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Teyana Taylor: “Black people deserve the same level of opportunity and prosperity”

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Teyana Taylor is resting after a chaotic week. She had planned to give birth in her new house in Atlanta, with a famed doula by her side: Erykah Badu, a legend with a side hustle (she even goes by Erykah Badoula on Twitter). It’s been just shy of a week since her second daughter arrived prematurely, right after Taylor’s baby shower. Badu talked her through a water birth over FaceTime. “She was on the phone guiding me through the contractions and everything. It was a wild experience,” explains Taylor from a hospital as she watches over the baby, christened Rue Rose.

“We have been in the hospital for a few days, just to ensure that Baby Rue is growing strong,” says the musician. “She’s getting stronger and stronger and growing by the day.”

Taylor takes curve balls in stride, and this extraordinary year has completely changed her approach to life and work. It’s become essential for her to learn “how to navigate differently through sudden change.” Given the four-and-a-half year gap between her two children, she says she feels like she is “starting all over.”

In the cover photos for CR Fashion Book, Taylor is still heavily pregnant, her bump draped in an electric-blue Rick Owens coat. The shoot was a family affair, including her basketballer husband, Iman Shumpert, and their 4-year-old daughter Junie, a star in her own right (510k Instagram followers and counting). And it’s clear that family is what keeps the 29-year-old laser-focused and energized. Revealing more about the unusual — and very zeitgeist-y — circumstances around her recent birth, she says that once she realized she was pregnant, enlisting the help of the ultimate neo-soul icon made sense.

“She’s been a doula for like 20 years, so being able to use her was like a dream come true for me,” says Taylor. The two were able to bond over their shared love of music, while the fellow artist offered her “support, spiritual guidance, and calm.”

“[Badu] trusted my instincts and introduced me to a more holistic way of living, including breathing techniques, and also taught me that Western medicine was not the only way,” says Taylor.

Taylor needed Badu’s soothing energy — the star’s first labor in 2015 was difficult, and left her a little apprehensive about home births. Taylor’s water broke unexpectedly, and Shumpert had to make a frantic 911 call to figure out how to help her give birth in their bathroom. It was terrifying, but Taylor repurposed her pain, using a recording of the call on her new album’s intro.

It’s a season of seismic change for Taylor. She has a new addition to her family, a new home, and a new album—succinctly titled The Album—over which she took considerably more creative control than her last project, directing her own music videos and overseeing the record’s production (her last record, K.T.S.E., was produced by G.O.O.D Music label owner Kanye West). “It felt great to take the lead on this album, because it gave me the opportunity to really tap into all sides of my creativity,” she says. “There was so much that I needed to get out. That’s why it had 23 songs!”

We’re all facing a pandemic, racial unrest, and a global financial crash. And so during lockdown, with the world thrown into chaos, Taylor spent a lot of time “meditating and recentering” herself to process everything happening during the pandemic. She told CR in a previous interview that “about 80 percent” of the album was recorded in quarantine. “My way of staying sane throughout the sudden lockdown was just focusing on family, and still finding creative ways to continue to get my artistry out there,” she explains.

It’s well-documented that West made numerous decisions that Taylor wasn’t happy with on her last record, and at one point K.T.S.E was earmarked for a re-release. For the new album, she says her aim was “to really tap into all different emotions.” It’s broken down into five parts, so that fans can tailor their own personal listening experience: Studio A, which tackles love and familial bonds; the “sexy and passionate” Studio L; Studio B, for “chicks that ain’t taking no crap;” Studio U, which makes Taylor feel like she’s “unconditionally fighting for love;” and Studio M, designed to combine sentiments from the previous four.

The Album also taps into urgent issues. Taylor’s video for the single “Still”—in which she transforms herself into victims of police brutality including George Floyd, Elijah McClain, and Breonna Taylor—ignited controversy. Taylor says that she “wanted to reenact victims of racist killings to be their voice.”

While she’s no stranger to singing about relationships, “Still” is a bold departure, laying bare Black America’s endless fight for equality. The stirring lyrics include lines like: “I keep cryin’ for love / But it won’t wipe, won’t wipe, my tears / Ain’t it crazy how I’m still so emotional, still?”

With her community “emotional, angry, saddened,” Taylor explains that it was important for her to lend her voice and platform to the cause. “Black people deserve the same level of opportunity and prosperity,” she says. “A new system must be established.”

Taylor set up her new production company, The Aunties Production, to level the playing field in the music video scene. “I remember continuously looking around, whether being on a set of filming my own music videos, television shows, movies, etc. and realized that the production hands were almost always exclusively all male,” she recalls. “I’m a natural helper, so with that, I decided to create a platform to give other artists who may not have the huge budgets an opportunity to bring across their visions.”

“I’ve been in the industry since the age of 15, and I still don’t feel as if I’ve made my ultimate impact yet,” she says. “I’m just getting started.”

With projects like filming a sequel to Eddie Murphy’s classic Coming to America, and a MAC collaboration she describes as an “ultimate fangirl moment,” in the pipeline, Taylor is utilizing her broad spectrum of talents, and it feels like she’s finally getting her flowers. Or, more aptly, her roses.

Read CR Fashion Book Issue 17 Free Online Read CR Men’s Issue 11 Free Online

CR FASHION BOOK Issue 17 will be packaged alongside CR MEN Issue 11 and will be available on newsstands and online starting October 9, 2020. To pre-order a copy click here, and sign up for our newsletter for exclusive stories from the new issues.



PHOTOGRAPHY GRAY SORRENTI

STYLING CARINE ROITFELD

HAIR TAHIRAH CARTER

GROOMING TARIK MALLETT

MAKEUP JAPAN

PRODUCTION SHAY JOHNSON & ARIELLA STARKMAN AT CR STUDIO

PRODUCTION COORDINATOR JOSHE ORDONEZ

ON-SET STYLISTS RON HARTLEBEN & OLUWABUKOLA BECKY AKINYODE

PRODUCTION ASSISTANTS MEREDITH & DENUCCI & ERIKA LAFFIN

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