#55: Teena Marie ‘Square Biz’

Let's just get this out of the way off the top: Contrary to popular belief, Teena Marie was not the first female to rap on a record. In fact, she wasn't even the first white female to do so. Nope, both distinctions belong to Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry, whose raps on 1981's "Rapture" beat Teena to record store shelves by a few months. And while Teena's sixteen bars (which included shout-outs to Shakespeare and Nikki Giovanni, "just to name a few"--bananas!) on 1981's "Square Biz" were far superior to anything I've heard on Miss Rap Supreme, it was actually Harry's rap that inspired Teena's funky flow. And funky is the perfect word to describe both the song and Teena herself, who stayed in a perpetual funk even at the peak of her success, never really satisfied creatively. She always wanted to do more, to try something new. Something different. She forced herself to--pardon the pun--think outside of the box. And with this track (the title of which was inspired by bass player Allen McGrier, whose favorite phrase was "square business"), a classic was born. 

The song was featured on the gold-selling Motown release It Must Be Magic, and was something straight out of mentor Rick James' playbook--a track that demanded that you proceed directly to the dance floor and shake that azz--whether it was round, square or whatever. Clearly, Teena learned well from James, with "Biz" peaking at #12 on the Billboard Club Play charts, and climbing all the way to #3 on Billboard's Black Singles list. Sure, we could've charted it higher ourselves, but that doesn't really matter. What matters, above all else, is that "Square" is here and is one of those classic R&B songs that will always be around. Now, in the words of Ms. Marie: "Everybody get up!"

Teena Marie: "Square Biz"

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8 Responses

  1. great song...a party ain't a party without 'square biz'...i hope to see teena's 'deja vu (i've been here before)' on the list.

  2. excellent choice!

  3. I love me some Square Biz, but can't help but say I would've loved to see Portuguese Love here...

  4. The night is still young Mike. Not even halfway through. I'm sure Teena will show up again.
    Nice writeup Harlem. Taught me a few things!
    The way this song starts off gets you excited "Woooooooooo." How can you not get up?

  5. This song always makes me wanna do the Cha Cha, latin style-no slide included. Teena Marie, what talent!! Since everyone is sharing I would really love to see OohLaLaLa, the sone that started my love for her.

  6. Avatar

    Square Biz is THE joint and Teena can blow. It still gets a lot of play out here in Los Angeles. Teena seems like a really nice person too.

  7. Square Biz was the breakout cut from that album. I own a copu of It's Must Be Magic in vinyl, cassette and cd. That's how much I'm a fan of this album! Love the vamp at the end of the single It's Must Be Magic when she does a salute to the Marvelettes by chanting Baby must be a magician, cause he's sure got the magic touch..

  8. Square Biz is still off the chain to this day. I love playing this song with my band. I have a great drummer and bass player while I'm on the keys. Whenever we play it, it's like the roof is on fire!


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