Los Angeles — Teena Marie proved that quality music transcends all racial barriers the second she belted the ’70’s scorcher duet “Fire and Desire” with soul man Rick James. Her robust vocals belied her age and race, making her one of R&B’s beloved chanteuses. In the spirit of Miss Teena’s legendary chart-toppers “Cassanova Brown,” and “Square Biz,” her 13th effort, “Congo Square,” delivers more of the same soulful timbre her fans crave. Lady T opened up to ESSENCE.com about N’awlins roots, turning to drugs after Rick James’s death, and why Black folks have always embraced her.
ESSENCE.COM: Welcome back, Miss Teena! “Congo Square” is your 13th album. What’s the significance of its title?
TEENA MARIE: Congo Square is the section of French quarters where the slaves who were mostly from the West Indies were allowed to go dance and sing on Sunday, and I thought, what a miraculous sound that must have been to share in such amazing joy, pain and grace. I found out just as I was wrapping this album that my father’s people are from New Orleans and it gave me goose bumps. I tried to make the album reflective of the richness and diversity of New Orleans culture.
ESSENCE.COM: Your single “Pressure” is an ode to that mighty good man who deserves to have his woman cater to him. Is this a creed you live by?
TEENA MARIE: I have a different mentality when it comes to catering to a man, I just won’t allow it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll do for you but I’m not taking care of no man and catering to him for life; he better be bringing something to the table. I learned that from my mother and my grandmother. Ultimately we all need somebody, and although I don’t have anyone now; I have a great memory and my songs reflect that. Just because I’m not having good sex in my life now, believe me I’ve had enough. (Laughs.)