Interview: Teedra Moses Breaks Down “Luxurious UnderGrind”, Talks Deal with Maybach Music, Feeling Like “A Champion of the Underground”
We’ve always been supporters of Teedra Moses not only for her massive talent and unique style, but also for the way she’s embraced her position as an underground artist all while garnering a cult like following. When we heard she signed a deal with Maybach Music Group, we were excited that she might finally get the attention she deserved, but a little concerned about which direction this hip hop label would push her music. Rest assured, the Teedra Moses we have come to know and love isn’t going anywhere! If you listen to her recently released “Luxurious UnderGrind” compilation you will hear that the quality of her music has not been compromised, the only difference is she now has a label backing her for who she is. In this exclusive interview with YouKnowIGotSoul, we discuss the “Luxurious UnderGrind” mixtape, why she continues to put out her music for free, why she felt Maybach Music Group was the right place for her, what’s going on with her next album “The Young Lioness”, and much more.
YouKnowIGotSoul: Let’s first talk about your new mixtape “Luxurious UnderGrind”. What’s the time period of when these songs were recorded?
Teedra Moses: Different time periods. I try to make music that in my opinion will be timeless; other people may hate it but to me it’s timeless. Let me start at the top:
“Another Luvr” – This was recorded the day before I put out the mixtape and that’s why the mix of that one is kinda wack. I love the sample I used on the song from A Tribe Called Quest, and I love that group, but I love the sample so I just wrote the song to that sample. I just kept writing phrases and writing passes to just that intro. Then I called my homeboy who’s my engineer and one of my favorite producers, Donnie Cash, I asked him if he could send me the bass line looped and then he did, he sent me the beat. I actually wrote the first verse and the hook before he sent me the beat, and then I wrote the rest of the song.
“Invitation” – This song I wrote maybe two years ago, I got the beat from Trackademicks maybe three years ago. I laid the song only earlier this year, but I’m slow with this stuff sometimes just because I want to make sure I like it. I laid that song earlier this year when I was in L.A. at Jamie Foxx’s house, he let me use the studio at his house, and I did that record and a couple of other records that I didn’t put on the mixtape.
“The One” – This song I did before “Complex Simplicity”, that’s how old the song is. I love the song, and to me it isn’t any less valuable because it’s old.
“Falling 4 U” – I did this song about a couple of years ago I think.
“Special” – I did this song the night that I was in the studio before I dropped the mixtape, July 3rd. That was produced by and the hook was written by 1 O.A.K. who is also featured on the song. I liked that concept that he was saying, he liked this girl a whole lot, I actually don’t know what he was saying because I only heard the hook. But when I heard it, I took it as two people can have great chemistry together but they’re jus t not meant to be together. You could have great sex, but it’s just not meant to be together, and you can actually be cool, but you’re just not supposed to be locked in. So I took it from that perspective.
“Wish U Were Here” – This was an acapella I did in 2006 or 2007 and I found it when I was going through my hard drive. I just needed one more line to finish the song and I came up with that one more line.
“Get Free” – This is a record I did a long time ago maybe in 2005 but I’ve always loved the song and wanted people to hear it, but I had been holding it for so long for my album. Things change and my perspective has changed, it’s not that it’s changed, but more that I’ve grown. So I just wanted to let that go because that’s not an emotion that I hold onto anymore.
“Missing U” – That was written when I was still on TVT. That was one of the records that I held onto forever because every album I wanted to do a song for my mother. I don’t necessarily feel like that anymore, but at that time I felt that way. I’ve noticed that songs I wrote about missing my mother or the passing of my mother, people really feel like that helps them or it makes them feel comfortable that they’re not the only one in that situation. So I’m always willing to be helpful to other people, even if that emotion is not something that I have to deal with all of the time, it’s something that I can feel inside of myself because I do miss my mom. Even though I wrote that record awhile ago, it’s still very relevant to how I feel.
YKIGS: What does the title “Luxurious UnderGrind” mean to you?
TM: To me it’s just like shining from the bottom like you belong at the top. Shining really bright from the bottom of the barrel; you might see something shining bright from the top of the barrel, but this thing at the bottom is shining so fucking bright that people want to reach down beyond all of that other stuff and grab that. The whole point is I’m underground, but that’s what I am and I never let that be a problem or burden for me, and I’ve never cried about being underground; I almost like it more than the thought of being commercial. I always tell people the only thing that I love about commercial success is money because I like money. I like really nice cars, I like really nice clothes, I like to live in really nice places, I like to do what I like to do and money would allow me to do that. But singing is too important to me. So “Luxurious UnderGrind” is like shining from the bottom with your eye on the prize, just because you’re at the bottom doesn’t mean you’re going to stay there. You’re looking up at something and you have a goal and vision to get there. I’m not bothered by being underground, I almost feel like a champion of the underground.
YKIGS: This is I believe the fifth mixtape or compilation that you’ve now released for free. I’ve spoken to many of your fans who have told me they’d be willing to pay for these songs if they were available for sale, but you always put them out for free. Why do you decide to give away free music?
TM: Well the thing is I don’t pay for them. I’m a very ethical person and I was raised with morals. So if I don’t pay the producer, you’re not going to pay me. When you start selling stuff, that starts getting very technical, and I’m not a record label. You have to pay certain people and you have to clear certain samples, and I’m big on samples, I love samples. Until I have an official release where the record label is going to take care of all of that stuff, then I just don’t wanna shit on nobody. I’m getting tracks from these producers and these artists that I’m using and giving people awareness of me and that producer, because people often asked who produced some of my songs. So producers don’t mind because they know that when they get on a compilation it’s something that will help them. I just don’t want to get into a technical situation where I’ve wronged someone; I’m making money and this person is not. There could also be a clearance on a record and I didn’t get it cleared and now they’re suing me. I’ve been sued before not even for something that I did, but for a record I did “Dip It Low” a long time ago. It’s not fun, $15,000 dollars to pay someone just to give a fucking deposition; I’m cool, I’d rather just give it to the people. In the end, they’re going to support my music when it’s time, and I believe in them just like they believe in me. So when I have my fans pay for my music, it’s going to be of a certain quality and mixed and mastered, and those are things I can’t afford right now. I can afford a rough mix but I can’t afford an engineer that I want to mix the record and get it mastered, I can’t afford all of that. So I’m not going to short change, that’s not me. I’d rather be broke and struggling for money and go and do shows and have people appreciate the music and love what I’m giving them. Slam, let me tell you anyway, you aren’t making money off of the sale of records, nobody is. You don’t make lots of money off of the sales of records unless you are someone who is super mainstream like Beyonce. Then as you look at the amount of money people put out to sell records, they are really lucky to break even after the label gets what they get. For me it’s about keeping a solid fan base because they didn’t have to stay with me, but they have, so I give it away. I know that when it’s time and when there’s a sticker on it for $9.99 or whatever it will cost, they will hold me down, I already know.
YKIGS: Let’s talk about your new deal with Maybach Music. How did you know that was the right place for you to continue your career?
TM: God just put me somewhere. I never went out looking for anything. I still to this day have not gone out to solicit myself to any labels since I left TVT. I just think that what I do is something you have to want, you have to want me on your label, I can’t pitch myself to you because what I’m doing is not conducive to what’s being done. It’s a timeless style; it doesn’t sound like Sade, but when I look at my career I want to model it after a Sade because she has a style that you can only go to her for. People try to mesh my sound with Amerie, Mary J. Blige, Ashanti, but when I listen to it I just hear Teedra, and maybe that’s because I am Teedra and I know myself. *Laughs* I think that people who follow my music hear the sound and I think that Rick Ross liked the sound, and he was a fan of the sound, so when he hit me and told me “I really like what you’re doing, I really like your hustle”, that’s what I needed. I didn’t need to go and do cartwheels for somebody because I’m not willing to do that and I’m not going to show you my titties. I won’t do those things for the sake of trying to get your attention, I’m not an attention whore and I’m not into fame. So if a label was to say to me “Yea we like you! Just show us your titties, give us a little peek a boo of your cooch!” I’m not willing to do those things, and I know that’s how you have to play the game and I’m not really interested. I wanted someone who was going to be interested in me and allow me to continue to be myself.
YKIGS: So from what you’re telling me, I’m assuming you won’t have any restrictions and you’re going to be able to keep making the music the way you like?
TM: Yes. He signed me for what I do, so that’s kinda how we look at it. I think sometimes that it’s really weird to them that I’m so self sufficient; I’m extremely self sufficient. I pick my own tracks, I can find my own tracks, I write, I do everything pretty much and then they like what I come up with. I think a lot of the artists on Maybach Music are very self sufficient so that’s probably another good quality he sees in me. We’re a little label within ourselves, we’re grinding out here and doing our thing on our own so he probably feels like it’s really efficient to bring in somebody who knows how to handle their own shit, and we just bring our brand in and stamp them with it and give them help where they need it.
YKIGS: I know that you’ve been working on the “Young Lioness” project for awhile now. Now that you’ve joined Maybach Music, did you scrap the music you had completed already and start fresh?
TM: I have like three songs that I held onto. I pretty much let go of a bunch of the others, and then some of the songs I just don’t feel like that anymore. I have hard drive upon hard drive of just music, so I expect I could probably put out two more compilations this year with no problem. I don’t know if they will be of the quality I want them to be because I’m very particular about just the flow of the mixtape. I could put out albums from this music but just the quality that I would want and the consistency is very important. So I’ve got about three records that I’ve held onto for the “Young Lioness” album. I’ve also been really engulfed in jazz right now, I love, love, love jazz, so I kinda want to drive a little bit more towards a jazz fusion.
YKIGS: Has working with Maybach Music opened up new doors for you to work with different producers or do different collaborations?
TM: It’s just opened up the doors for me to work with the artists that are there. Since I’ve been there, producers have reached out, but producers have always reached out to me so I’m not sure how that goes, so maybe some have reached out because I am with Maybach now. I just know that having the Maybach stamp has definitely helped me with people starting to hop on my shit, and people are starting to give me a chance. I get a lot of fan messages saying “I never heard of you before, I heard of you through Maybach Music” or “Oh you’re down with Maybach Music, so I’ve gotta check you out!” So that’s definitely helped me.
YKIGS: When do you expect to release your album?
TM: I have no idea. I’m going to keep it 100 with you, I have no idea. There are projects that are priorities for them like Ross has an album coming out, Meek has an album coming out, Wale has an album coming out, so I guess after that, but I’m going to just keep working. I would love to tell you a date when the album is going to come out, but you’re going to keep getting music, that’s what I can tell you. I don’t lie about shit I know nothing about. *Laughs*
YKIGS: I reached out to some of your fans on Twitter to see if they had any questions and I got a few. The first was, on the original tracklist of your “Complex Simplicity” album there was a song called “Caberet”. Will we ever get to hear that song?
TM: That actually became “Cabernet Sauvvignon” and I released that on the “Lionhearted” compilation.
YKIGS: Give me the story behind the song “So Lady” you did for Mary J. Blige with Raphael Saadiq.
TM: Well Raphael wrote the hook and he asked me to write verses, and I wrote the verses. So the concept wasn’t mine, it was his concept. He wrote the hook and I wrote the verses.
YKIGS: Besides working on your own project, have you been doing any writing for other artists?
TM: Unfortunately I haven’t really. I say unfortunately because people want me to write for other artists, but I’m not interested in it right now because I’m so engulfed in myself. I felt that when I started writing for other people I started losing myself, I was trying to make money instead of making music. I have no desire to write for other people, I just have a desire to write songs. As a businesswoman, I should probably write more songs for people, but I write songs because I want to relieve myself of what I’m going through and I really enjoy doing it. I just think when I start thinking about it in terms of a business and trying to be the hottest bitch on the planet, that shit don’t work for what I do. I have to remain true to myself for what I do. So in terms of writing for other people, if somebody wants to come and get a record that is my kinda record that’s cool, but in terms of chasing it and submitting, I’m not in the mood. *Laughs*
YKIGS: I love the way that you keep it real because a lot of people sugarcoat things.
TM: Slam, I’ll tell you that I’d love to make the money and I’ve made the most money in my career by writing for other people, but I’ve got my own publishing. So if I put all of that effort into making myself more well known…you know these records from mixtapes can always get picked up by movies and that type of thing. It’s just that the hotter that you get, the better. I own myself and I own my publishing so I don’t have to really rely on them and it’s hard for me as a person to rely on other people. So relying on a record company A&R or another artist or a producer is a little tough for me because they could make you hot as an artist, but then it could be gone. When I realized that people just want to put a coin in your back and make music come out of your ass, I thought it was too much for me because I was going to drain myself of my raw talent. I think that’s what I like about my music is that it’s timeless. If I start trying so hard to conjure up stuff and start trying to stay on the level, because you have to stay on the level just to find work or they’ll forget you. You can have a hit today, and if tomorrow you’re mediocre, they’ll forget about you, and that’s how it is. So I know if you’re going to forget me at some point, I’m not going to play your games.
YKIGS: Anything you’d like to add?
TM: Thank you again for all of your support. I’d also like to say to the fan base that we have a show called “Luxurious UnderGrind” that comes on UStream from 10-11 EST on Thursdays. Its kinda fun and we aired our first show a couple of weeks ago and it was extremely unorganized but we’ve been a little more organized since. We’ve got a couple of characters, my homegirl Vanessa James who used to be on the radio here in Miami, also my homegirl Mara Mendlez who used to be the program director for 99 Jams here in Miami as well as Hot97 in New York. We just talk about music, talk about shit that happens in life, and our intention is to play music from some artists that don’t get as much commercial exposure, and hence the title. Some other times it’s just commercial artists that just have really good music and that song didn’t have that much exposure. So we’re just trying to highlight things that aren’t being highlighted. We also have a DVD coming of “Luxurious UnderGrind” which is going to be of a live show and it will come out late September or early October. We’ll be doing a quick “Luxurious UnderGrind” tour which we’re putting the dates together for now.