Vixen Chat: Shanell Talks ‘Midnight Mimosas,’ Life Lessons from YMCMB and Being a Musical Multitasker

shanell and lil wayneTell us a little about what it’s like being Wayne’s artistic director.
I try to make his show be true to who he is as a rapper and still be entertaining for the people that buy $150 tickets—I try to make sure I don’t discredit him as a rapper. I’m not trying to turn him into Usher, but I’m also not leaving him as the same old, same old. We’ve done an amazing job with the show, shout out to the lights and the sound and the pyrotechs and the videographers that I worked with hand-in-hand to make sure everything syncs. But it’s choreography, it’s clothes, it’s timing. There’s fire and explosions on the stage and you don’t want to blow no girl’s head off, so you have to make sure that she’s not in the same line as the fire that’s shooting across the stage.

I sing as well, so I have to go and put on my hat as a vocalist and make sure that my levels are right on my mic. Then I have to make sure Wayne is going to run and jump and slide on his ramps and he doesn’t fall and it’s not too slippery. And if it is too slippery, go back to the material that’s not too slippery. It’s a lot, but I have people that assist me. It’s an amazing experience and one that I’m going to use when my tour comes around.

Is your first love singing or dancing?
My first love is probably dancing, but one doesn’t [live without the other]. If I’m in the studio too long, I want to go on stage. If I’m on stage too long, I want to go to the studio.

Would you consider doing artistic direction for someone else?
No, no (laughs). I think it’s because I feel like Wayne has done a lot for me in my career and I would do anything for him in his career. But there’s a lot of work and dedication that you have to put into that. I wouldn’t have the same love and compassion if I were to do it for somebody else.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from being with Young Money?
I’m a theatre cat, that’s what I came from. But these guys are more straight from the streets with expressing themselves. They don’t like to rehearse—I rehearse everything. I couldn’t understand it. How can you get onstage when you haven’t been to rehearsal? But I see how the word “real” is really implicated into the whole Young Money situation. [Wayne has] forced me to do things where I’m like, I didn’t rehearse that. But I learned that when things are over rehearsed and over practiced, there can be less of a feeling. Sometimes you have to give people your honest and raw you, which is scary for most people.

How much does that realness contribute to your songwriting?
I’m full of energy and what I feel. In the studio, I can just go in there and cry. For me, what’s safe about it is that it’s recorded and it’s already happened. I just have to sing it. I only like to work with certain people in the studio.