On Saturday (September 21), R&B singer, model and actress Teyana Taylor teamed up with McDonalds to kick off their “Beat Of My City” initiative in her native hometown, New York City. In partnership with streaming service Spotify and lyric-annotating hub Genius, the free musical experience was more than just a concert. It also served as a fundraiser for the Harlem-based, non-profit Dunlevy Milbank Center.
Handpicked by Tey herself, Milbank is a Harlem-based children’s aid center in partnership with the Boys and Girls Club of America, that offers services such as after school programs, an open gymnasium for sports training, mentorship programs and more.
As exclusively announced by BET Digital, McDonald’s “Beat Of My City” is a philanthropic effort aiming to bring unique music experiences to underprivileged Black communities around the country, with Chicago’s own Juice WRLD slated next to perform under the initiative in his hometown of Chicago on October 17.
In anticipation of the “Rose In Harlem” singer’s show-stopping stage entrance, Beat of My City attendees enjoyed sounds from DJ Ria and a performance from breakdancing dance troupe, The Emphasis Dancers. Fellow R&B artist Justine Skye and NBA baller husband Iman Shumpert also showed face in support of the concert and noble partnership between Mickey D’s and Tey.
Following Taylor’s explosive performance, BET Digital also had a chance to catch up with G.O.O.D Music’s first lady. We dished on her role in giving back to her city with the help of McDonald’s as well as what it was like growing up a rose in Harlem and now blossiming into a renowned artist and mother:
BET: How was it performing tonight back in New York City?
Teyana Taylor: Performing live just gets me so emotional. It’s so good to see genuine love. The crowd was singing at me… You could tell that it was a New York show.
BET: What is it about McDonalds that led you to align yourself with the brand, and what was your thought going into being a part of tonight’s event?
TT: Listen, I’m trying to get some free food for the rest of my life! [Laughs.]
I’ve always been a fan of McDonalds. Real talk—I’ve always loved their food. But putting this event together really means a lot because a lot of companies, especially corporate, will say they are doing something, and it’s really to benefit themselves and not really the people that they’re supposed to be doing it for. So, I think it’s such a genuine event that McDonalds put on.
That was another part that kind of made it emotional [tonight], because I was like, ‘Damn, we really sitting here about to give mad money to Milbank Center.’ This is really where I got my start. Like, legit, [growing up in Harlem] if you weren’t lit at Milbank, you just wasn’t lit.
First of all, McDonald’s, what you even know about Milbank? I’m looking around and seeing posters and what not. Like, [McDonalds] really did put time and effort into this event, and I think it was amazing. It was amazing to see so many kids and the energy all around from the supporters, and creators, and McDonalds. It was totally genuine. I enjoyed it. It was like, “Aight, I liked McDonalds already, but they get the extra brownie points for this.”
BET: The hasbrown-ie points?
TT: You feel me?! (laughs)
BET: Speaking of Milbank, what lead you to choose Denlevy Milbank Center as your organization of choice for this initiative?
TT: It was a no brainer. That was my sh*t growing up. Nobody would battle me when I came through. I’d come to Milbank and they knew that I was coming. They knew it was a thing like, ‘Oh Tey, she about to come.’ They knew who I was.
Milbank has always welcomed in a lot of stars today. Me, [ASAP] Rocky, [ASAP] Ferg, everybody. Milbank has just always been the place for young people to express themselves, whether you sung, rap, danced, played ball, at Milbank you could just go there and be free, and be a kid and be yourself.
BET: How do you believe music, specifically your music, activates inspiration and hope in communities, specifically your hometown, Harlem?
TT: I mean, I don’t even think it’s the style of music I make. I just think it’s the hustle. The “H” in Harlem don’t just stand for “Harlem,” feel me? It’s the hustle. We always been hustlers. We always been hungry. So, the grind don’t stop.
Harlem is just special. I think any time someone makes it out of Harlem, it inspires us all, even the ones that are already where they want to be. We’re always inspired by one another and seeing each other win. I think that right there in itself is inspirational. To see anybody grind for so many years and get their just due, that’s inspirational to anybody no matter what style of music they do. But when that music hits home— it hits home.
BET: Is there anything you wanted your fans to take away from tonight’s performance that is different from any other takeaway from your other shows?
TT: I mean, one thing about my shows is that I leave it all on stage. I leave my heart on stage, and I think [the audience] leaves their hearts on the stage as well. That’s dope. I will forever be appreciative of that. I think they took away the same thing I took away tonight— it’s like a learning experience. It was like, “Okay, y’all actually made me feel good tonight about being so aggressive!” It’s good to see it yourself. We all from New York, and we’re singing “Gonna Love Me,” like a rap song [Laughs.] it’s like, ‘Okay cool. I’m home!’ Especially with how much I travel and all the movies and shows that I do, and different characters and things like that, and to come home and feel that energy, it’s just like, “Yeah, this is where I’m from. Period!”
BET: Seeing as to how it’s almost been five years since your first headlining show at SoB’s in New York, and you weren’t even a mommy yet, how has being a mother changed you as an artist? How has motherhood changed your whole energy, whether it’s your stage performance or hustle?
TT: I have a lot more to live for now. I had a lot to live for then too, but when you give birth, you have a lot more to live for, know what I’m saying? That in itself is a whole other level of grind and hustle. That’s like, you play with my coin— we fighting! Now you talking food out of my baby’s mouth. I don’t have time for that! Before I let you do that, I’ma go do this-this-this-and-this just in case you do mess up, which I know you will, so that my baby is still good at the end of the day.
So I definitely think that things have gotten better. I thank Junie, for giving me extra hips, and giving me some weight.
BET: You always had shape. You were stacked.
I know! So imagine when Junie come through! She’s lit. She’s just a brand of her own. Like she’s her own little person.
(Photos: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images for McDonald’s)