Ever since she signed to Motown Records and released her Rick James-produced debut, “Wild and Peaceful,” in 1979, Teena Marie has been known as the white girl who sounds black on 1980s R&B hits such as “Behind the Groove,” “I Need Your Lovin’,” and “Ooo La La La,” which the Fugees recast as “Fu-Gee-La.”

Still, it comes as a surprise that “La Dona,” the comeback album by the 48-year-old Lady T, arrives from Cash Money Records, the New Orleans-based hard-core rap label that introduced the term “bling bling.”

“My tape just happened to fall into the hands of (Cash Money exec) Ronald Williams,” Marie said on the phone this week from a rehearsal space in her hometown of Los Angeles. “At first, I was like, “Cash Money? I love their stuff, but what am I going to do there?’ But they knew all about my history, and they wanted me to produce myself. They were like, “We don’t want you to try to do us. We want you to do what you do.’ “

Marie has been touring steadily as well as raising her 12-year-old daughter, Alia, since her last album, the self-released “Passion Play,” came out in 1994. “La Dona” begins with a skit that portrays Marie as a mob boss returning to reclaim her throne.

From there, it shows off her still luxuriant voice, starting with the frisky single “I’m Still in Love,” which powered “La Dona” to a No. 6 debut last week on the Billboard album charts, an astonishing performance for an artist who’s been gone for so long. On “La Dona,” songs such as the 2Pac tribute “Makavelli Never Lied” and “Off the Chain,” and cameos from rappers Common, MC Lyte and Baby or singers Gerald Levert and Rick James, never take the spotlight away from Marie’s soul-singing strengths.

As for her reputation as an unparalleled blue-eyed diva, Mary J. Blige’s favorite singer says: “I don’t see color in music. … Some of the great opera singers in the world are black women. And people thought Minnie Ripperton was white because she didn’t have that same soul sound as Aretha. … I think people have embraced me because they really can feel that I’m real, and that I’m who I am and I play the music that I love.”


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