Teairra Mari Off To 'Good' Start

Excerpted from the magazine for Billboard.com.

"This is just the beginning."

Singer Teairra Mari closes the liner-note thank-you list on her Def Jam Recordings debut, "Roc-a-Fella Records Presents Teairra Mari" (released Aug. 2) with this familiar refrain. But given how quickly her first single, "Make Her Feel Good," has come out of the gate, it is easy to believe the 17-year-old will indeed make good on that promise.

It is a vow that has been in the making since she was 12. That is when the Detroit native (born Teairra Maria Thomas) declared to her mother, "I know I can do what Brandy, Monica and Aaliyah do."

Influenced by Motown and the late Aaliyah -— a fellow Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts alumna -— Teairra Mari comes by her talent naturally: Her grandmother sang backup for Aretha Franklin.

Following her declaration, Teairra Mari began splitting her time between singing in church and recording demos in her cousin's basement. She even scored a local hit with an early song, "You Thought."

Four years later a new demo found its way to Atlanta producers Daryl Simmons and Anthony "T.A." Tate, and Tate signed Teairra Mari to his production company, Music Line Entertainment. Soon after, the singer found herself auditioning for Island Def Jam Music Group chairman Antonio "L.A." Reid.

"She immediately captured the room," IDJMG VP of A&R Shakir Stewart recalls. "Her style and attitude were like no other seen in a while. She's a natural."

Signed to Def Jam in July 2004, Teairra Mari was later added to president/CEO Jay-Z's Roc-a-Fella roster. Crowned by Jay-Z as the label's "Princess of the Roc," the artist has also been described by songwriter/producer Sean Garrett as an "urban Avril Lavigne. [She] talks about life as it is."

Teairra Mari says her sound is "sleek, sassy and edgy. I don't want to do anything that doesn't sound like me."

That pronouncement was the guideline Reid, Carter and Stewart followed as they determined who should collaborate with the young singer. In addition to Garrett, the lineup included Kwame, Rodney Jerkins, Bryan-Michael Cox, Allstar, Cool & Dre and the Trackboyz.

The result? Songs that resonate as pages from the life of a young black female in urban America or what Teairra Mari terms "a girl's dictionary." "Make Her Feel Good" (already No. 10 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart) confidently explains what a female wants emotionally from a male suitor.

Other songs reflect more personal issues. For example, second single "No Daddy" (co-written by the singer) addresses the artist growing up without a father. But rather than taking a sad tone, a defiant Teairra Mari sings over a club track.

Teairra Mari -- who, along with other Roc-a-Fella artists, is featured in the fall 2005 campaign for Jay-Z's Roc-a-Wear fashion line -- is performing on Teen People magazine's mall tour, which started in early July in Minneapolis.

Excerpted and expanded from the Aug. 6, 2005, issue of Billboard. The full original text is available to Billboard.com subscribers.

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