Teyana Taylor at 14th Annual CFDA Awards
Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Author Michael Arceneaux shares his thoughts on Teyana Taylor and Kanye West, and why Teyana’s new album K.T.S.E. didn’t get the rollout it deserved.

For those of us who have already heard Teyana Taylor’s grossly underappreciated debut album VII, and the sublime ‘90s R&B mixtape that followed, VII #thecassettetape 1994, we knew that she was making some of the best music not enough people were hearing. We knew she was better than “Google Me” (which we typically don’t acknowledge out of respect for Teyana and the artistry she has developed since that single came and went). We knew she was a multi-faceted talent — a singer, a dancer, a choreographer, and depending on the day, a clapback queen. So in light of the newfound attention that followed her appearance in Kanye West’s “Fade” music video, we hoped that a new album showcasing her talents would finally catapult her to the level of stardom she deserves.

Unfortunately, Teyana has spent much of her time discussing her newly released album, K.T.S.E, within the constraints of its poor rollout and that one song she made about having threesomes with her husband. If Teyana Taylor ends up with a future episode of Unsung, this will be the part of the episode when an older, sultry voice-having Black gentleman says, “And then it all started to go down hill.”

In Kanye West’s mind, all of the G.O.O.D. Music acts were going to release five albums over five consecutive Fridays. There would be no singles — only impromptu listening sessions where critics could kind of hear some of the new tunes while absolutely spotting Kim Kardashian and LaLa Anthony taking selfies. In an interview with Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning, the Harlem native acknowledged that she had some reservations about being part of this plan.

I hate to be a laptop label head, but let me explain why this was a horrible idea. Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Pusha T, and Nas are all established acts. And with all due respect, most of them are established acts long past their prime. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t record new music, but the expectations are much lower. Either way, it takes less effort to court listeners because fans of established acts will show up for those artists out of sheer allegiance.

However, when you are a new artist — or, in the case of Teyana Taylor, an artist with slight name recognition who has yet to truly break through — you need a proper set up. As in, you need singles, videos, and a proper press and marketing strategy. Basically, you need some damn effort. There was no effort in launching K.T.S.E.

”I didn’t know ahead of time that there wouldn’t be any singles or visuals,” Teyana explained. Where is your Suge Knight without the charges? There should be someone on top of these details.

Worse, the album itself is only 23 minutes. The other G.O.O.D. Music albums were short, but we have heard all of those men for at least a decade. Their albums can be as long as a Golden Girls episode on Hulu. A new artist’s cannot. You have to give us a reason to care — and that’s not an easy feat to reach under half an hour.

Teyana initially promised a longer version of the album on Twitter, but has since reneged. She has also announced a joint album with Ty Dolla $ign. Cool, but also, what is happening here?

There have been more interviews with the singer, but they all speak to the same issues. Teyana has since taken to Instagram to make clear that, in spite of her complaints, she loves her album. “I never meant for my passion to be mistaken for ungratefulness however i’m always open to agreeing to disagree, that doesnt take away from the bond I share with not only Ye but all of my G.O.O.D Music family,” she wrote.

She loves Kanye West, but I don’t so I can get to the point: This was her moment to break out in a big way, and Kanye West and co. blew it for her.

Granted, she is not going to suddenly lose it all. In addition to hawking fitness videos, voguing down runways, and choreographing for others, she has a show on VH1 with her husband Iman Shumpert. That’s cute, but honestly, I really hope she doesn’t spend the rest of 2018 having to defend threesomes. Like, I don’t care how y’all thot — I want to know what’s good with bops?

I want Teyana Taylor to quickly bounce back from this, but artists tend to only get so many chances. Hell, so many of y’all are already having funerals for your Tinashe hopes and dreams. If she does get another shot, which I hope she does, here is a bit of unsolicited advice: Get away from Kanye West.

Let him produce a song or two, but go find a label that will legitimately invest in your wellbeing. That label is not G.O.O.D. Music. Run, sis, run.

Michael Arceneaux is the author of the forthcoming book I Can’t Date Jesus from Atria Books/Simon & Schuster. His work has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Rolling Stone, Essence, The Guardian, Mic, and more. Follow him on Twitter.