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‘The Conversation That Needs to Be Had’: Teyana Taylor Reflects on Signing with Pharrell Williams at 15, Addresses Plans to Reconcile with Kanye West After Their Fallout Over Her Career

Teyana Taylor has done a lot of growing up in front of the world. Having been signed to her first record deal at the age of 15, she learned early on that the music business is cutthroat behind the glitz and glam of stardom.

The burgeoning dramatic actress recently opened up about having to learn the tough lesson of protecting herself, as an artist, despite being associated with two of the industry’s heavy-hitters, Pharrell Williams and Kanye West.

During a conversation on the “Angie Martinez IRL” podcast, Taylor peeled back her tough-girl exterior to discuss a vulnerable topic: abandonment.

“That’s what hurt with being in the industry and being signed to the people I looked at, looked to for protection, and kind of like allowed whoever else to do whatever with me,” she told host Angie Martinez.

Teyana Taylor
Teyana Taylor (Photo: @teyanataylor/Instagram)

The talented artist grew up in Harlem, NY as the only child of Nikki Taylor and Tito Smith. Her father, however, was incarcerated for the first 13 years of her life, leaving Nikki to be a single mother.

Teyana, 32, said prior to her mother marrying her stepfather, she had one other father figure who was tragically killed when she was around the age of 11. 

Four years later, she was a signed act, and when she turned 16, nearly everyone knew who she was, thanks to her appearance on MTV’s “My Sweet 16.” Back then, she was known as Skateboard T, Williams’ protege who came out of the blocks with a hit record, “Google Me.”

But musically, that was her biggest moment while signed to the super producer’s Star Trak label under Universal Music Group. In hindsight, she said her work ethic was not the issue, but a lack of oversight from her mentor led to other industry figures mishandling her career.

Related: Kanye West Vows to Give Artists on His GOOD Music Record Label Their Masters Back

Admittedly, she acknowledged that part of the disappointment was due to her placing the “Happy” artist on a pedestal and likening him to a father figure, as she “didn’t have a dad,” she said.

It was a title that Williams not only approved of but embraced. “He enjoyed me bragging about him, like, you know, calling him dad,” added the multifaceted creative.

“He’s not confrontational at all. He’s literally just one of the easiest people in the whole wide world. You know what I’m saying? So, it’s not like he didn’t protect me, it’s just that a lot of hands started going into the cookie jar,” said the “A Thousand and One” actress.

“Knowing him as well as I know him, it wasn’t the thing you did on purpose. You didn’t purposely not protect me; you know what I’m saying. It might have been the thing where like, you know, he’s so gentle, you know, and just kind of just like let everyone push him out the way,” added Teyana.

She continued, “And I guess for me, that 15-year-old girl just needed you to fight a little harder, you know what I’m saying. Needed you to maybe push even if you didn’t have the strength to, I just needed you to push for me.”

The mother of two said that she has since made amends for the difficult feelings she harbored regarding the early days of her career. In 2016, around the time she starred in the music video for West’s “Fade,” Teyana was able to speak with Williams about some of her time as his artist.

“I love that I was able to share that with him during a high and not like hitting somebody up while you’re angry and sitting around somewhere bitter,” she explained to Martinez. “No matter how I felt when I was younger, like, none of these doors would have ever opened if it wasn’t for P.”

Teyana parted ways with Williams’ label around the age of 22. From there, she began working with West and ultimately signed to his imprint, G.O.O.D Music in 2012. Her time with the 24-time Grammy Award-winning artist left her feeling overlooked and underappreciated.

One instance she reflected on was the lack of forward movement in her music career despite the success of “Fade.” “I feel like right after Fade, the album should have dropped. You get what I’m saying? It was like, it was always something,” she noted.

“I just know when Fade came out, definitely, probably should have been an album, a rollout. It should have been a preparation for something,” added the “Gonna Love Me” artist. In 2020, following the release of her third LP, “The Album,” Teyana parted ways with West and announced her plans to retire.

“I put in a lot of work. I felt like the label wasn’t really hearing me. I feel underappreciated. It’s not that I retired permanently, it’s more like, I don’t want to move another inch for a company,” she told Cam Newton on his “Sip N Smoke” web series.

But during her “IRL” conversation with Martinez, the singer seems to have moved past at least some of the upset she once felt. “I’m so grateful, but I still feel like that is the conversation that needs to be had,” she said. 

“But that’s the reason I don’t like interviews because people will try to bring up my frustrations with rollout or whatever to use it as a let’s hate Kanye train,” Teyana added.

For now, the prospects of when or if she and West will clear the air remains unknown.

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