V Exclusive! Shanell Talks ‘Nobody’s B*tch’, Debut Album, & Industry Challenges


/ August 20, 2012

Shanell is far from the industry standard and she’s ready to share her raw talent with the world. Stepping out from behind the shadows, the 28 year-old serves up “Nobody Bitch—“a 14- track mixtape with the right amount of sass and angelic vocals to put all doubters to shame.

It’s “unapologetic girl power,” she says of the tape which drops Monday.

Striving to be more than the chick with the gypsy-inspired nose wear, Shanell has constantly been at work this year, tactfully crafting her debut album. Hoping to hold fans over with “Nobody’s Bitch,” the tape features production by Bolow and FKi, as well as appearances from Busta Rhymes and Too Short. Shortly after her listening event at New York City’s Jungle City Studios, Shanell sat down with VIBE to discuss the inspiration behind her mixtape, her debut album, and industry challenges.

A lot of artists in the industry start out behind the scenes, but what about your musical style stands out?
First of all I fuse every genre–except for country—every genre together. I fuse it together. The subject matters are a little blunter than what people would expect a singer to sing about, so I think that’s just the stand out point for people who don’t listen pass the shallow level. But, then the depth of it, I come from a musical theater background, so the triple threat in me—a lot of the big artists you know now are either they just sing or they can dance and really can’t sing. They don’t write their records, but I do everything.

In the listening you said, your mixtape is ‘unapologetic girl power’ with several songs dealing with sexual topics, so how important is it for women to embrace their sexuality?
Very. We run the world and we don’t even know it. I would hate to say it like this, but the slogan is, “Pussy is Power.” Not even giving it up, but just knowing that you have it, knowing that you’re a woman and you have the strength within you to control and do what you want to do. I think men have kind of made us feel bad about being women, and have us covering up, have us not saying certain things. That’s what they do so we don’t take over them.

Why name your mixtape “Nobody’s Bitch?”
I was mad one day and in this business, it’s a male dominated business and I’m not even on no feminist thing. I love men. But, it’s hard for women to come up in this business without [Pauses] having somebody saying you’re sleeping with somebody, somebody say “You can’t do.” We can do this, so people think I sing and I smile and I dance around, that I’m a pushover, but I’m not. So, I was like, I’m going to call my mixtape “Nobody’s Bitch,” because that’s something somebody would like to say to their boss, boyfriend, girlfriend, or the person that bumps into them on the street.

So, with all of those rumors (sleeping with Lil Wayne, etc.) was there ever a time where you wanted to give up?
No, I wanted to fight. I wanted to fight everyday and everyone who said. But no, I never wanted to give up because of that. The only times I think it’s tough, but I never wanted to give up. The times I’ve been on the verge of a nervous breakdown, was every time there’s been a push back or “We’re going to choose another song,” so those are the only times I felt like that. I don’t really care what people say. That messes with who I am or what I do.

Where do you gather your inspiration from?
From my homegirls when they come over to my house after they done fought with their boyfriends or cheated on their boyfriends or found their boyfriends cheating on them or got fired from their job. It’s just conversations where I figure if we talk about this, everybody else wants to talk about it. Let me put it in a song.

What do you hope listeners will gather from you “Nobody’s Bitch?”
The main reason why I put it out is I get people hitting me like “What do you do?” Am I that artist that people know my face and my chain on my nose, but don’t know what I sound like? So, I was like, “Let me give something to listen to while I prepare this album.” So, I just want people to get a better idea of what who Shanell is sonically.

If you had to choose, what are the three stand-out tracks on the tape?
“F—Me Daddy,” because of the video, “Last Time,” with Busta Rhymes is one of my favorites, and “None Tonight.” “None Tonight” was a song a slept on, but I feel like it’s a female anthem. Just to see women screaming it. It reminds of Beyonce’s “Irreplaceable” a little bit. It’s an acoustic lead song.

Where are you now in terms of your studio album?
Pretty much, I’m halfway done. I want to collaborate with some other writers. I never really done that before. But, Miguel, I respect him as an artist and a producer. PJ Morton, I want to work with Ryan Leslie, so I pretty much did everything that I could do by myself, but now I want to collaborate with some writers.

Have you done any collaborations yet?
None that I’m keeping on the first album.

When can we expect the album to drop?
I don’t know. Summertime. The summertime of some year.

Summer 2013?
Probably because I like summer releases. That’s when people feel good and music sounds so much better from me.

So, as this summer comes to a close, what can fans expect from Shanell in the near future?
I’m working on a tour, just me getting in the studio. This is the first year that I’ve actually had this much time to be in the studio. I’ve been on tour for the past few years. So, I’ll probably finish out this year in the studio and working on setting up a tour for next year.