Teedra Moses - Cognac & Conversation (2015)

Teedra Moses
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Cognac & Conversation, the latest recording by Teedra Moses, shows that there is a difference between listening to what an artist says and hearing what you think that artist is saying. The latter is the result of a perception that the listener develops from seeing a parental advisory sticker on the dust cover, an explicit lyrics advisory on whatever streaming service you use, or looking at the credits and seeing a couple of collaborations with Rick Ross. Perhaps folks will give Cognac & Conversation a short listen and summarily dismiss it after hearing the programmed drums and keyboard arrangements that are the signature sound of R&B/hip hop infused project. But the best response is the result of, well – listening.

Cognac & Conversation, the latest recording by Teedra Moses, shows that there is a difference between listening to what an artist says and hearing what you think that artist is saying. The latter is the result of a perception that the listener develops from seeing a parental advisory sticker on the dust cover, an explicit lyrics advisory on whatever streaming service you use, or looking at the credits and seeing a couple of collaborations with Rick Ross. Perhaps folks will give Cognac & Conversation a short listen and summarily dismiss it after hearing the programmed drums and keyboard arrangements that are the signature sound of R&B/hip hop infused project. But the best response is the result of, well – listening.

Because those who listen to Cognac & Conversation will be treated to a record that is thematically and lyrically traditional, right down to the line in “Get It Right,” where Moses sings “I won’t make it hard/You lead and I will follow/But you gotta be following God/I gotta see the God in you.”

The heart of Cognac & Conversation is its (and ultimately Teedra Moses’) heart. In fact, Cognac & Conversation’s heart and its theme can be summed up in a line that Moses drops in the first of those collaborations with Ross – the very good “All I Ever Wanted”: “I don’t even know why/It’s so hard for some to truly see/Money don’t make no man/And love reigns over everything.” In that tune, the guy gives Moses money and other material things thinking that she will be impressed. She takes the money, makes some of her own and leaves.

Of course heart and tradition are two things many critics don’t hear the lyrics of much of R&B music. Cognac & Conversation stands as a bit of subversive counter-programming to that entire narrative as Moses drops lyrics filled with mother’s wisdom into dance tracks such as “International Playboi” and club bangers such as “Skin Diver.”

“International Playboi” comes with a bass drum into and spacey synthesizers right out of the Minneapolis sound, and with Moses’ sensual alto that hovers angelically over the beat, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this is gonna be some Vanity or Sheena Easton type fantasy. Then, the song takes a narrative of Moses telling the playboy that she is not impressed with his money, possessions and romantic conquests. Moses goes beyond calling the guy a cad or cold-hearted snake, which would have taken “International Playboi” into Captain Obvious territory. Instead, she looks beyond the women and the material success to see that he really lacks true human connection, and that he’s pretty pathetic. That comes through in an opening line that is dripping with sarcasm. “I mean really what you need/You don’t need love/You got money, cars and ho’s.”

The atmospheric ballad “Only U” finds Moses wrapping her vocals around a sparse and intimate ballad where she informs her man that she is prepared to shift her focus from everybody else. The track features a tight spoken word piece for fellow New Orleans native 3 D Na’Tee. Moses’ staccato hip-hop influenced phrasing serves as the good match with Anthony Hamilton’s old soul vocals on “That One,” while the funky atmospherics of “Yesterday Ain’t Tomorrow” provides a percussive platform for an optimistic tune about not letting the struggles of the past shake her faith in humanity and the desire to find love.

If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times how modern music brims with lyrics that objectify women, are sex obsessed and shallow and how artists are more interested in dropping name brands and promoting their status than in making music that is lyrically and spiritually honest – which is the root of soul music.

The criticism rings true in plenty of cases, but the old saying that you can’t judge a book by looking at the cover can also apply to CD covers and album credits. Strongly Recommended.

By Howard Dukes 

Click Here to listen to Cognac and Conversation

 
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