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Teedra Moses grew up studying her mother, a successful gospel singer on the church revival circuit. She grew up listening to gospel on the radio in her mother's car and jamming to Luther Vandross. Later, she graduated to every young girl's first love: Prince. Moses studied Prince songs like calculus problems, writing her own lyrics over his music. She was also a student of Rakim, the legendary hip-hop MC. She practiced his flow and memorized his raps. Then she dropped verbal bombs at family get-togethers in her hometown of New Orleans.
Moses moved with her mother and siblings to Los Angeles as a teenager and eventually took a job as a stylist. L.A. revealed the glamorous side of the music business, which attracted Moses. She had been contemplating entering the biz when the hand of fate pushed a little. While working on the set of Crazy Town's "Butterfly" video, Moses fell down a steep hill and shattered her femur. "I took it as a sign," Moses laughs, "that I shouldn't be so complacent."
It's hard to believe that Moses didn't consider herself a singer until two years ago. "I sang, but I never thought I was any good at it," she says. She began working with producer Pauli Pol (best-known for his work with Black Eyed Peas) to incorporate the many musical lessons she received. It's this medley of gospel, hip-hop, and '80s R&B that sounds so sweet on Moses' debut album, Complex Simplicity.
Released in August on TVT Records (home to Miami's Pitbull and human car alarm Lil' Jon), Simplicityis a lyrically honest platter of songs about love, love, lust, love, and loss. And a little more love. The single "Be Your Girl" is a midtempo jam about the beginnings of a "silly crush" that leaves a girl "Holding my pillow tight/Sometimes I even touch myself." The song "Caution" is a rollicking, Prince-tinged classic that warns "When I see something I want, then I just take it and make it mine/I lick my lips, and then I think about how sweet it is to be me/So to date me must be hot."
When asked about her straight-forward and unabashedly sexual approach to writing, Moses is thankful she can be free without being labeled the next this or that or subscribing to a certain image of divaness. "I hooked up with TVT because they were about me being Teedra," she says. "I can only be Teedra."
One of the standout tracks on Simplicity is "You Better Tell Her," a Lil' Jon-produced, girls-night-out shit-starter about standing up to a no-good Lothario: "If I'm believing what I hear is true/Then there's a broad 'round town that's claiming you/And listen, daddy, I'm too cute to fight/You better get that bitch told tonight."
"I had a woman come up to me after a show, and she said, 'That song is the new anthem for women,'" Teedra says with pride. "It's really just about coming to the realization that your man, your boyfriend, you know... he's not always going to be truthful. And sometimes, you don't get out of [the relationship] when you should. I didn't. I didn't 20 times around. So I'm just being honest, ya know? If I'm in the street and it gets back to me, I don't want to hear about it again."
The last song on the album, "I Think of You," is Moses' tribute to her late mother, Shirley. At the beginning of the song, Moses admits that she was supposed to sing this song at her mother's funeral but was too broken up. She then testifies Southern gospel-style, tearing into a vertebrae-tingling, goose-bump-wrangling moment of witness that would make baby Jesus cry.