An unapologetic gypsy of the Young Money familia, Shanell has the guts to speak freely about her sexuality and express her opinions on the opposite sex. With her ballsy, first single "My Button" hitting radio waves this week, she's truly stepping into her own universe unimpressed by boxed-in genre labels and gossip blogs that take focus from the musical content. In the midst of her duties as Artistic Director of the "I'm Still Music 2" tour, hitting the stage and completing her upcoming mixtape, Nobody's Bitch, the punkish rock popstar took time out to speak to VIBE Vixen about her fashion ads for Married To The Mob, where the marriage between hip-hop and fashion is headed and why she dubs her next 'tape "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun 2011". -Niki McGloster
At the end of last year, you modeled for Married To The Mob's Fall collection. How was that experience for you?
It was really cool to work with a female who runs her own company, and the clothing line is along the same lines of stuff I would say. It was exciting, you know, to be apart of a bossed up female situation.
Why do you think your personality fits MTTM so well?
It’s about being bold and saying what you feel and not second-guessing yourself. Like, making statements. Leah [McSweeney], who runs the Married To The Mob line, is a boss, and that’s the who thing I represent and want other females to speak up.
Your nose ring stands out and is very boss. Tell me the story behind why you got it and why you chose the chain and not the stud?
I don’t know how that happened, but at the time I was playing with jewelry to do different things. I used to have chains that connected all my fingers together. That’s the whole gypsy in me. Nose chains just looked really good on my face, and I just started wearing it all the time.
It’s like your signature, though. A good look for you.
Thank you! And they were a lot more crazy and big and funky, but I calmed it down a little bit. I used to have some really big ones that had all kinds of stuff hanging off of it, but it gets heavy after a while. I’m working out to where they’re not pulling so much; they’re still fly, though.
Dope. Cool, so how did you get thrown into the Artistic Director role for the "I'm Still Music 2" tour, and what are your responsibilities?
Two years ago, we did the 'I Am Music' tour, the 'America’s Most Wanted' tour, and I had been working with Wayne’s set throughout those tours, but this tour is a lot bigger and a lot more people. We’re doing stadiums, and it just calls for somebody who knew him, knew what the show needed, knew the music, and I was there. It was kind of something I dibbled and dabbled in with other artists because I use to choreograph and everything, but the difference between being a choreographer and being an artistic director is that you’ve got to sit with every inch of the show. From the video and the video team, from the lighting people, from the stage people to the choreography, to the music… it was a lot more work.
What influenced your artistic vision for the tour?
A lot of the people in that particular field, be it the video [or] the music, they had their own ideas, so it was just collaborating and making sure that all of our visions connected. I’ve put together shows before but nothing this big. I sit down in my room building a look, and I have the music director come in and look. I got into his rehearsal and go see what he’s doing. I sit down with the lighting guy and talk about how we can bring all of the ideas that we have together. It wasn’t just all of my ideas for every piece. Everybody has their specialty and it’s my job to make sure that all of those things make sense together or to change something over here to fit this.
How involved are you on the fashion and costumes of the tour?
Very involved. For instance, my vision for “Bedrock” was to have the dancers, a bunch of female dancers, in a college, sleepover [style]. They have the pillows and each pillow had a letter on it and it spelled out “bedrock” and the girls had choreographed pillow fights, so I go to the costume designer and say, ‘I need some kind of stage pajama look,’ and then he’ll draw up a couple different ideas and pick which ones I want. Then, for “Got Money,” I want them to look like sexy bank robbers. High heels, sneakers… all of that.
Dope, so since you have a lot to do with the costume designing for YM shows, how did you feel about the dildo stunt that Nicki pulled?
I really didn’t know it was going to happen. I hadn’t seen her show since the first night. She was rehearsing in a different location than us, so I didn’t get to see her show before hand, but Nicki’s going to do stuff that’s going to shock you, so…
The media.. I don’t know. I don’t know how I feel about media right now.
Recently, Nicki was invited to Vogue charity event this past week as well. What do you think is hip-hop's current relationship with high fashion?
Well, it’s exciting. When you said that, I’m thinking about Drake. I’m thinking about seeing 50 in a suit, Jay in a suit. It’s kind of exciting to see that people in hip-hop have made it to where you don’t have to be carrying a gun and your pants don’t have to be off. That’s cool for those who do it, but it doesn’t have to be that because there’s so many people that enjoy hip-hop music that feel like if they don’t look a certain way, or they don’t look street, then they can’t be apart of that culture. To see hip-hop move further than just that street element is exciting.
Definitely. It seems like hip-hop, visually, is cleaning it up.
It’s good for our youth. There’s so much violence out here now, and their mentors are the heads of hip-hop. It’s good for them to see that you don’t have to have to be the bad guy. You can be the cool, clean-cut guy that likes to go to school and still be apart of hip-hop culture.
And your style, too, has become trendy. I see it as very rockstar punk. Would you say that your style and your music directly mirror each other?
For the most part, yeah. Music speaks for the silence that women have had to have over the years over just whatever. It’s bold and it’s blunt music. I’m talking about a lot of stuff that women talk about with their best friend. I’m sitting down talking to the whole world about what I would talk to my homegirl about. Women need another voice. We don’t always have to cater our man. We can be mad sometimes, and we can talk about being mad, you know?