KTSE (released June 22, 2018)
Of all the releases in Kanye West’s deluge of summer albums, Teyana Taylor is by far is the most intriguing.
Though she’s been in the game for nearly 10 years at this point – going way back to her minor hit “Google Me” in 2009 – her mainstream success has been pretty limited. In fact, her greatest claims to mainstream fame are either getting the gym floor pregnant in Kanye’s “Fade” video or masquerading as Lil Kim at the Hip Hop Honors in 2016. Despite her vast talent, she’s always been overshadowed by bigger artists.
KTSE (aka Keep the Same Energy), Taylor’s sophomore LP, finally upgrades Teyana from supporting character to the star of the show. As the closing act of Kanye’s quartet of weekly album releases, this is her biggest stage yet.
The keys and moaning sample on the opener “No Manners” quickly remind you that this is a Kanye project, but don’t fear – Teyana never gets lost in her mentor’s massive shadow.
“Gonna Love Me,” the album’s first proper song, starts things off strongly. It’s a groovy track that’s a perfect fit for her husky voice. One of my biggest complaints with Kanye’s summer releases is heavy-handed production; the artist gets lots in his endless loops and overbearing instrumentation. That’s not really the case on KTSE (with one big exception we’ll get to later…). “Issues/Hold On” sidesteps production gimmicks – besides some harmless Stormtrooper-sounding laser effects in the background – for a more straightforward R&B track.
Sonically, KTSE rarely goes off the rails. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t a need for an editor to make the overall package stronger.
The slinky “Hurry” is so catchy it almost feels like a child’s nursery rhyme, but you’d probably want to turn off the track before the kids hear Teyana moaning like sex skit from an old 90s rap album. It’s a really unnecessary addition to an otherwise addictive song.
The minimalistic “3Way” features Teyana, um, singing about having a three-way, duh, and works pretty well due to her seductive tones. That is until Ty Dolla Sign hops on the track bragging about some girl riding his face and banging somebody’s daughter out from the back. His crude lyrics aren’t even the major problem – it’s a song about a threesome, you obviously can’t expect Bobby Jones’ Gospel here. Ty’s tone is just so abrasive next to Teyana’s sensuality that it creates a major sound clash.
Like just about every other R&B singer in 2018 (hi, Bey!) Taylor raps her truths on “Rose in Harlem,” addressing her career roadblocks (“10 years in the game/N****s like ‘You ain’t hot? You ain’t pop?/What’s up with you and Ye?'”). While the honesty is appreciated, she just winds up sounding like every other sanga ternt rappa. “Never Would Have Made It,” a tribute to her supporters that borrows from Marvin Sapp’s song of the same name, is a much better fit for her style.
KTSE certainly could have used some fine tuning (which could be said of almost all of Ye’s releases from his Wyoming bunker) but there’s only one outright dud – “WTP.” Remember how I said earlier that this album mostly avoided songs with overly aggressive loops? Well, here’s the exception. If you thought Nas’ “Cops Shot the Kid” was annoying, it’s NOTHING compared to this maddening dance track. It should have been called WTF instead. Throw the whole song away.
But one misfire doesn’t make for a bad album. I’m willing to bet that KSTE will be the most listened-to album of Teyana’s career so far. And while it’s a good introduction for newer fans, the album falls short of her overlooked debut album, VII. I wish she would have kept THAT same energy.
Best tracks: “Gonna Love Me,” “Hurry,” “Never Would Have Made It”
3.5 stars out of 5