Teyana Taylor & Iman Shumpert Dish Out Cuffing Season Advice & Their Romantic Playlist

Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert.
Courtesy Photo

Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert in in the new Footaction video, “Cuffing Confessions.” 

Despite meeting each other several years ago at a celebrity basketball game during LudaDay Weekend, the annual charity event hosted by rapper/actor Ludacris, singer Teyana Taylor and now-husband Iman Shumpert (of the Cleveland Cavaliers) did not become an item until three years ago. 

While their love story sounds more like a cuffing-season dream (she helped nurse him back to recovery after a serious basketball injury, with the couple eventually getting engaged and having a baby girl named Iman Tayla "Junie" Shumpert), the pair's chemistry in real-life cements that they are best friends, first and foremost.

For Footaction's latest FreeFlow "Cuffing Confessionals" series, Taylor and Shumpert offered major keys for navigating the dating scene (even helping a few bachelors get their style game right) and also chatted with Billboard about the staples in their romantic playlist and whether they'd ponder a second musical collaboration below. 

How did you both meet?

Teyana Taylor: This story is so long. Us telling people how we met turns into... You remember that episode of Martin when him and Gina were trying to tell the story of how they met, and then everybody had their own version? 
Iman Shumpert: LuDaDay weekend. Luda will forever be my man for having this weekend that introduced me to my wife inadvertently. The whole game, I was thinking, "Who is this girl that's going out her way to guard Justin Bieber?" Because the whole crowd screaming for him. That's competitive. That's how I am, but I didn't want to ruin the game for everybody and be, like, all up on Justin Bieber. I [was] on Bieber's team at the moment, so to see her do that, I was just excited, like "Who is this girl that ain't worried about being cute?" All the other girls trying to be cute out here. She's dead serious sweating with all this hair trying to keep it out of her face. Afterwards, everybody signing autographs and stuff, and Teyana's leaving. I try to say my piece but she's squinting and then her friends grab her, they leave. I saw her that night. Tried to get with her, she declined.

Throughout the year, every time I saw her, I would say something. One day, she needed me to play on her basketball team on Dyckman in Harlem. I couldn't play because I had gotten surgery. She figured this out by popping up on me at my place in Harlem. She popped up on me one day day, found out I was hopping on one leg and trying to take care of myself. Changed her whole schedule to take care of me, just on some cool stuff. We just started hanging out like best buds for three weeks straight.
Taylor: He was all injured up and banged up.
Shumpert: And wasn't nobody taking care of me. My brother had to go home and make sure my nephew was straight so while I was in New York, I literally hopped to the door on one leg. And she was like, "What are you doing?"
Taylor: We did know each other for a couple years. I had turned him down a couple of times. 
While dating, was there any thing either of you were hesitant about doing in front of each other, or was there a certain mistake that you guys laugh about now?

Taylor: No, I think that's why we liked each other so much, because we were already friends. So it was like at that point, we had talked about so much, did so much, played around so much, it was like really nothing we hadn't really done. The moment he met me, he was brushing his teeth and was on the toilet, gave no care in the world.
Shumpert: It's chill. Everything was funny. We laughed at everything. 
Taylor: It was almost like [the movie] Step Brothers at first. 
Shumpert: It really was weird like that. It was like being two good friends to where I had those moments like, "Dang, we good friends. She super-cool, but damn ,I'm kind of mad I put myself in this friend zone." Even though I really wasn't tripping, because she's super-cool. The moment I started telling her about different girls and she would tell me about other dudes, I started feeling like, "Dang, another girl best bud."

For the people who may not be as lucky to have a relationship like yours, what are some tips you would give them?
Taylor: Build your friendship. You gotta have that friendship because if you don't, even if things may seem perfect in the beginning, times like this when you are married and you have a kid, you have to still be able to have that spunk, that sass, that fun, and that friendship. Because yeah, jumping into something so quickly can very much turn sour very very fast. And I think now being together for three years and being married, it's still that honeymoon [phase]. It's still that love. It's still that sparkle and I think that's what other people lack -- not really learning one another.

We both have that energy where we going to give you all of us up front. So by the time we became lovers, we had already gave each other everything upfront. It wasn't nothing we had to catch on or learn as we went or "he was like this in the beginning then he started changing." It was like he gave me all of him upfront, and I gave him all of me upfront, even just as friends.

Shumpert: I say don't hold back. Like the whole being cool thing, it's out the window. I think she taught me something — just don't punish yourself, or the other person, with what you went through back then. I think that's what we do a lot. Sometimes you give a person everything. You give them all of you. You give them everything you got, and they just don't want it, or that ain't your match. So now the next person, maybe that's really something special, but you not even acting like yourself. 
Taylor: That's so perfect. That's crazy you say that, because I say that at all my concerts. We both came out of crazy relationships. 
Shumpert: But you can't not be yourself. You will seriously not be yourself, because you so nervous about what happened back then.
Taylor: You got to be able to love again. You got to give everybody a fair chance. Everybody deserves a fair chance. I'm talking about building that wall, coming out of a relationship and feeling like, well, I'm going to hold back. You turn into your ex. When you find a person that's worth letting your wall down [for], and you feel it in your stomach, just don't fight it. Just let it happen. 
Shumpert: Don't listen to the homies. The homies are going to do what you do after they see you with her.
Taylor: Don't take advice from single people. No shade to everybody in here that's single, but I say that from one point, being the single girl that just knew it all. In the long run, I had to learn. I had to be able to give that chance. 
In order to get in the romantic mood, what are some songs that you two put on?
Shumpert: Anything Donell Jones.
Taylor: Donnell Jones, Justin Bieber, and my VII album. That's what we love the most. That's the solid list.
Shumpert: If we about to let an album run...
Taylor: It's going to be those three. And FKA Twigs.
Shumpert: And we're going to splash Solange in there. [Sings "Cranes In The Sky"]
Taylor: That's a new entry for us. We love that. But out the years, those three albums -- Donell Jones, Where I Wanna Be; Justin Bieber, Journals, and my album VII and now A Seat at the Table.

Is there any chance the both of you are ever going to do an official song together? [Editor's Note: The couple collaborated on Shumpert's 2015 record "Promised"]

Taylor: We have a song, but we don't really...

Shumpert: Honestly, it's hard to do something like that where it's a serious production, unless at some point I break through to where I'm really doing shows and really making money off of [rapping]. Because it's like at the same time, even though I enjoy doing it, and I have a platform to put music out for people to hear it...

Taylor: He still has a whole [basketball] career.

Shumpert: [Looks at Teyana Taylor] It's more [out of] respect to you.

Taylor: It is hard, because we could have a record together and then can't ever find time to do the video to it because [it could be] practice or a basketball game, or I'm away.

Shumpert: That could be worked out. I moreso just don't want to disrespect that she's an artist. She spent seven years just working to put her music out, have her fanbase set. And it's like me using a basketball platform, they going to click on it just because I'm a basketball player. It's sort of a disrespect to her craft. 

I was glad we did the song we did, and I'm always happy to make music. I love to make music. We have multiple songs, but it's like something [that needs] to be taken serious. Until I could turn a corner to where it's like people are like, "Yo, I really want an album from him," then it's like, we can do something more serious.

But other than that, man, I think a lot of times... I'm coming in there and she just needs a verse until somebody puts another verse on there. I do that a lot, too, but she's like, "I need a rapper right here" and I'll put something there. She don't use it but I just put something in there until the other rapper put his in there. It's just for the creative vibes.

Iman, how were you able to do the Mannequin Challenge with First Lady Michelle Obama?

Shumpert: I mean it was a team thing [for the Cleveland Cavaliers]. We wanted to include Big O, include [Barack] Obama in it, but because Trump was making his transition into the White House...

Taylor: It was stressing everybody the hell out.

Shumpert: Yeah, I think a lot of our time in the White House was kind of tweaked out.

Taylor: Because somebody with a toupee was running around the whole damn White House.

Shumpert: Yeah, that kind of threw a monkey wrench in what we had going on. But Michelle is super dope. Reminded me a lot of me. I ain't no Obama, but just to know that when you leave the house, you got a woman that's just holding it down. Michelle had us super-entertained. We was having fun. We was laughing and joking. We kind of forgot that Obama had all this stuff to do because we was kicking it with Michelle so it was kind of cool.