Almost nine months ago, Teyana Taylor released her long-awaited second album KTSE. The album came four years after her debut record VII and while it was a relief, it didn’t come without its problems. Interestingly though, all these problems had almost nothing to do with Taylor really.
KTSE was the fifth album of Kanye West’s five-albums-in-five-weeks campaign that included releases by Kanye himself, Kid Cudi, Pusha T and Nas. Taylor was the only female to be included in this and suffered perhaps the messiest rollout of a five weeks that was, in a word, messy.
The 8-track effort was due to be released on 22nd June and while the album launch party occurred on that date, the album never surfaced. It wasn’t until the next day that it was uploaded on streaming platforms with even Taylor herself unsure of what was going on. When she woke up to see the album out, it was missing songs that she expected would be on there.
Clearance issues reportedly halted a song called We Got Love, featuring Lauryn Hill vocals, from making the album. Taylor almost immediately said that there would be an extended version of the album released the following week. Then she said that wasn’t going to be happening. We Got Love was eventually performed as a Kanye West song on Saturday Night Live featuring Taylor. Taylor brought class to an otherwise clumsy Kanye appearance on the show which was followed by an extremely questionable rant which amplified his previous support of Trump and comments about slavery being a choice.
In the midst of all this drama sat one of the best RnB albums of the year and arguably one of the best albums, along with Pusha T, of the Kanye five-week-challenge. At the centre of all of this sat Kanye, an artist growing increasingly unsure of his own artistic place. Taylor’s second album in four years should’ve been given its own campaign, the type that TDE would offer, but instead she was roped into a circus that placed Kanye at the centre instead of herself.
Given their multiple appearances together, Taylor and West’s relationship looks to be good and, to be fair, his production on the album is excellent. There seems to be this misconception, however, whether it be a conscious one or not, that behind every great female RnB singer there needs to be a powerful man. For years people mentioned Rihanna’s name in the same breath as Jay-Z, Tink and Timbaland shared headlines for far too long and even Ella Mai shares too much press with DJ Mustard. The simple fact is, you can drop the Kanye feature from Hurry on KTSE and you lose nothing from the album, one that, despite everything, showcases Taylor as one of the greatest artists around right now.
This is an album that showcases RnB in its most unfiltered way. The vocals sit at the front of the mix and the instrumentals are raw and classic, sounding like they’ve been dusted straight from the shelf. There’s elements of Lauryn Hill’s The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill, hints of Mary J. Blige’s earliest work and vocals nods to Whitney Houston’s tone-rich lower register. Taylor gives the type of performance we don’t hear much anymore, sizzling through opener No Manners with no beat or taking unbreakable control on vogue-worthy closer WTP.
When the album was first released, we called 3Way the best RnB song of the year so far, a title which it held right until the end. It’s an incredibly unapologetic and intimate moment which Taylor handles with unbelievable vocal finesse. It’s like she understands herself and her voice better than anybody in the game right now because whether it’s going to the bedroom on 3Way or getting autobiographical on Rose In Harlem, she holds nothing back. KTSE is a snapshot into her life at the point of time and it’s so vivid that there’s something timeless to it.
The record was rightfully reviewed favourably but there was drama clouding its greatness at the time. To Taylor’s credit she pulled it out of that cloud with hard work. Her tour was a supremely choreographed effort that she made even better by deciding to leave co-headliner Jeremih, calling him “lazy, sneaky and jealous.” She expressed frustration early on that she couldn’t release videos for every song like first discussed with GOOD Music before churning out great visuals including a self-directed one for Issues/Hold On released last week.
She’s an artist who fights bad publicity with hard work and talent and that’s exactly how, nearly a year after its release, KTSE is standing above the drama. Now, she’s promising another album this year which means we’ve got a job to do. What we’re not going to do is let Taylor cop the underrated tag once again. We’re assuming that Taylor and GOOD Music have learnt from past mistakes and are ready to give this new record the rollout it deserves. Similarly we’re ready to give Taylor the support she deserves.
We can all start by copping tickets to her debut Australian show at the Sydney Opera House as part of Vivid Live.