Some would rightfully argue that the best things come out of this bustling city. American muscle cars, trucks and SUVs were bred and born in Detroit. In the hip-hop world, Eminem, represents the Motor City and its 8 Mile to the fullest. Teairra Mari, the newest kid on the R&B scene, pays homage to the cold, sometimes rough and gritty, always raw streets of Michigan. And, just like her Dodge Magnum R/T, she’s 100 percent Detroiter.
“I’m into cars, but more so what’s on the inside rather than what kind of car it is,” she explained to DUB. “Things like wood grain, TVs, stuff like that ... I think I want a small car next, like a Porsche, but then again I drove a truck the other day—an Escalade, I think—and I really liked it a lot. I might get that! But the interior is still the first thing I would do—TVs, CDs, wood grain, the whole nine.”
It’s an early Tuesday morning and instead of hitting the books in class during her final year of high school, 18-year-old Teairra arrives bright and early, donned in a baby pink denim ensemble at Skribble’s Auto Spa in Queens. It’s another photo shoot, another day with the press, and another day to share her story of persistence, rise to stardom and crowning as the Princess of the R-O-C—and yes, that would be Jay-Z’s Roc-A-Fella Records. Effectively creating the female doctrine for dating with her hit “Make Her Feel Good” in early 2005, this petite diva-in-the-making established her foothold in the game and more importantly with herself.
“I’ve been singing since I could remember,” she explained in her soft and mellow tone. “I started recording when I was 12 years old. At first, I was just recording to play for people and to just do it. But as time went on, I put together my stuff and the production company I was working with—K.I.S.S. productions—wanted to shop and get a deal. My first trip was in 2003, when we went to L.A. for seven days, met with like every major label, and people were like ‘Oh yeah, we’re definitely interested,’ and my hopes would get built up, then I would come home and never hear from them.
“I decided to focus on school then, and go to college, when I got a call from this woman who I met with literally a year ago and she was like, ‘This guy in Atlanta, Daryl Simmons, wants to meet you.’ So I went out to Atlanta and met with him. He wanted to sign me to his production company, so I did that. They took the demo out to ‘L.A.’ Reid (Island Def Jam Group chairman). He liked it a lot; I met him and performed for him, and he signed me in ’04.”
Jay-Z took the songstress under his wing and she moved directly under the ROC. In 2005, she released her debut album, Roc-A-Fella Records Presents Teairra Mari. Crediting her grandmother—who sang back up for the Queen of soul, Aretha Franklin—with her early interest and talent in music, Teairra spent her childhood days perfecting her vocals and tweaking her instrumental skills by playing the violin in school and participating in piano lessons. Though her mother was involved in her life, the mild-mannered Teairra praises her musically inclined grandmother for raising her in the automobile capital of the country.