If looks could kill, Teairra Mari's peepers would be her murder weapons. "My eyes can be intimidating, says the singer, born Teairra Maria Thomas. "Sometimes I'll just be sitting there singing melodies in my head, and somebody will come up to me, like, "Why do you have an attitude?" Take one look at her past of shattered dreams, however, and her anger is justified. When she was only a senior at Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts in 2005, Jay-Z crowned her "Princess of the Roc." By 2006, however, she was left feeling like the court jester. Unceremoniously, she was dropped from Roc-A-Fella, without so much as a phone call from Mr. Carter.

What didn't kill her, though, has only made the scorned beauty stronger. Now 20, Mari's back with a new album on Interscope, a role in the feature film The Doorman and a modeling gig as the spokesmodel for Jean Addicts, ex-B2K member Lil Fizz's new denim line. Time to officially get that dirt off her shoulder.

On your new comeback single, 'No No,' you sound like a woman fed up. Is it based on a true story?
Yes. I snuck and got an apartment in Atlanta when I was 17. My mom didn't know anything about it. I was on the road, but every time I got a break, I was going to my place in Atlanta. I had a boyfriend and he was just poison. This guy, he did me dirty. He was emotionally abusive and so controlling.

How so, exactly?
One time he flipped and started throwing juice and water on my 60-inch flat-screen TV. Then he had the nerve to pull a gun out on me! I left the relationship and went home to Detroit. My mother and my family are going to read this interview and be like, "What?"

There were rumors that you and Lil' Wayne were together. Care to clear the air?
He's a good friend, we've hung out a couple of times. I was attracted to him for a second, but then it grew into a nice friendship.

"Friendship," huh?
He's a charmer, like an old-school kind of guy when it comes to being charming. But no, we're not engaged. I had a ring on my engagement finger, and everybody was like, "Oh, my God, you're engaged!” No, I'm not, and if I was, I hope that wouldn't be the ring! [Laughs] I used to read blogs and really care about what people said, but now I read it and laugh or I don't read it at all. "Big ups to all my haters!" Nice line, Shawty Lo.

Speaking of haters, do you consider Rihanna one? There's been talk about her taking jabs at you in interviews.
She allegedly said some things about me in Atlanta's Peach magazine. [Ed. note: Rihanna, regarding Teairra, post-Roc-A-Fella: "You have to be good to people. I could very easily say it's all karma"] They asked her how she felt playing second fiddle to me, which I never felt like. She had the number one song in the country on Hot 100; I didn't, so she couldn't be playing second fiddle to me.

How'd that make you feel?
When I heard that, I was upset, like, "Why would she ever go there? Keep my name out of your mouth, sweetie." It was always a healthy competition. To see that she's blown up lets me know it's possible, because we started at the same time and I watched her grind. To see it pay off for somebody keeps hope alive for me.

Did you lose hope when you were first dropped from Def Jam?
Yeah, I was embarrassed, hurt, angry. I didn't tell anybody for six months. I had to deal with it myself first. I had the best time, though, over there. It was very much like a family, but it taught me that business is business. No matter how friendly people seem, you can't get it twisted. You think it's family - no, it's not.

Was it especially painful when Jay-Z abandoned your career?
I was calling Jay like my father: "I love you like my father because my father is not in my life.” Jay didn't even call and tell me. I was hurt. If he would've called, then I probably would've felt more ready to start the next chapter of my life. I stopped for, like, a year. I was young and shook up and didn't tell anybody, so I didn't know how to deal with it.

That's understandable.
I felt like I was thrown off the boat, can't swim, and nobody wanted to throw me a life vest. Nobody. But I have to thank him, because I've grown into a smart, strong, business-savvy woman.

Has Jay reached out since?
No, honey. Never. I sent him a "Happy Birthday" message, because his birthday is two days after mine, so I never forget it. He was like, "Thank you, same to you." He didn't speak on that at all. So I'm like, I'm not going to speak on it either.

Why were you dropped?
I released the first single, ["Make Her Feel Good"], which did pretty well. And then I released the second single, ["No Daddy"], which tanked. I knew it would; I hated that song. That's another thing I'm happy that I learned”to go with my gut feeling and not let anybody try to instruct me.

Words to live by.
They cut me my advance for my second album. I was back at home finishing up school and getting ready for prom when I got the call. Peace out. I didn't ask why, and I don't think I ever will ask why. I've closed that.

To read the full interview by Laura Checkoway, check out KING's October 2008 issue