While she did manage to release From a Planet Called Harlem during her time with Interscope, Teyana Taylor still has some work to do when it comes to letting us know what she’s really about. She obviously knows this since she’s chosen to title her new mixtape The Misunderstanding of Teyana Taylor, but unfortunately, the title also reveals the fact that she’s somewhat lost in her own influences.
When Teyana focuses on her own abilities, the results aren’t bad. She sings more than she raps, and smooth R&B tracks like “Gatekeeper” and “8th Wonder” generally justify the decision. The same goes for “DUI,” where Teyana lets heavyweights Jadakiss and Fabolous handle the mic duty while she works on squeezing the most out of a Janet Jackson interpolation (more on that later). “Complicated” kind of wanders around without really going anywhere, but there’s nothing on the mixtape that’s outright unlistenable.
Of course, Teyana can only take so much credit due to the distractingly large amount of time she spends singing other people’s songs (even by mixtape standards). The title is already a reference to Lauryn Hill’s opus, so using “Doo Wop” as an interlude and “Ex-Factor” on Drake's “Marvin’s Room” remake “Her Room” is pushing it. Her verse on “DUI” is a vague-but-recognizable jack of Janet Jackson’s “Pleasure Principle,” and more than one Mary classic pops up elsewhere. The most blatant jack is the second half of “Come On” where she raps the entirety of one of Method Man’s verses from “All I Need”—really?
In short, Teyana Taylor is definitely talented on some level, but it’s a little early in her career to release an album of standards. Her songs aren’t on the level of the many legends she invokes, but the comparisons wouldn’t be an issue if Teyana herself didn’t insist on leading us there so often. The issues with Misunderstanding are forgivable enough for a mixtape, but if this in an indication of what her album will sound like, we’re probably better off just spinning Miseducation again.
DX Consensus: "Just a Mixtape"
Listen to Teyana Taylor - The Misunderstanding Of Teyana Taylor