Failed by Her Label, Teyana Taylor Says Farewell

Teyana Taylor says she's retiring from music.
Teyana Taylor says she's retiring from music. Photo courtesy of Def Jam Recordings
From the moment viewers were first introduced to Teyana Taylor on MTV's My Super Sweet 16, the sassy teenager proved she had star quality. Now at 31, Taylor’s career spans more than 16 years and has delved into modeling, acting, singing, and dancing.

With the “How You Want It” singer coming to the FPL Solar Amphitheater at Bayfront Park on Saturday, August 20, as part of the Last Rose Petal 2… Farewell Tour, one can't help but wonder: Why are we saying goodbye?

Taylor first became known to the industry at just 15 years old. She was credited with helping choreograph Beyonce’s music video for “Ring the Alarm” in 2006. A year later, artist and producer Pharrell Williams scouted Taylor, then signed her to his label, Star Trak Entertainment.

In 2008, she released her debut single, “Google Me,” from her mixtape From a Planet Called Harlem. The song peaked at 90 on Billboard's Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs. The mixtape, featuring collaborations with Pharrell, Jazze Pha, Chris Brown, and Missy Elliot, was released as a free download.

In 2010, a moment happened that would change Taylor’s career. Kanye West invited the “Bare Wit Me” singer to his studio to talk fashion and hear his new record. She was aware that West’s album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, needed to be turned in that night — and she wanted to be on that album. As West played the songs for her, she started to hum along to the lyrics, hoping to get his attention. Impressed by her voice, West used Taylor’s vocals in "Dark Fantasy" and "Hell of a Life.”

“They had to drag me out of that booth, you hear me?” Taylor told Rolling Stone. “When I played that shit, everybody in the studio went fucking crazy. Everybody went bananas.”
Taylor announced her departure from Star Trak and Interscope in 2012. Despite being released from her contract, she insisted Williams was like a “big brother” and that being signed by him was a “blessing.” A few months later, in June of that year, she signed a joint venture deal with Kanye West's label G.O.O.D. Music and Island Def Jam Music Group. Her first project on the label included appearing in the G.O.O.D. compilation, Cruel Summer, released in September 2012.

Two years after the release of the compilation album, Taylor released her debut album, VII, in 2014. The record debuted at number 19 on the Billboard 200 before dropping to number 78 the following week. While critics described the album as authentic, they also pointed out the lack of risk by Taylor and her producers.

Despite lackluster album sales, from the outside, the relationship between Taylor and G.O.O.D. seemed to be harmonious. But with the release of her sophomore effort, K.T.S.E., things seemed to take a turn. According to Taylor, she was not aware of the way West wanted to handle the album's rollout.

“I was kind of just going with the flow. At the same time, I just wanted music out. I did not care how that shit had to happen. Whether it was a separate rollout, whether it was five albums," Taylor confessed during an interview on Hot 97's Ebro in the Morning. "I did not know ahead of time that there would be no singles, no visuals. I did not know none of that. But I knew it was going to be the five-album thing, [Kanye] wanted [my album] to be last, you know, the biggest. That is the way they sauced it up.”

Taylor’s record was supposed to be a part of West’s “West Wyoming Sessions,” which would include album releases from Pusha T, Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Nas, and Taylor. Despite getting positive reviews, Taylor was unhappy with K.T.S.E. She revealed that several tracks were missing due to sample clearing issues and considered the album to be incomplete. While there was an announcement that an updated version would be released, Taylor later recanted the statement, saying it would not be happening.
Two years after K.T.S.E., Taylor released her third full-length, The Album. The record featured contributions from Rick Ross, Future, and Erykah Badu, debuting at number eight on the Billboard 200.

Despite the album's release being her strongest to date, Taylor was frustrated and announced her retirement from music. After fans erupted in a panic, she clarified that the initial statement was simply a “warning” to her label.

“I constantly feel alone,” Taylor revealed during an Instagram Live in December 2020. “I’m constantly feel under-appreciated, I constantly feel failed... there is literally no push.”

However, what originally was a warning has now turned into a promise. Taylor revealed that the treatment from her label was making her feel unappreciated and was affecting her mental wellbeing. In 2021,Taylor confirmed she officially was retiring from music and embarking on a farewell tour.

“How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard,” Taylor wrote last year on Instagram when announcing her farewell tour. “However, for every goodbye God makes the next hello closer. Come out and watch me, leave it all out on the stage… One last time… Just for you & as my last rose petal falls, I say farewell.”

Taylor follows a long string of artists who feel like they've been failed by their record label. Despite oozing talent from a young age, she never really found the support she needed to succeed. Here's hoping Taylor's farewell will see her rebirth.

Teyana Taylor. with Laya. 8 p.m. Saturday, August 20, at FPL Solar Amphitheater, 301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550. Tickets cost $25 to $59.50 via
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