With its wooden tables perfectly aligned and dotted with slow-burning candles, New York City's SOB's was impeccably dressed for its guest.
Making her entrance from the basement stairs, she alluringly drifted through the standing-room-only crowd, exchanging smiles and waves with fans on her way to the instrument-packed stage. Her luminous gold mini-dress and sleek black pumps hinted at a night of soulful elegance. But luckily for those in attendance, Teedra Moses had even more ambitious plans.
Opening her show with a cover of the Pharcyde classic “Runnin',” the self-proclaimed lioness roared to life.
“I feel like I want to step on y'alls table!” she exclaimed as the song ended -- an early indication of the unrestrained sassiness sprinkled throughout her set.
Rather cooing tracks from her highly-lauded solo album "Complex Simplicity" or her new single “All I Ever Wanted," Moses' syrupy vocals pleaded with the entranced listeners to respect both the joy and the pain of love. With each song, she brazenly declared her right to define every aspect of her womanhood. And during one particularly striking chat with the crowd, she boldly challenged her listeners to consider abandoning toxic titles like "bad b---h" for more regal aspirations.
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When International Business Times caught up with Moses after her show, she opened up even more about using her music to continually encourage and inspire others. Her delicately commanding spirit on full display, she talked about the challenges of being an independent artist, what to expect from her upcoming EP, "Cognac and Conversations," and why there's nothing wrong with wanting to be loved.
So let's start with your live show in NYC. It was very high energy and not what people might expect. Where is your head at when you're on the stage?
Once I get on stage, it's like I don't really care much about anything but my connection with the people. Initially when you get on stage there is a certain amount of anxiety and nervousness you have. But for the most part, when I'm on stage I'm really talking one on one with the individuals in the room. I get very very comfortable. Almost too comfortable. It's like an intoxicant. It just relaxes me, you know. You get into your zone and my zone is just connecting.
Your conversations with the crowd were very raw and unfiltered. You really just speak your mind. Is that another way you connect with your fans?
I think so. Some people, especially when they first see me, don't expect that. Some people get it and they like it. And some people don't. They want that idea of what they thought I was. But I'm very raw and I'm a real person. I think the majority of the people get into it.
During your show, you made a comment that encouraged your fans to strive to be "empresses" and "queens," not "bad b-----s." Explain that statement.
I think that it has become very chic, almost, to be trashy, and I think it's whack. And maybe someone else won't say that. I'm just not into it. I love regalness and royalness. I'm the most down-to-earth person. But in the same sense, I can be ratchet, I can be sophisticated. I just feel like there's a lot of emphasis put on being a bad b---h, when what's so great about that.
You have to look at what these young girls think of themselves. How they act and how they allow themselves to be treated. You have to look at that and wonder where they get that from. I love my sensuality and I think that I am a gorgeous woman. But that's not everything I am, and there are other great entities to a woman. I'm not going to let anyone but me dictate what makes me great. And being a bad b---h is the least of it.
A lot of your songs deal with love discovered or lost. Do you feel you have a role to be a voice for your fans experiencing the challenges of love?
I'm just being honest with myself. I feel like women in this day and age, we feel like we have to go as hard as men. We have to be as a tough as a man. But I'm like, "I'm a woman!" And at some point the lines got really blurred when I'm supposed to be as tough as you and not as emotional and all this crap. That will drive you crazy. You're going to be emotional. You're a woman.
I know people look at me like, "She's strong and tough." I just try to show my vulnerability. It's okay for us to say that we want to be loved. I can sing a song about wanting to be loved. But then when it comes down to me actually going out and executing it, I get very scared. So I'm just trying to open my mouth and talk about something that women try to play too tough about.
Your new single "All I Ever Wanted" samples the 1983 Dynasty track "Adventures in the Land of Music." So I'm curious, what are some of the old-school tracks or artists you just have to listen to?
I listen to Prince because I think he is one to be studied. I love Angela Winbush, especially when she was with Angela and René. I love Stevie Wonder. Bob Marley and Sade are who I listen to most. And it's mainly because within their music, they have a strong sense of spirituality and it comforts me a lot. Another thing I love about Sade is the elements of soft and hard. Her drums are always banging, but the chords are always pretty and easy. And her voice is always easy and melodic, just soothing. I love her formula. And in my own way, I take from that.
You've previously said that you weren't initially that impressed with "Complex Simplicity"? Explain those comments.
I love it now! But in the beginning, I was much more hip-hop than what comes off on "Complex Simplicity." I really did love the song "Rock the Boat" by Aaliyah. And that feel on record is the reason Complex Simplicity is what it is. ["Rock the Boat"] was absolutely a completely perfect record, and I just wanted that feel. After hearing all the records, I thought they were cool. But they weren't hip-hop enough for me. And I don't think that's what I needed. [Paul Poli] helped me find the balance of much Hip Hop I wanted to influence in my music. From that sound I've grown to where I am now, which is basically the same. There is just a little bit more of me infused into it. But yeah, I didn't think ["Complex Simplicity"] was all that amazing until way after because what I had in mind was a little harder. But I don't regret anything about it.
So what can we expect from "Cognac and Conversations," your upcoming EP?" Where do you hope to take people with project's sound.
The EP's sound is meant to not bother you. But it's not so muted that you can't get involved and it doesn't trigger emotions. The title track "Cognac and Conversations" is produced by Thaddeus Dixon, the same guy who proceeded "All I Ever Wanted." It is with Rick Ross and is a very sensual record. We have Raphael Saadiq on one record called "Nobody Else." I have a record that features Ne-Yo. My sound was definitely intended to be hard drums, pretty chords, pretty singing and poignant words. Words that sting you a little, like, "Did she just say that?" But your head is nodding the entire time. I call it "banging easy listening."
What are some of the benefits and challenges of being an independent artist?
One of the benefits for me is I've learned myself as an artist. The first record that I ever wrote and recorded was on "Complex Simplicity," so I was a baby as an artist. I had a lot of shelter around me to be able to develop, and at TVT they let me write all my own records and develop myself. But being indie, sometimes you not having a budget and not being of a certain caliber, a lot of things that come to artists that are more commercial or on major labels don't come to me. But I have to keep grinding to get to a point where people respect me enough to extend certain things to me that they won't' extend to another indie artist.
So Kaytranada produced an extremely popular remix of your song "Be Your Girl?" Have you since encountered people who first discovered your music after hearing that track.
That was a lot of it. That track did well outside of America. I'm sure New York is a place where it picked up in the States. But in London it did really, really well and in Australia and South Africa. It opened me up to a lot of people. The fact that he did it way after ["Complex Simplicity"] came out made me feel good because it means whatever I did was classic enough for him to be able to use it still and love soul house music. Because he's such a strong artist himself, it stood out really well. And I'm hoping that we can do more work together.
As a mother of teenage twin sons, what was your reaction to President Obama's newly launched "My Brother's Keeper" initiative for young men of color?
That's a big deal to me because my sons don't have a father figure present in their life. They have a father and we all know who he is. But he's not as present. But we try to focus on what we do have rather than what we don't and I teach them to love their father. These young men out here are being raised by strong women -- which I won't knock since I'm a woman raising men. But we can't teach a man how to be a man. We can tell a man what we expect of him, but I don't know what it's like to have a penis and testicles. Not to be funny, but in no way can I ever tell you what it is to be you.
But this program we need because it's important that these young men that are left fatherless have someone to say, "Hey, let me help you out." I'm a grown woman. My mother died when I was 25. And to this day, I feel like an orphan because I still need a parent. So I know that my sons need guidance. I try to extend whatever male figures I have around and good friends I trust to be good leaders, but a lot of young boys don't have that. So I applaud [President Obama] for taking attention to it.