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Teairra Mari: Former Princess of Roc-A-Fella Discusses Her Split From Jay-Z and Move to Interscope

Its been two years since proclaimed princess of The Roc, Teairra Mari, stepped out the shower onto a clean slate when she received the fateful telephone call ending her contract with Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam.

She released her debut Roc-A-Fella Presents: Teairra Mari spawning the major hit “Make Her Feel Good,” hoisting her to #5 on the Billboard 200 chart and #2 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop chart at the ripe age of 17.The Detroit R&B vocalist saw an industry that once embraced her, instantly close the curtain. En route to readying her sophomore effort Second Round under the watchful eye and mentorship of former label-head Jay-Z, with the snap of a finger, Mari had no more big brothers like Beanie Sigel and Memphis Bleek watching her back. Instead, she is fulfilling the prophecy of her album’s second single “No Daddy.”This time around, she could care less if the cute face fools you. All grown up, learning lessons and dusting off her shoulders, Mari is truly hitting the ring for her rematch. Through a new deal with Interscope Records and an as-yet to be titled album, Teairra Mari may be rolling with less backup these days, but that doesn’t mean she is counted out just yet. AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Where have you been since “Make Her Feel Good” and “No Daddy”?Teairra Mari: Well I finished school – did the prom thing because I was only in my senior year in high school. I finished school and went to the prom, graduation, all that good stuff, and I had a lot of family issues. My mother had a stroke, she lost her speech; it took some time for us to get back in the swing of things because my family was going through a lot at the time. My mom is our backbone, so for her to have a stroke [it] just haunted everybody’s lives. So I’ve been in Detroit, and I just moved to L.A.AHHA: You were one of Jay-Z’s premiere artists when he took over Def Jam as president, unveiling the new Roc line-up. What happened to your deal and relationship with Roca-A-Fella/Def Jam?Teairra Mari: I’m going to be totally honest; I don’t know what happened. I just got a call out of the blue because I had gotten cut my second advance and everything to record my second album. I got a call one day. They were just like, “Yeah we’re going to be letting you go. You’re young and we believe you will be able to have a prosperous career without us,” just kind of like throwing me out in the cold really. That’s how I kind of look at it, because we were all supposed to be like a close family. I called Jay-Z my father; he was like a second father to me. Tracy Waples, I called her a second mother. So to just be thrown out – and I didn’t get a call from Tracy or Jay – it was a bit heartbreaking. You know we live and we learn, but just me being that young and inexperienced I didn’t know. So I took it pretty hard.AHHA: What was going through your mind at the time and after the call?Teairra Mari: You don’t understand…my heart just dropped to the floor, because I wasn’t expecting it. It came from nowhere. I’m thinking we are about to be on the road for the second album because I had already gotten my advance. It was really heartbreaking. I kept it a secret for like two or three months from everybody – my mom, my close friends – I couldn’t tell anybody. I had to deal with it myself before I let it out to anybody else. Let me tell you…that tore me down. I had 19 years of living with myself, and that tore down every piece of confidence I had. I had to rebuild from scratch. I wasn’t expecting that, so when it came it was just like, damn homey. It’s cool now, I can laugh at it now. It’s pretty funny, but at the time it was pretty heart breaking; it was a lot to deal with.“I called Jay-Z my father; he was like a second father to me.”AHHA: Considering Jay-Z was a mentor to you, when you debuted and then to be dropped…did you ever feel pushed aside watching Rihanna go through her success and seeing the way he mentored and supported her?Teairra Mari: To be honest, I never felt like that, because we started at the same time when I was doing my first video. I think [Rihanna] did her first video the week after mine. We were really close together in coming out and the things we did. So going into the situation, we already knew of each other and we knew what it was. So me and Rihanna were like sisters on the road, we would do a lot of things together. We were pretty cool. I never felt like that. People always try to make it into a big situation, but I never felt like that. I think she is a very good girl and she is very deserving – her and Ne-Yo – we all three started out together. I think they are really deserving of what they’re getting. I watched them work hard; we all did it together. I am happy and I’m proud of them.AHHA: Is there still a relationship at all with Jay-Z?Teairra Mari: There is no relationship there at all. I haven’t heard from him since that time. I think I sent him a happy birthday message because his birthday is two days after mine, like two years ago and since then it’s been nothing. And I don’t want it to be – Actually, it’s fine because I was a young girl. If you could come into a young girl’s life and then just throw her on the curb, you put this father presence on and then be like, “I’m done with it.” I don’t want a relationship like that. This is in any situation when you have success then everybody is on it, everybody is on board, everybody is rolling with it. But when you have something that fails to succeed, then everybody is off it; everybody has something to say about it. When you have something that is successful, people they look at all of the good things of the situation like they look over the bad things. That’s why you have people with bad attitudes, because they don’t have people around them to put them in their places.Because they think things are going good, just on board as a “yes man.” But then you have people that fail to succeed that people believe in, that’s me. I’m in that situation, I see both sides. I see how people can be on you one second and then totally off of you and not even call you to see if you’re still living or not.“I was 17 and I had a parental advisory sticker on the album. I was totally against that. I was pre-instructed to do what I did.”AHHA: For a minute you were going independent [before being picked up by Interscope]. With record companies hurting right now, why not stay independent?Teairra Mari: We really just wanted to put out something now to let people know that I was coming back. I think that going independent is the smartest thing right now because that is were the money is, and that is what is most beneficial. That is what is most beneficial in a world where you need money to succeed. Be comfortable, live how you want to live and take care of things. Money rules the world. Independent is the way to make that money. Unfortunately, I am not going to be independent.AHHA: If this is the way to make money, why not stay independent?Teairra Mari: For me it is more than just the money. It’s like getting into a broader audience, having more people hear my messages and connecting with the people. Not just making money, of course there is money there too. But for me, I just want to go where I can connect with more people, because I feel that there are a lot of people out there like me.AHHA: With your first album, Roc-A-Fella Presents Teairra Mari, do you feel that project accurately depicted where you wanted you career to go and what you wanted your sound to be?Teairra Mari: I was 17 and I had a parental advisory sticker on the album. I was totally against that. I was pre-instructed to do what I did. They wanted me to be that rebellious, young teenager. At the time I was going through a rebellious stage so I guess I could see it, but the curse words I didn’t totally understand it, like a cursing 17-year-old girl. I just did what I was told because I believed in those people.AHHA: Were those concepts and songs what those people came up with? How much of that last album was really you?Teairra Mari: No, “Make Her Feel Good” was all me and Sean Garrett. We sat in the studio and we basically talked and talked and talked. We actually couldn’t come up with anything. And then I just started talking about all my little men problems and he was like, “That’s it right there. Get in the booth lets do this.” I really miss Sean. Most of the things me and Sean did were based off of my personal experience. When I say I was being instructed, I mean the cursing and all that, but those situations where it’s based off of experience.AHHA: What is the new direction for this upcoming album? What is different this time around?Teairra Mari: It’s a little more grown up, sexier, and now I can actually speak from situations and experience. Now I have actually went through things like relationships, I’ve had failures, had success, so I’m able to speak from each standpoint and really mean what I am saying. That in itself is enough to take this in a whole other direction. It’s coming from me, Teairra. Nobody else is instructing me to sing this and that. This is what I want to sing.AHHA: What do you say about people lumping you into the category of a one-hit wonder? If there were something that people could remember about you from the last album, which carries over to this new album, what would it be?Teairra Mari: Well for sure they will remember the first single. And to be honest, a lot of people remember me from being with Roc-A-Fella and that is something I am trying to change. That is definitely why I want to reach a broader audience. It is what it is. That was the one hit; I can’t change that. So I think that is my whole point to continue on, to let people know I’m more than that. It is nothing much I can say about that, but I’m going to continue on and prove to you, I can do more than that. There is way more to me than just that, so much more than just that song, even though “Make Her Feel Good” was all me.AHHA: What do you want to be remembered for with your music?Teairra Mari: Being fun, feeling good and putting you in a zone. Because not all music can put you in a zone – where you can just turn on the radio, close your eyes and bob your head and be in wonderland. We don’t have a lot of that anymore, doing it and giving it to us, being able to close my eyes and rock all night. Have you ever been able to put a CD in and you get home and you just want to stay in the car just a little bit longer to just finish the song out? That’s the type of music I want to be remembered for…making you feel good.

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