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by kenn on 9/28/2005 12:17:00 PM

It’s been a crazy summer for R&B songstress Teairra Mari

Source: The South End


The slightly mischievous grin, the baby-doll eyes, and playful voice remind you of someone’s little sister.

You know the one, the girl the neighborhood looks out for, because she seems like she’s destined to do something big.
That “around the way” girl who’d one day pass those confines but never forget them.

That’s what L.A. Reid, chairman of Island Def Jam Music Group, saw last year in Detroit teenager Teairra Mari, after listening to her demo.
Soon after, it was what caused Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter to pen her to Roc-A-Fella records in his first artist-signing as president of Def Jam Music Group.

Mari blew into Philadelphia recently for a day of promotional events and a performance at WPHI’s Back-to-School Jam, between appearances in Miami and Hartford, Conn.

“We’ve been doing this since before Memorial Day — I can’t even remember how long it’s been,” says Mari, who became instant royalty when Jay-Z crowned her Princess of the Roc. At Roc-A-Fella, she joined a stable of artists such as Kanye West, Foxy Brown and Freeway and Young Gunz.

“I knew Teairra Mari was a star the minute I met her,” Jay-Z told Vibe magazine.

It was heady stuff for a teenager who was still attending the Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, a school that nurtured (the late) teen songstress Aaliyah.

“I was still in school, and I was trying to keep it all low key, so it was really hard at first,” says Mari, in jeans, heels and a bucket hat, and accompanied in an SUV by two dancers and a record-company rep.

Having ruled the summer airwaves with a search for the perfect boyfriend in the infectious R&B hit “Make Her Feel Good,” the 17-year-old Mari is traveling the country in support of last month’s album “Roc-A-Fella Records Presents Teairra Mari,” No. 28 on Billboard’s latest R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, and her second hit, “No Daddy.”

She stirs up a hornet’s nest of buzz everywhere she goes — most recently Sept. 13 at the World Music Awards in Los Angeles. In a tribute to Destiny’s Child, Mari sang Beyonce Knowles’ part in “Lose My Breath” and blew the doors off the Kodak Theatre.

“She is like family now, it was fun to do that for her,” Mari said of Knowles.

Though all of this city-hopping has caused a little cold and a couple of yawns, the girl still looks as though she can go “till the break of dawn” if need be.

It’s the energy she gets from fans that plays a big part in keeping her going.

“I have been everywhere — ATL (Atlanta), Orlando, London, Fayetteville (N.C.), lots of places. I still get surprised every time I go onstage and see the love,” says Mari, en route to WPHI-FM in Conshohocken, Pa.

It’s here during an on-air interview with WPHI host Colby Colb that we see why Mari’s throng of fans continues to grow.

While her second single, “No Daddy,” removes the veil of racy sweetness from “Make Her Feel Good” — it proclaims, “I didn’t have no daddy around when I was growing up, huh, that’s why I’m wild and I don’t give a, huh” — its message isn’t one of just another out-of-control teen.

The hook belies a rugged stand-up-for-yourself message, whether it’s about sex, a broken home, or a mother’s wisdom. It’s a message that Mari stresses on-air, especially to young girls.

“Whatever your struggle may be, keep your head up. It just happened that I didn’t have a father,” she tells Colb.

While she may not have had a father at home, the women in her life have stepped up.

With a grandmother (who used to sing backup for Aretha Franklin) providing words of wisdom, to her mother, who manages her, to an aunt from Detroit who often travels along to watch out for her, family is always there when she steps off the daily roller-coaster ride of being a pop star.

“My friends and family keep me grounded,” she says, “and it helps a lot. I couldn’t do this without them.”

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