Shawnna Comes Clean: Def Jam Shenanigans & Leaving DTP


Vibe / December 14, 2010

Yeah people are cashing on the “gay market.” How do you feel about female artists pretending to be bisexual or into women?
I think it’s phony. Once the gay community made their presence felt and they saw how much of a following Lady Gaga got, people wanted to jump the bandwagon. ‘Look at me! I’m kissing a girl, buy my album.’ I don’t respect that at all because once they buy your CD then you’re llke, ‘I never said that… ew.’  

What type of changes were you seeing in the industry?
Well more specifically, Def Jam. The people that were there when I signed—Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles—weren’t there and those were the people that believed in me. Then right in the midst of me coming out, they left. And here comes this whole new team of people who want to bring in the people who they believe in, so I didn’t matter anymore. I hadn’t even been given a chance. Then for awhile Def Jam couldn’t get it together. It was LA Reid then it was Jay-Z then Jay-Z and it was LA Reid again then it was possibly Jermaine Dupri then at one time they even said they were considering Ludacris. how could I be successful when I can’t even say who the label is right now? 

Right. Was your decision to leave Disturbing Tha Peace based mainly around Def Jam?
Definitely. After my second single, they were like, ‘We’re not giving you any money no time soon for a new project,’ so I immediately got my lawyer. But it’s a lot more than just saying, ‘I’m outta here!’ It took me a very, very long time. That’s when you really find out how shiesty the game is. It’s so easy for you to get in, but it’s like hell to get out.  

What made you leave the Battle Of The Sexes project early?
You know what, I love and have no regrets with Disturbing The Peace, but it just came time to where I had to move on. It really did. Even though Battle Of The Sexes was so highly anticipated. Had it just been me and Luda, it would have been just a wonderful, amazing, iconic thing to do. But it didn’t weigh out the 10 years I had been at Def Jam done nothing. I just saw an opportunity to gain a clean slate. And that sounded so good to me. Money is not my everything. My peace of mind means more than money. 

Did you feel BOTS, would have solidified you as that female rapper whose always next to a dude?

Were you often feeling like you were in the shadow of Ludacris?
I did feel like that, but it was never because of anything that Luda said or did. He always brought out my best and said ‘Yo, you gotta kill me on this!’ But it’s just the industry wants to keep a woman one step under a man. 

Take me through the conversation you had with Luda when you decided it was time to leave. What did you say?
Um, honestly, I really don’t like to talk about it. We haven’t spoken and I do miss him a lot.  I’m so proud of everything that he’s done. Honestly, when we were doing BOTS, I was really scared. Because I [knew] that people already knew Luda, but they don’t really know me. And if this project was to come out and not do well, all of the blame would be on me. All of it. That was too much [pressure] for me. Had it been my own project and I was taking my own risk, then maybe I would have been more willing to take that leap, but I just didn’t want it. 

As far as like putting Nicki Minaj on “My Chick Bad” the way she was bubbling at the time, that was perfect. I needed more build up going into that project. I’m not [his] only artist, so I couldn’t get that pampering. [There wasn’t] anticipation for [people to say] ‘Oh yeah, Shawnna’s gonna kill this.’ I really lost sleep for nights thinking ‘If this don’t do good, it’s all on me.’ They already know Luda can put out platinum albums, but they don’t know what I’m capable of. I just couldn’t do it. And it hurt me and it hurt him and it hurt a lot of people. It hurt a lot of fans too, and all I can say is [that] I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. I’m still here though, and I still wanna put out good music. I still hope to get back with him and do some amazing, incredible shit with him maybe down the line, but at that point in time [Luda], I couldn’t give you my all. I was too scared. I was too worried about that situation.  

Damn, that’s really hard not to feel. It sounds like you weren’t able to speak to him at all about the leave.
I didn’t.

How did you avoid that conversation?