Review: Teyana Taylor - 'K.T.S.E.'

Teyana Taylor’s K.T.S.E. (Keep That Same Energy) is a sensual, intimate album that resonates on the same real, down-to-earth frequency with which it entertains. Taylor’s voice soars, coos, raps, and interweaves with a varied background of sounds and rhythms on each track--from the lush lo-fi soundscape of “Gonna Love Me” to the ballroom scene beats and Mykki Blanco’s remixed vocals that power closing track “WTP,” you’ll find yourself asking for more, and for good reason: there are only eight damn tracks on the album!

About that--Taylor announced the cancellation of an updated version of K.T.S.E. on July 2nd, citing “a lot of clearance issues” on Twitter. SPIN reports that specific samples that were unable to be cleared affected a number of the songs on K.T.S.E., including “We Got Love,” which was premiered at the album’s listening party.

However, with what we’ve got, this album definitely does maintain a consistent, headstrong energy throughout its eight tracks--it speaks of a woman who holds her head high and now knows her worth, but did not accomplish her share without learning more than a few hard lessons along the way.

The album opens with the grandiose, orchestral “No Manners,” which finds Taylor reflecting on her love for husband Iman Shupert, but she won’t be a docile goody-two shoes of a wife, either: “I gotta man, but ain’t got no manners” is a hook for all the boss bitches who aren’t going to stop simply because they found someone who can keep up.

But, sometimes, having someone who can keep up doesn’t mean that it always stays that way: “sometimes we say things that we really don't mean/ We do things in between the lines/ We should do more than stand out/ I'm sorry if I made you feel less than who you are/ A little insecure, oh, you's a shining star” provide an apologetic, but compassionate context to “Gonna Love Me.” This song is relatable to anyone trying to be accountable in a love that they hope to cultivate with someone for a lifetime, but holding space for the inevitable hurt that will come.

With where “Gonna Love Me” opened up the conversation, “Issues/Hold On” takes it a step further and puts Taylor’s relationship entirely out in the open, as the lyrics discuss her demons (and presumably Shupert’s) against a lingering slow-jazz background. The scope of the heartbreak in question, however, is not limited to Taylor’s marriage: “This is deeper than you and other women, this is daddy issues/ This is years putting up with the real time n***as,” not only alludes to past traumas, but the importance of acknowledging their impact in any, and all, future relationships.

We encounter a change of pace with “Hurry (feat. Kanye West),” which has a more playful, lyrical turn--Kanye West’s bars stand out in stark, but engaging contrast against Taylor’s voice for a lowkey, flirtatious track that ends with a declaration of “no fade outs” (presumably from Kanye). With that, we are launched into “3Way”--a slow, sensual song with Ty Dolla $ign singing with Taylor about, well, exactly that. I have some mixed feelings about the unicorn hunting (and the attitudes around the third woman) with this song, but hey, for what it’s worth, Teyana owns her pleasure, and dishes it out for the rest of us with this track.

On that note, “Rose in Harlem” gives us more of the same--we hear Taylor’s raps bounce off the beat as she denounces the people who betrayed her while she simultaneously thanks those who supported her journey from the ground-up. Taylor’s voice hits hard and soars--this is a song to dedicate to the real ones in your life, as is “Never Would Have Made It,” which balances the raw intimacy of Taylor’s gratitude with the sweet chirping of birds, lyrical piano, and the sounds of a woodland forest before closing with the thumping beat of “WTP.”

This album easily fits into my summer playlist--it’s hot and steamy, but with plenty of substance and soul that endears itself to you with every listen--whether at the club or during a laid-back smoke session with your sweetie.


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