For nearly three decades, pint â€“ sized, soul stirring songstress Teena Marie has undeniably been a force to be reckoned with in the nearly thirty years of her professional performing career. The accomplished singer, songwriter, producer and arranger has managed to consistently capture the hearts and spirits of millions of fans with her music. As weâ€™ve listened to the passionate R&B grooves on her twelve studio albums and equal number of compilations, the love and emotion Teena Marie has expressed flows like the purest waterfall. On Sapphire, Ms. Marieâ€™s second release on Cash Money Classics/Universal Motown, the vocalist shines brighter then ever.
The four times grammy nominated, Mary Christine Brockert had a strong African-American influence from her godmother. Blessed with the gift of music at a young age, the Santa Monica, California native was raised on Motown music. Singing Harry Belafonte by age two, Ms. Marieâ€™s self-professed â€œGift from Godâ€ would become fine-tuned as the years progressed.
Signed to her dream label at age 19, Teena Marieâ€™s magic would be further developed under the tutelage of the legendary, Rick James. Her 1979 debut Wild And Peaceful, produced by James, garnered a #8 R&B single with â€œIâ€™m A Sucker For Your Love.â€ One year later, her second and third albums, Lady T and Irons in the Fire were released, producing the hit classics â€œBehind The Grooveâ€ and â€œI Need Your Lovingâ€ respectively. By this time, Teena Marie took creative control of producing, writing and arranging her material. In 1981 Ms. Marie released the platinum selling It Must Be Magic, which featured the up-tempo â€œSquare Bizâ€ and slow jam â€œPortuguese Love.â€
In 1982, Motown sued Teena Marie for breach of contract after she informed the label that she no longer wanted to perform; in turn, Ms. Marie filed a countersuit against the legendary company and won. The countersuit resulted in the landmark artistsâ€™ rights initiative known as â€œThe Brockert Initiative,â€ - Ms. Marieâ€™s last name - placing strict limitations on the length of artist/company contracts. This historical entertainment mandate states that no recording company can contractually bind an artist while refusing to release his/her product.
After winning the lawsuit, Teena Marie signed to Epic Records (1983), and went on to record five more albums throughout the late eighties and early nineties, including Starchild and the hit single â€œLovergirlâ€ and Naked to the World which features the smash hit â€œOoo La La La.â€ Teena independently released Passion Play on her own Sarai Records in 1994, but it wasnâ€™t until ten years later that she would resurface to again share her voice and talent with the world.
As the sole artist signed to Cash Money Classics, the subsidiary of New Orleans rap entity Cash Money Records, Teena released La DoÃ±a in 2004, which yielded the grammy nominated #1 hit â€œStill In Love.â€ Now with her latest effort Sapphire, Teena continues to bridge the gap across genres, cultures and colors.
The sudden passing of Teena Marieâ€™s mentor and friend Rick James in 2005 served as the backdrop to the creation of Sapphire. Their often tumultuous, always fertile relationship served as inspiration once again, for Ms. Marieâ€™s, as she put pen to paper and recalled the indescribable experience of working with such a creative force of nature as Rick James. â€œI really couldnâ€™t deal with my pain and I think that God intervened. Actually, I felt like Rick was with me writing. Some nights I would just sit up in the bed like he tapped me on the shoulder â€˜Get up and write this song.â€™ It was a blessing that I had that album to write because I donâ€™t know what I would have done if I didnâ€™t have that creative outlet.â€ Titled after an unreleased Rick James tune of the same name about the history of African-American women, Teena Marie also recalled that sometimes James referred to her as 'his sapphire.' While the process to create Sapphire was healing, the album is also uplifting, centered in love and layered with romantic, even sexy overtones.
Teena Marieâ€™s creative muse was also stirred by her relationship with her 14-year old daughter Alia Rose who appears throughout Sapphire. Ms. Teena describes their musical relationship comparable to Eddie and Gerald Levert, calling Alia â€œmini meâ€¦When we sing together in harmony you canâ€™t tell us apart. Itâ€™s like the whole family thing, thereâ€™s something so magical about that. Sheâ€™s really talented and itâ€™s beautiful to watch this flower bloom.â€
â€œResilient (Sapphire)â€ featuring Alia Rose tells a powerful and honest tale. Ms. Marie originally wrote the song in honor of her best friendâ€™s grandmother Demitra, a Holocaust survivor. Coincidentally, Demitra died around the same time as Rick James. Propelled by Demitraâ€™s story and life coupled with the unfortunate advent of Hurricane Katrina, Teena Marie and Aliaâ€™s duet was born. â€œI thought that would be a great testimony to Demitra to take a piece of what happened because she lived that same kind of life.â€
With guest appearances by Smokey Robinson, Kurupt and Gerald Albright, making Sapphire became a family affair for Teena Marie. As a member of first generation Motown, Smokey Robinson was Ms. Marieâ€™s silent mentor and idol before she was even signed to the label. Nicknamed Little Smokey by her teenage peers, Teena Marie studied his writing through song, â€œhis lyrics, love poetry, thatâ€™s how I really feel I learned how to write.â€ Collaborating for the first time on â€œGod Has Createdâ€ and â€œCruise Control,â€ the musical chemistry was potent. â€œSmokey is just so brilliant.â€
I just had to sit back, relax, and watch a master do his thing. The music, he just loved it so much because it was so Smokey Robinson influenced. My whole career was so influenced by him that it just fit, it was a perfect fit.â€
Being the first R&B artist to rap and sing on her own records, Ms. Marie has contributed much to the world of hip-hop and, in turn positive hip-hop in itâ€™s purest form influenced her. Kurupt, his wife Gail Gotti and her sister Queen all lend their talents to Sapphire. As she describes it: â€œTheyâ€™re like my grown kids.â€ Intrigued by the rap, sung, spoken word combination, Teena Marie wrote the rhyme Kurupt performs on â€œBaby Whoâ€™s Is It,â€ while Gail Gotti and Queen do their own thing on â€œLadies Choice.â€
Forever young, Teena Marie is as focused and passionate as ever: â€œWhat I think they [the listener] will feel is the sincerity of the lyrics. The younger people, I think theyâ€™ll get to hear what we [Rick James & Teena] were and more of who I am. Iâ€™m most proud professionally, of the legacy I've been able to create through my music. I also still get a charge when I see all those faces out there during a live performance. Faces that have looked back at me and touched me the way I hope I've touched them. Believe me that feeling shines as bright as any gem."