Born Taura Taylor Mendoza in Los Angeles, CA. Addresses: Record company--Astralwerks Records, 104 W. 29th St., 4th Flr., New York, NY 10001.
A native of Los Angeles, rap artist T-Love made a splash in her adopted city of London, England, with the release of her aptly named full-length album debut, Long Way Back. The album did indeed take her the long way back to her homeland, where her frustration at trying to break into a recording career nearly led her to abandon the effort. Instead, she focused on a career as a journalist, making a name for herself covering other musicians in music-related publications. But at the urging of friends and family she self-produced an EP called Return of the B-Girl which, while well received at home, was even more highly regarded in the United Kingdom. She soon moved to London and went to work on Long Way Back, which was praised in the American as well as the British press, finally establishing T-Love as the creative musical source she had always wanted to be. Long Way Back was released by Astralwerks in 2003.
Born Taura Taylor Mendoza, T-Love grew up in South Central Los Angeles. While still in elementary school she decided she wanted to become a professional musician. It was then that she first heard the music of Teena Marie, and realized that women could be successful in the music business. T-Love made her public debut as a rapper at the age of 15 on the Los Angeles radio station KDAY. "When I told my mom I was going to be a rapper, she laughed at me," T-Love recalled on the Astralwerks record label's website. But her peers and neighbors were supportive, and T-Love continued to pursue her dream throughout her childhood.
In the mid-1990s, after cutting some demo recordings, T-Love landed a recording contract with Capitol as a member of a duo called Urban Pop. Although no recordings came of the relationship, it proved to be an invaluable education in the ins and outs of the recording industry---knowledge that would later serve her well as she recorded her solo efforts.
In the meantime, always conscious of the uncertain nature of a career in music, T-Love pursued a backup career as a journalist, contributing as a writer and editor to a number of well-respected music magazines, such as Vibe and Source, and to the books It's Not About a Salary and Girl Power.
Following her separation from Capitol and Urban Pop, T-Love formed her own record label, called Pickininny, in 1998. The label's first release was the debut of the group Jurassic 5. And it was on this label that T-Love released her own recording debut, an EP titled Return of the B-Girl. Released in 1998, the album featured guest artists Kool Keith, Chali 2na from Jurassic 5, and Miles Tackett from the group Breakestra.
T-Love actually intended Return of the B-Girl to mark the end of her rap career. After the false start with the Capitol deal and the struggles she had gone through to get a career started, "I was ready to hang it up," she explained on the Astralwerks record label website. By this time, however, her mother had come to support her daughter's first career choice, and it was partly at her instigation that T-Love recorded Return of the B-Girl. T-Love figured that at best it would help her to land "some big magazine gig somewhere," as she remarked on the Astralwerks website.
Return of the B-Girl, while moderately successful in the United States, was more warmly greeted in the United Kingdom, and she traveled there to explore the possibilities for finally getting her career as a rapper off the ground. While in London, T-Love fell in with a group of rappers who invited her onto the stage at one of their gigs. The audience, which included several record producers, cheered her act wildly. T-Love found a collaborator in one of the producers, and the resulting material became the seed of her next recording effort, her full-length album debut. It was a natural next step for T-Love to relocate from Los Angeles to London. Once she began living there, she found London a much more conducive environment for her creative development. She found many more opportunities to perform in the United Kingdom, including a performance at the legendary Glastonbury music festival, where she wowed an audience of more than 20,000 people.
T-Love's debut album, Long Way Back, incorporated not only rap but elements of soul and jazz as well. "I love music," T-Love explained to Nicole V. Sylvester in London's Voice. "I listen to a lot of different types and I wanted to reflect that." The album is very personal to T-Love in other respects as well: it represents her journey of self-discovery, "the span of my creative and spiritual life." The album cover itself reflects this theme, with a montage of photos of members of T-Love's family. The music bears witness to T-Love's many influences, with the Abbey Lincoln and Billy Holiday-inspired "Malindy Sings" and "Oh So Suite," and a tribute to South Central Los Angeles, "Fortress of a Prophet." Other tracks, such as "When You're Older (Ode to Pickaninny)," urge black children to take pride in their heritage, and send a message to women to stand strong in their relationships with men ("Witch-Bitch?").
In addition to rapping on this album, T-Love found herself as a singer, spending many hours in rehearsal to perfect her singing voice. Long Way Back pleased its creator as well as music critics. Salon.com's Celeste Dawn Mitchell praised the album's "conscious lyrics" and "cleverly laced jazz riffs," calling it a challenge to the current crop of rappers with its harkening back to "old-school" rap. Rolling Stone's John Caramanica called the album "excellent," "lush," and "sublime," and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel praised T-Love as one of the few artists with the courage to take rap "to a new, more challenging place."
by Michael Belfiore
Began rapping at an early age in her hometown of Los Angeles; established career as a music journalist, mid-1990s; founded Pikininny record label, released EP Return of the B-Girl, 1998; moved to London, released debut full-length album, Long Way Back, 2003.
- Selected discography
- Return of the B-Girl (EP), Pikininny, 1998.
- Long Way Back Astralwerks, 2003.
- Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, April 29, 2003, p. 2E.
- Rolling Stone, April 5, 2003, p. 37; May 1, 2003, p. 56.
- Voice (London, England), August 26, 2002, p. 35.
- "T-Love," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (April 21, 2004).
- "T-Love," Astralwerks, http://www.astralwerks.com (April 21, 2004).
- "T-Love: 'Long Way Back'," Salon.com, http://www.salon.com/audio/music/2003/05/16/tlove/print.html (April 21, 2004).
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