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Indie Soul Icon Teedra Moses Sits Down With Ayana Contreras

Written by on March 31, 2023

Before her performance at Chop Shop in Chicago on March 26, indie soul legend Teedra Moses stopped by the Vocalo studios for a conversation with Ayana Contreras, and discussed her new project in the works.

It’s early 2004. Soul Train is on TV — back when they would air it on the weekends — while Ayana Contreras is tidying up at home. Windex in hand, she watches as an artist she had never heard of before steps into frame. The artist was wearing a gray leather jacket, perfect, vintage; a picture still clear in her mind 19 years later (though she can’t find any footage of the segment on the internet). The performance started, and she remembers thinking, “Who is this girl?”

Teedra Moses remembers that jacket. As an indie artist without a big label budget, she had to wear it for her album’s packaging, and wore it again on Soul Train that day. This was prior to the August 2004 release of her debut Complex Simplicity, the album that put her on the map for R&B and soul heads of the time — and to this day.

For Complex Simplicity, Moses teamed up with producer Poli Paul and signed with indie record label TVT Records. The album’s 14 songs sound cohesive — unlike a collection of independent singles, as was popular at the time — but Moses notes she went into the process without a central vision in mind, just a couple of influences including Aaliyah’s “Rock The Boat” and Angela Winbush of ‘80s duo René & Angela.

Looking back, Moses feels she was channeling nostalgia for childhood at a time of so much change; she had just moved from New Orleans to LA, and her mother had recently passed away.

“It was all very different,” she said. “I think I was subconsciously… pulling at the times when it was more normal, and things weren’t as out-of-whack as they had gotten.”

As a child, Teedra Moses had no aspirations of being a singer — but her mother had a different idea. Although she never professionally recorded music, Teedra’s mother Shirley Moses was a gospel singer her whole life, traveling to sing at churches across the U.S. South with Teedra’s grandfather, a pastor. Seeing her daughter sing around the house, Shirley would subtly hint at making music without saying it outright.

“She would always tell me, ‘You know, Teedra, make sure you don’t get cavities. So when you’re on TV and you open your mouth, it don’t be black all in your mouth when you’re singing,’” Teedra said.

Indie soul icon Teedra Moses sits across from Ayana Contreras in the studio on March 26. Morgan Ciocca / Vocalo Radio

Her mother’s passing in October of 2000 pushed Teedra Moses on the journey to pursue music seriously, and she began work on Complex Simplicity the next month. She credits her mother with the start of her musical career, and dedicated to her the album’s final track: “I Think Of You (Shirley’s Song).” It opens with a recording of her mother singing gospel standard “This Old Soul Of Mine,” and on the album’s 15th anniversary edition, incorporates vocals from Moses’ two sons (also independent artists) Ras and Taj Austin.

“I believe in the power of others in other realms, and my mother had so much to do with me becoming a singer, my grind and everything, because I think she was pulling strings,” she said. “I used to always think she was telling God, like, ‘Do this for my daughter, make her do that.’ That’s how I felt. I felt like she did.”

After the release of the album, the independent label she was signed to shut down, and she went completely indie. For a decade after Complex Simplicity, she was known primarily as a mixtape artist, selling CDs out of boxes of unmastered recordings that she calls “raw” and “raggedy.” Despite a lack of polish, the cuts (distributed online via blogs and on platforms like SoundCloud) built and enhanced her cult following while showcasing her breathtaking talent. 

Sometimes cased in thin plastic sleeves rather than jewel cases, Moses recalls fans often had a negative reaction to her hand-to-hand music distribution.

“People were like, ‘This is not the album!’ Like, ‘Baby, it’s a mixtape,’” Moses remembered. “We were hustlin’ like rappers.”

Though Moses has released an additional album, 2015’s Cognac and Conversation, and numerous mixtapes since, Complex Simplicity remains the most iconic of her discography — brought again to popularity among younger generations with DJ and producer KAYTRANADA’s 2018 remix of “Be Your Girl.”

Nearly 19 years following her debut album’s release, Moses stopped in Chicago for a performance at Wicker Park venue Chop Shop on March 26, gearing up for the release of her new album The Bullshit. That afternoon, she took a seat in the studio with Ayana Contreras, host of Reclaimed Soul on Vocalo Radio and a fan of Moses’ music to this day. 

Teedra Moses and Ayana Contreras talk fashion, her journey of making music on her own terms, the industry’s continued evolution and her advice to the latest crop of independent artists.

“My father raised me to understand that… if you’re working for someone, they pay you what they want you to have. If you’re working for yourself, you get what you are worth, because you choose what you’re worth.”

– Teedra Moses

Ayana Contreras: I am over the moon, as I like to say, to be here with the one, the only Teedra Moses. Welcome! Welcome to Vocalo.

Teedra Moses: Thank you! Thank you so much for having me.

AC: So the way that I tell this story is, I’ve been rocking with your music for a very long time. I remember very clearly, I was cleaning the house and Soul Train came on. And that was when it was on on the weekend, and so during the day, you sweeping, got the Windex going, and this girl is on Soul Train. And I remember you wearing, this is very specific, like a gray leather jacket… It look kind of vintagey, it was really cute. I remember you, and I remember, as soon as the record dropped, I was like, “Who is this girl?” I had no idea. And I was programming an urban radio station, like a college radio station at the time. And I was telling everybody, “You gotta hear this girl, Teedra Moses. She’s got blah, blah, blah.” And then when that album dropped, when Complex Simplicity came out in ’04, everybody I knew who was a head was about that record. 

TM: Wow. 

AC: It was amazing. 

TM: Wow. You know, the funny thing to me is you would notice the clothing, because you’re clearly a fashionista. 

AC: Yeah, I remember it very clearly. And then I went online to say, “Was that right? Was that what it was?” And I couldn’t find it. 

TM: It was! It was definitely… because I had to utilize that in the album packaging. And I wore it again on… That’s why I know, specifically, it was definitely that jacket. 

AC: I also know that you had had a past… being a stylist for a minute. So like, today you dress fly just coming from the airport. 

TM: I’m in overalls!

AC: It’s adorable! But it’s the fur, though. Fur makes it fabulous.

TM: Yeah. Well, fur makes everything fabulous. Please don’t kill me, PETA. But yeah, it does. And the thing is, I was never a key wardrobe stylist. I worked for my best friend, Nonja McKenzie, who’s a stylist and costume designer. And this was just, we were all young. And she just grabbed everybody around her like, “Come on, let’s get it.” And we created, she created this group of us that just kind of were killing it in the early 2000s. But it wasn’t my thing. Fashion still isn’t my thing, to this day.

“Fur makes everything fabulous. Please don’t kill me PETA,” Teedra Moses (left) jokes, in conversation with Ayana Contreras (right) for Vocalo. Morgan Ciocca / Vocalo Radio

AC: Yeah. But you always put together… 

TM: I have best friends that love fashion. And they will not let me not get it together. Pretty much everything I wear is this group of clothing that my friends have, my fashion friends have given me and say, “What do you want?” And I purchase, and they send the rest back… Unless I’m running them all myself, but I’m not a big fashionista, believe it or not. I love the art of it. I love the art of all things. But, I’m not pressed. 

AC: I get it. I get it 

TM: I think you are. So I wouldn’t sit here and play myself and act like I am, when I’m sitting in front of somebody that clearly is. 

AC:  Yeah, it’s one of those things. It’s one of those side passions that I have. But I’m really into music, obviously. And, speaking of music, back to this record… I mean, obviously, you’ve had a long career since Complex Simplicity. It’s going on almost 20 years since that record came out. It’s real close!

TM: Almost. Very close.

AC: Very close. Crazy

TM: Somewhere around 16, 17 years, something like that?

AC: It’s ’04, so that would have been almost 19? 

TM: Yeah, yeah. 

AC: Yikes! 

TM: Yeah, yikes. 

AC: I know. Super yikes. That record, I wanted to ask you about it. What I loved about it was, it really felt like it was a collective… it didn’t feel like a collection of singles, as a lot of the music at that time sounded like. It sounded like you and Poli [Paul] put together a consistent sound. Was that intentional, or was it just the vibe, or what was that?

TM: I have to say this. The truest part of me was a mixtape girl, at that time. So when I went to Poli, I wanted to single the old Nas beats and stuff like that. And the first record he gave me was a record called “Caught Up.” That’s the first track he gave me, it’s on the album. It was the first song I ever wrote completely and recorded completely. And that was the beginning of that sound. I can’t say that I had that sound in mind.

Well, I can say this; I can say that Aaliyah’s “Rock The Boat” was pretty much the record that I felt like I wanted to make the album sound like it came… if that record was to be an album. It had to feel like that. But I didn’t have that all in mind, it wasn’t like we went in with this thought. It kind of just… morphed into that. And somewhere around that time, “Rock The Boat” came out, it was my favorite record of the times. So that’s kind of how we got there.

AC: And it does have that kind of two-step kind of feel. It also feels a lot more like, sort of, the kind of ’80s music you would hear at a skating rink, like René & Angela, that type of stuff. SOS fan, it kind of gives you that vibe, too. A lot of the records. 

TM: You have to understand that René & Angela — no, no, Angela. Angela, because she was cold and people don’t give her what she deserves. She wrote all of that, produced all of that. She was someone that I really loved growing up, Chaka Khan. All those ladies that kind of sing their voice, with their voice, they threw their voices. Women who kinda, even though they had these powerful voices and they could sing, you could sing along, still, from the melody choices. So that was a big influence on the record. And I think, because where I was in life at that time, I was nostalgic for when I was a kid, and that’s what came out of me.

My mother had just died, and I think I kind of wanted to feel comfort… When I had moved from New Orleans to LA, it was all very different. And life had changed so drastically. I think I was subconsciously, kind of, pulling at the times when it was more normal. And things weren’t as out-of-whack as they had gotten.

AC: Yeah, no, I hear that. I mean, even that last track… I was thinking about where that song sounds familiar. So you got the “I Think Of You.” But also, there’s the beginning part where it’s “This Old Soul of Mine.” Which is just that traditional gospel recording. 

TM: Yeah. And that’s my mom singing.

AC: Oh, my God, that’s so amazing

TM: That’s my mom singing, and if she was alive, she would have killed me for putting that record out. Because she didn’t think she sounds good on that record. 

AC: Oh, she sounds amazing on that record. 

TM: She sounds amazing. She did. And then I come in midway, and I start singing. And I think a lot of people don’t understand that, what’s going on. I think they think it’s the same person singing. But I come in, I had an organist come into the studio and kind of just put a track on where people would still kind of say, “Amen!”

And we kind of kept it moving that way. And on the 15-year anniversary album, my sons join. So it’s three generations on that one record.

AC: That’s beautiful. Did she ever record anything professionally?

TM: No, my mother was one of those people that, she was a singer that, she kind of was attached to a preacher. Her dad, which was really her adopted dad, was a preacher. And I think that was kind of the lure to her being adopted, because she was a young girl that could sing and was pretty. And they had a Chitlin’ Circuit of revivals in the South, back in the day.

And so she would accompany Pastor Neil. And all of them preachers, they would have an accompanying soloists. And so my mother was that person that would accompany my grandfather, and he was pretty big on that circuit.

AC: So I have a question for you. I’m thinking, I grew up in the church, and I remember they would have the traveling vocalists and evangelists and the people and there was a whole circuit going on. When you went independent–we might be fast-forwarding a little bit here–but, when you went independent, there wasn’t really a lot of contemporary R&B artists who created a circuit in the way that you did. But it does kind of follow that same concept. Was that ever in the back of your mind?

TM: No, you just put it on my mind! I never did. I never thought about it like that. My mother was a huge influence in me making music. Before I knew I would make music, I wanted to be like a lawyer, doctor, I wanted to be a businesswoman. You know what I mean? I want to have a department store, something like that. Big businesswoman, right? I didn’t really think about it in a sense of me being an artist, but she would always tell me, “You know, Teedra, make sure you don’t get cavities. So when you’re on TV and you open your mouth it don’t be black all in your mouth when you’re singing. Teedra, you should do this song off a new album.”

I had never talked to my mother about singing or anything like that. But I would sing all the time in the house and stuff like that, you know, just a kid singing. And now that I think about it, I really feel like… My mother died October of 2000. So by November, I was starting to work on that album. 

This was not [in my] thoughts before my mom. I wanted to do it… so I feel like when you say, “Did I think consciously of this, modeling my career, or starting my career after the gospel Chitlin’ Circuit…?” I didn’t, but I believe in the power of others in other realms, and my mother had so much to do with me becoming a singer, my grind and everything, because I think she was pulling strings. I used to always think she was telling God, like, “Do this for my daughter, make her do that.” That’s how I felt. I felt like she did.

So that probably was her otherworldly influence on me, that pushed me in that direction, because it literally was just survival. The way we went was just survival. I just didn’t have the patience to wait for a label to do this… or a booking agent. Back then it was so stush. I was a stepchild, I was like a foster kid out here. You know what I mean? So I think that was more like my mother’s otherworldly experience.

Teedra Moses embodies the spirit of indie soul, having been an independent artist her entire career. Now, her two sons Ras and Taj Austin continue the legacy as independent artists themselves in group Coast Contra. Morgan Ciocca / Vocalo Radio

AC: I’m glad you brought that up. Because I’ve interviewed a lot of folks, a lot of my hero people from that era, and a lot of them tell the same story, that it was like — especially Black artists, especially Black artists that weren’t doing super, super mainstream, cookie-cutter music. The major labels were contracting and getting rid of Black music divisions… And then, I mean, TVT was its own situation. There was just a lot going on. And so a lot of artists, they just kind of disappeared off the scene, but you kept on doing it.

TM: You know what, I prayed very hard when I was first getting the label. And I prayed so hard to for God to put me in the right place, right? God is tricky like that, because I prayed for him to put me in the right place. I didn’t ask specifically for this label, or this label to give me this. I just said, “God put me in the right place.” And God put me at TVT. And I didn’t quite make it through college, I got pregnant first semester. I was out by second semester, something like that. And TVT was college for me, because, where I was coming from, being a wardrobe stylist with major-label artists, and they’re getting these 50, $20,000 budgets for one photoshoot, they gave me five thousand. Work with it, figure out what you can do.

And it just really set the precedence for me understanding, I have to take care of myself. I have to create, between me and my sister, we’re a team. And we just literally, to this day, we just take everything on. Everything on. Down to everything. And I learned that from being at TVT. Some of my friends, just like college, some of my best friends, to this day from that era of my life, because that was my time to learn. And really, God put me in the right place. because little did we know, the business was changing. 

AC: That’s right. 

TM: And the business has come back around to where I have more understanding of how this works than people that were on major labels, I have friends that will be off these major labels calling me saying, “Girl, how do you… how do we maneuver? How do you do this?” Because they’re so used to this huge team of people. You have to understand, there was no real underground and independence when I came out. It was major labels, and they chose what they want, and all these media outlets were for major labels only, and all this stuff. But we had these blogs boom. We had social media boom, we had chat rooms, we had all these things that a major label wasn’t gonna, I mean, a major artist wasn’t gonna sit down and do that. I did it all day. I would sit and talk to people all day, send them individually my music on email. So I think that just, it kind of… going to TVT put me in a position to know how to sustain, to get to still be able to do it now.

AC: I also think about how you were one of the early R&B SoundCloud artists, because a lot of… I mean, you hear about the term SoundCloud rap now. But I remember a lot of those mixtapes, that was how I was staying in tune with you.

TM:  Yeah. And it wasn’t even me putting it on SoundCloud, because I’m not gonna say I was that savvy. Most everything in social media, up until later stuff, was started by some fan. And then they would be like, “Yo, Teedra, I did this, and blah, blah, blah.” I didn’t know about these things.  It literally was this thing where we had “Team Teedra” across the world, and it’d be like these pockets, Atlanta, London, Paris, all these different places where these young people were just doing all this stuff for me. And that is the power of good music. I did not have a team, I did not have a staff, and they would put me into those places. 

But that came from me starting out in that chat room and building relationships, constantly talking to people. But I didn’t know anything about… I looked up one day, and I had a Twitter. I looked up one day, and I had a SoundCloud, I swear that’s how it happened. I don’t want to act like I’m some brilliant genius about this, but it was my genuine… God knew I didn’t know what I was doing. And people’s genuine love for what I was doing, and my genuine love for what I was doing that got people to put me on like that. Yeah, these records… there’s records to this day that people will play for me. And I’ve totally forgotten, like, “Yeah, I remember this was on SoundCloud.”

Ayana Contreras, a longtime fan of Teedra Moses and an expert vinyl collector, drew from her personal library to bring several records by or featuring her into the studio. Morgan Ciocca / Vocalo Radio

AC: That’s the thing I’m thinking a lot about. I know that you don’t have a lot of physical copies of your stuff, outside of, I guess, CDs. So a lot of that mixtape stuff was only on the internet. And if somebody…

TM: I mean, we sold them at the shows, we used to press them up. People would be mad, because it’d be in this little slipcover thing, where this stuff is just printed on the CD. People were like, “This is not the album!” Like, “Baby, it’s a mixtape.” We were hustlin’ like rappers, we will be traveling with… you know, this is pre digital. Because we came in right before digital, everything went digital. And we would be traveling around with these CDs in boxes and T-shirts. And, you know, like rappers. So, people will send me pictures of how they still have their CDs and all these things, but then I think it transferred into digital, people putting it up on, like I said, to SoundCloud, and their own personal… and the blogs, and then YouTube.

AC: So the question, though, is: Is any of this stuff ever gonna get re-released that isn’t out? Because some of the mixtapes, I know, I haven’t been able to find the whole thing.

TM: You know what I would really love to go in. And the thing with, the reason why we would always call them mixtapes, because they were not mixed and mastered. And they were raggedy… You know, these records are raggedy and my pitch is all off because they’re raw, and they’re good records and they’re well-written. And I would love to go in, because I pretty much have most of that stuff. I would love to go in and clean some of them up. Now, that would have to be the records that I wrote from scratch, because I was like Ice Cube jacking their beats in the ’90s, you know what I mean? So I couldn’t use those people’s stuff, that was their stuff, their tracks. But other than that, though, my original ones, I would love to do that.

AC: I enjoy “Winter 96,” that one was a big favorite of mine for a long time. There’s a long list of those songs that are so good, and it’s just like, I would love for those to have that…

TM: Well, at least I finally put “Winter 96” in the setlist. 

AC: Yeah.

TM: Just this year. I’ve never played that record live until this year.

AC: It’s my record. So now I have to come see you [again]. 

TM: You gotta come, girl! 

AC: Now I gotta come through! Now I gotta come through.

A lot of younger folks are probably most familiar with you because KAYTRANADA did the remix, a recent remix, of “Be Your Girl.” 

TM: Yes. 

AC: Which like, went gangbusters on the old Spotify. Was it on the Tikity Tok? Was it on TikTok? Probably, I don’t know. 

AC: It be TikTokin’!

AC: But I mean, it just blew up. And the song “Culture,” which I love. We play that on station. It’s a beautiful record. So do you have a relationship with KAYTRANADA at all?

TM: It’s very music, like, that’s my baby, I love him dearly. I’ve loved KAYTRANADA forever. I love beyond just what we’ve done together, I love what he does, period. Definitely in my top five DJs of the time. And so we realized, I think, what it is, we’re not like besties that talk every day. You know, if something happens for him, I hit him like, “Oh, congratulations!” You know, like, simple stuff. But I think we realized that we have chemistry. And this is gonna sound weird, but making music creatively, to me, coming together, it’s like sex. Just because this person is good at sex with this person, this person’s good, doesn’t mean they’re going to come together and have good sex together, and me and KAYTRANADA pretty much get it on pretty good. You know what I mean?

And I found that with certain producers like KAYTRANADA, Trackademicks from Oakland… me and Poli, me and Raphael Saadiq. I found these chemistries that I can’t just go to the biggest producer and you think you’re gonna get a great, “Oh, he’s a hitmaker.” Nah. It just has to be a common… a genuine connection, and I think KAYTRANADA and I have that, and we will always probably continue to come together and do stuff, because we have that. But speaking of “Culture,” that was written by myself and my two sons, Ras and Taj Austin, they’re in a group called Coast Contra. And so, that record is very special to me, because that’s the first time we really got together in the studio and kind of mixed it up together like that. And it also was on an album, [BUBBA,] it won a Grammy, so I feel really good about that record.

AC: Yeah, it’s a great record. It really is. You know the record! She’s nodding. Let’s see, I want to make sure… I usually don’t take notes, but I want to make sure I cover everything. Oh, one quote, kind of just touching a little bit more on the streaming part and the indie R&B, before that was a thing in the contemporary scene, which you talked about. One of the quotes I’ve heard you say, was that, the sort of implosion of these record labels and all that, the result of that was that it brought the music to the people.

TM: I would not have a career if it wasn’t for Pandora. Pandora set it off. I was not on radio like that. Even though my label spent money to take me to all these radio stations, they were played maybe a couple of times, and then throw me aside because I had a green jacket. Like you see. I was indie, you know. I think that, as much as they cheat us out of our money in the streaming system, I have to give a lot of credit to me being able to still be here because people were able to choose me. I wasn’t plastered in front of everyone. Between word of mouth and then people streaming and finding me in the algorithm… We started out Pandora and whoever, I don’t recall who was all around, but I know Pandora was around when I started.

They literally would kind of lean towards the indie artists or… the kind of, the hidden gems, they would lean towards that. So they would slide me into algorithms with Erykah Badu, and Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige, they would slide me into those algorithms. So I think it’s a blessing and a curse, because they rob us blind, especially if you’re an indie artist like me. They make deals with these bigger labels. And these bigger labels make all this money from it, but the artists still get messed over. For me, I have my own label, but I can’t make the same deals that Columbia and Sony can make. So yeah, it’s a double-edged sword, but I definitely think that it had everything to do with me being able to still sit here and talk to you.

AC: So Cognac & Conversation. I mean, that’s a long time in between two real-life albums. But a lot of mixtapes, a lot going on.

AC: So you, from what I read, you linked up with them to just distribute this record because of the work they were doing with Avery Sunshine. Who was also in that independent scene. 

TM: Yeah, I felt like they were doing pretty good with her. At that time, I felt like I needed someone, because it is not easy. It’s gotten easier, but you have to understand the amount of time I have been indie. I only put out one album with TVT, and that was indie, too. It was just, I was signed to an indie label, then I became my own label. So I put out an album in 2004. By 2008, I was the label. And so I was doing it all myself. And then we get to Shanachie, and they were indie as well. And they were through eOne, distributed through eOne. And at the time, eOne had a lot of records coming out. And they, I think they were very surprised at how many people, without promotion, came to get involved with that album because of what they got on the last album, even though it took 10 years. And I just needed help. 

But after that experience, which I thank God for that experience, I realized, “Girl, you don’t need no help. Just keep going…” It’s a new world. It’s a new world. And I just didn’t, I couldn’t do that, even though that was only seven years ago. It was harder to do what I’m able to do now, then. On your own completely. And now I’m just straight through eOne has turned into a monarchy, and now we just go straight through. There’s no middleman, I realized… it’s not, to sell your music off. When I say sell your music, I own my publishing, but to let go of my masters for the little money they give you and the little things they do, it’s according to how hard you want to go and how hard, if you want to… What road you want to take. But financially, I think that… and just legacy. I think it just makes more sense to stick to myself. And Cognac & Conversation is a wonderful album. I love the experience of doing it. I appreciate Shanachie, but we just parted ways after that.

Teedra Moses hopes to release her new record in the works, titled The Bullshit — or, for FCC purposes, The BS — this year. Morgan Ciocca / Vocalo Radio

AC: But you do have a record that’s coming. 

TM: Yes, I do. 

AC: I can’t say it on the radio. How are we gonna — what’s the pronunciation?

TM: You can say The BS.

AC: Oh, that’s right. 

TM: I think people should, I think these… What do you call these people that regulate y’all? 

AC: The FCC? 

TM: FCC should, like, really cut it out. Like, I think that… Honestly, because in other countries this stuff don’t really matter as much. I think that these words are just colorful. How else would you explain it? How else do you say that, without saying that? And that’s exactly what I mean. So it’s like, you know, I don’t really… The BS.

AC: Okay. I just wanted to know, because when it comes out, and we’re announcing it, I want to make sure…

TM: The BS. She keeps telling me that, my partner, she keeps telling me that. My sister, she says, “How do you expect to…?” I’m like, “I don’t know.” But you have to understand, I’m an indie artist. And I know other artists that are indie that no one ever talks about anything, but they’re on the road all year long with people screaming. So like, these things don’t matter in the indie world. They almost help you. Because it’s a little bit something that people talk about, you know? And I didn’t do it for that reason, it’s just there’s no other way to explain the experience I had when I went out to date, after I didn’t date for a long time. There’s no other way to… there’s nothing, there’s no words I can tell you, other than those words, to explain that experience.

AC: Amen. I can relate. 

TM: I see it in your face.

AC: Oh, my Lord. Yes. I just had that flashback. So that one, when is that dropping?

TM: I want to get it out this year. I’ve been just releasing singles for like the past few years, I’ve released… I think I’ve only released two, so far. But I have another one coming. And it’s like, every year, I released a single because I’m particular about putting out music, because you cannot take it back. And I’m sensitive.

AC: You’re an artist, and you’re sensitive about your… 

TM: Yes.

AC: Correct. 

TM: And the thing is, I’m only sensitive about it because I really care. Now, I’m a nonchalant person, I really don’t… I’m a person that works from within, I could care less about what’s going on outside of me. Not that I’m not compassionate to people, I just can’t care about what people are saying. It’s too distracting. But if I don’t do my best, if I don’t listen to it, and feel like, “Ooh, girl you’re the coldest.” Like, if I’m not bucking myself, and I give it to someone, and I put it out in the world and they say, “This is not good,” I’m gonna be hurt. 

But if I’m 100% sure that I love it, there’s nothing anyone could tell me. I would just think they have bad taste if they don’t like it. Whereas if you don’t like it, and I don’t love it, then you’re probably right and I’m gonna feel bad about myself. So I have to work very hard to make sure I don’t care what nobody thinks, to protect myself.

Ayana Contreras (left) and Teedra Moses (right) outside the Vocalo studios on March 26, with a copy of hit single “Be Your Girl” on vinyl. Morgan Ciocca / Vocalo Radio

AC: So you have so much wisdom from being in this for a long time. And I know a lot of people who listen to Vocalo are creatives and musicians and are in this thing independent, a lot of folks who have come through, like Chance The Rapper came through. A lot of folks who are doing independent things. What’s something that you wish someone had told young Teedra about that life?

TM: It’s gonna be hard. It’s gonna be really, really hard. But there’s probably nothing but parenting that’s more rewarding than owning yourself. This is the most disgusting business you can be in. They rape you blind. And I can honestly say they have never, ever, ever raped me. Ever. I didn’t get paid one time for a show — in Chicago, girl! If I see you out here, I’m gonna see you, for real. But at one time a checked cashed on me, I’ve never been raped for my money. Me and my sister are two five-foot-two women. And I weigh more than I did then, but we’re lightweight women. But we have, my father raised me to understand that… if you’re working for someone, they pay you what they want you to have. If you’re working for yourself, you get what you are worth, because you choose what you’re worth.

So I would like for any artist that is out here feeling like, “Oh, they don’t fit the mainstream, this, that…” First of all, it’s a new world. Secondly, it’s going to be very, very hard. There are a lot of sacrifices. But I didn’t do that bad, because my sons are indie artists, too, and choosing to be indie artists because legacy is everything. Owning yourself is everything. And you do work hard in the beginning, but towards the end you work less hard because you own it. And once you start making money off it, I call it my welfare checks. They come every three months. And so you have to believe in yourself and you have to thug it through the hard times. But in the end, it is extremely rewarding. Hold to it.

Interview and audio production by Ayana Contreras

Introduction written by Morgan Ciocca and Ayana Contreras

Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

Photography by Morgan Ciocca

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