When Teyana Taylor threw an ’80s Skateboard-themed bash for MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 in 2007, she was introduced to the world as Pharrell’s teen protege, signed to his Star Trak label, already home to The Clipse. The big-haired beauty (abs still in tact) would soon release her first mixtape, A Planet Called Harlem, which orbited under the radar. Even her single “Google Me” didn’t go as viral as expected, leaving the teenage songstress open for opportunity. //www.youtube.com/embed/B_BIKQfAgh4 Fast forward five years later and Kanye West has named her the First Lady of his G.O.O.D Music roster. After releasing her 2012 sophomore project, The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor and making cameos on the label’s compilation album Cruel Summer that year, the 23-year-old has officially arrived with her debut album, VII. At her first headlining—and sold out—show at New York City’s S.O.B.’s (Dec. 4), Taylor showed and proved. The Harlemite entered, wrapped in a red trench coat and skirt, tie and button-up, and rocked harder than her six pack. With sharp choreography to match, she kicked off the show with the soulfully groovy “Just Different” and flaunted her rich and sultry vocals as if they were ripped straight from the LP. The audience, filled with hipsters and hood-chic 20-somethings, screamed lines like “Yo she’s lit!” and “Yaaass bish work!” The crowd came alive when she performed the wine-worthy reggae tune “Put Your Love On” and popped her backside vigorously. Bossman ‘Ye even crept into the venue and personally called for an encore of the aforementioned track. No, Yeezy didn’t perform but Fabolous made the bill, spitting his guest bars for “Broken Hearted Girl.” //www.youtube.com/embed/pg2quvWZ3OY The sensual vibes of VII also set off nostalgic memories of her predecessors, whom Tey saluted during her set. “Just Different” transformed into Anita Baker’s “Rapture” while the acoustic rendition of “Outta My League” shifted into an ode to Sade with a cover of “Sweetest Taboo.” She also remembered Aaliyah with a performance of “One In A Million.” No Teyana Experience would be complete without bringing out her Harlem side. Before rolling into “Business,” she gave a monologue dedicated to the single ladies. “Ain’t it the single bitches always giving you advice?!” she asked, looking perplexed but finding the crowd’s laughter. “Bitch why you got so much advice? ‘Cause you always thinking! That’s why you ain’t got no man!” When she performed the second to last track, “Sorry,” an ode to her ex (Brandon Jennings perhaps?), she showed her softer side. As she gave her bae, NY Knicks player Iman Shumpert, a shoutout, tears began to flow. Though he was playing an away game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he left her with a special message before her performance. “He said ‘I’m so mad I couldn’t be there to see you headline your first show but when I do the stage will be much bigger’,” she recalled. “He wakes me up every morning, morning breath and all, and he just tells me how lucky he is and he doesn’t know how lucky I am.” Cue the chorus of AWWWWS.
Watching Teyana perform confirms she is no longer the Harlem girl riding bikes and buying $700 sneakers. Teyana has traded in her Air Jordans for Louboutins and oozes with more sexiness of a seasoned vet instead of a singer who just dropped her major solo debut. Her lush music has found its comfy niche in hip-hop soul. It may have taken her seven years to rise to the occasion but she’s here.