in my perspective. It’s not that I don’t like TVT Records – I just don’t feel at times that they trust in my kind of music. I get comments like, “You had no singles on your first album…” Then they give me a hard time with my second album. Me, I’m going to just do what I do, I don’t do music to try and copy what everyone else is doing or jump on somebody’s bandwagon. I do it because I really feel that I’m good at it in spite of the fact that the company that I’m involved with doesn’t seem to believe that my kind of music matters. Maybe they don’t have the faith in themselves to be able to make my music mainstream, but I have faith in the people that I make music for. I hope this doesn’t come across as me bitching on TVT, I’m just being honest. Record companies expect artists to shoot off and become superstars, what happened to building someone’s careers?AHHA: But it’s not just TVT Records; a lot of labels seem to be doing the exact same thing.Teedra Moses: True, very true. You know what I think it is? The executives in this business assume that the consumer is stupid and that they only want to hear nonsense, stupid sh*t, and I’m not an ignorant person. I’m probably lighter hearted on this album because my mom didn’t just die, and I didn’t just catch my baby’s father in bed with another women, so some of the weight has been lifted since Complex Simplicity. Now I’m just talking about my strengths and even my weaknesses, which shows real human everyday emotions. In my opinion, music like this is what people want to hear. I listen to old Outkast records, because I want to hear something that encourages me to keep moving, and I listen to Amy Winehouse because she’s talking about being a real person and having real emotions not just booty shaking music. I’m not saying I don’t like the booty shaking records sometimes, but it’s like the executives don’t believe in variety anymore. I don’t know what’s going on. Especially in Black Music. They call it “Urban Music.” F*ck that, it’s Black Music! It’s like, right now in Black Music, the stupider it is, the better it is. What is that saying? That a whole race of people don’t want to hear intelligent music? Or things that come from the heart? It really bothers me. I don’t want to come off as one of those people, who are always complaining about the state of music, because I believe the state of the music is what you choose it to be. You can always listen to good music, you don’t have to listen to the radio. I listen to great music, and you know what the good thing about this is? At times like these when you have all this bullsh*t going on, with the label saturating the market with what’s already being done, with the same kind of music and they don’t want to try anything new then, I think then there starts to be a demand for people like me. So I really feel like I’m in a great position, because I know people really do want to hear something with a little substance. Whereas maybe when neo-soul was really strong or when there was more variety of music in the charts, then maybe it would have been harder for me to make a mark. That’s the positive twist that I see.AHHA: I like the positive attitude, but you must feel anger or something towards the industry. You have a lot more talent than some of the artists that labels really put money behind and promote.Teedra Moses: I feel annoyed that people who are in a position to make change don’t do it. But I can’t worry with those people - maybe they have children to feed, I don’t know. I probably have learned more about the industry due to the position I’m in, and having a label like TVT who don’t promote my project, and how much harder I’ve had to work to get myself heard, than someone who has a gimmick. You have to go and make your own relationships and make sure you do everything in your own power to make your project a success. I have confidence that I will be in this industry for a long time whether it’s in the mainstream level or the underground level, but I will continue to make music either way as long as I want to, and I will be doing it my way. The music will get to my fans. That’s all I know, especially with the internet - no record executive can shut that down. I really hope I’m not coming off arrogant. I’m just a positive person, and I feel artists that are good artists really have no reason to sit back and complain when everyone can sit up and make it happen. The people are so much more powerful than the record label. We have the power; we’re the consumer. We pay these people’s bills. I’m not angry. I’m not angry with anyone. They can have more talent than me or less talent than me. They can be pop… At the end of the day, no one gets to where they are without working, whether it was working on your knees or your back, working on stage or whatever. I never knock a hustle. I just know that I am never going to conform. Anything you will ever see me do, will be something I wanted to do.Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part Two of the Teedra Moses interview, where she discusses her baby's father, her new album, and a role in the Wendy Williams movie!