Teyana Taylor: A Harlem Dance Queen

Publish date:

It’s not unusual to hear grandiose claims echoing down the halls of any high school. But no other high-school student has the bragging rights to cultivating two dance crazes (the “Chicken Noodle Soup” and the “Tone Wop”), choreographing Beyoncé’s dance moves for both the music video and 2006 VMA performance of “Ring the Alarm,” having her own episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, and being signed to Pharrell Williams’ label.

Teyana Taylor is the latest lifeform beamed up to Pharrell’s Star Trak spaceship, and she seems to have stepped straight into a Harlem-meets-Hollywood fairytale. You’d think she’d be soaring on cloud nine, yet on the eve of her debut release, From a Planet Called Harlem (Star Trak/Interscope), Taylor is as down-to-earth as they come. “I’m pretty honored,” she says with a signature rasp that belies her 17 years. “I’m just a regular kid from Harlem that’s doing me.”

Taylor’s name began buzzing on industry tongues after the pandemonium surrounding 2006’s surprise smash “Chicken Noodle Soup” by Webstar (featuring Young B). “I was really grinding, skateboarding, doing my thing,” Taylor reflects. “But I wasn’t looking for a [record] deal.” Yet when her dance prowess unexpectedly landed her a meeting with Pharrell himself, it was as if Cinderella finally met her hipster godfather. “I’m thinking, ‘This is my idol I’m standing in front of,’” she recalls. “It was crazy because we both had on the same shoes!” The singer soon found herself in Atlanta recording tracks with producers like newcomer Hit Boy, Bangladesh, and Jazze Pha, who helmed the lead single “Google Me.” The result is an impressive collage of futuristic R&B embellished with hip-hop hyperbole, tales of teenage love, and name-drops of Pharrell’s two fashion enterprises, Billionaire Boys Club and Ice Cream.

With a billowy mane of curls and sporting the latest limited Nike SB Dunks, Taylor represents a burgeoning subculture within the Generation Y demographic: she’s an unpredictable female streetwear style maven in the vein of Kelis, J*Davey, or Tiombe Lockhart. And with TRL and 106 & Park within her grasp, she has outlets to connect with her tech-savvy, retro-style-conscious audience and officially initiate the rebirth of cool. But in the meantime, she doesn’t mind sticking to what she loves best: XBOX 360, PS3, watching Jimmy Neutron. “I do the same things that a typical kid my age does,” she concedes, “but I’m a little more weird.”