With a title like Nobody's B----, Young Money's Shanell is sure to raise eyebrows after yesterday's release of her new project. But the singer-songwriter wants the unfamiliar to know that there is a much deeper meaning to her music than meets the eye. On the day of her release, Shanell herself told BET.com about the game she learned from featured guest Too $hort, her female inspirations and whether she thinks Nicki Minaj is a role model.
BET.com: You're delivering a strong message with the title Nobody's B----. Who are the women who inspire that idea to you?
Shanell: I’m a big fan of Madonna. I’m also a big fan of Lauryn Hill. I’m a big fan of Amy Winehouse and I’m a big fan of myself I guess. If nobody else pats you on the back you gotta pat yourself on the back. I pat myself on the back for being able to go through all the hoops and hurdles of a woman in a business that’s predominantly male-based and getting to the point where I’m able to express myself and do what I do without having to become somebody else that I’m not. Or having to do some of the things that I’ve heard stories that women have had to do; or felt like they had to do to get where they’re trying to get. So Nobody’s B---- was just something that. I felt like throughout my journey in my profession that I’ve always been nobody’s b----.
Sadly Lauryn Hill has been in the news of late for things other than her music. Why is she important to you?
Lauryn’s very, very powerful and she’s a leader. She don’t care whether anybody’s following her or not. She’s a leader in her own thing. I big her up for that and whatever decision she’s making. Because I just believe that everybody’s doing something for a reason. And whether you can understand that reason at this point in your life or not, there’s no reason to judge, there’s no reason to talk down on anybody. She made a statement and she chose to do what she’s doing and I back her up. I’m on #teamlaurynhill (Laughs).
How did Too $hort end up on a project like this?
I met Too $hort, and I wasn’t really fond of him at first ... but when I sat and talked to him and he schooled me on the difference and the reason why he says it [b----] and who he’s saying it to, it made total sense. And it’s the same thing everybody does. Women or men; just like I said with Lauryn Hill, he has a reason for doing what he’s doing. But he’s a very, very nice, genuine person and I’ve known him for a long time. I actually did a couple of hooks for him on some albums back in the day.
That voice on your Nobody's B---- speaks interludes sounds familiar. Who is that and what do you like about that soundbite?
It's Erykah Badu. I watched an interview [she did] that just inspired me a whole lot… She just said some real sh--. When you’re doing something as an individual and nobody else is doing it, it takes guts and it takes balls but it pays off in the end. And if more people did that then they wouldn’t feel like they’re just suppressing themselves and their feelings. They would get a chance to learn who they really are, because sometimes when you express yourself, it’s not always gonna be good, it’s not always gonna be right. But if you never get to express yourself, you never get to see. I got a bunch of people mad at me because it [title of the interlude] says nobody’s b----. I don’t really care, but it’s good to hear the peoples’ opinions and now I see who I’m talking to, I see who I’m dealing with. You just learn from everything and I think that statement, being independent is like just standing out there alone, and not many people want to do that.
You covered Amy Winehouse’s "Love Is a Losing Game." What does she mean to you?
I always felt like Amy’s lyrics, I don’t know if people really paid attention to ‘em, she said some real stuff in there. She always felt like the homie to me. She sang with a soulful voice that my mother would love but still was able to connect to the younger audience like me because she’d be saying some real stuff. And tell stories and be honest about how she felt and what she did like. She’s just real. She could sing jazzy and sing soulful and still keep in touch with what’s going on.
Are you hoping for that same personal connection with your listeners?
I am. Because for a while I went back and forth with what I wanted to talk about in my lyrics because I knew that with the Young Money fan base being so young, I was like, man, I done been through too much to just not talk about certain things. I was like, you know what, I can be the big sister to the 14-year-old that’s going through something that I went through that I can pretty much explain how I went through it. Or I can be the big sister to the homeboy who’s dealing with a chick who ain’t about nothing, who is trying to get over on her baby daddy or whatever. I just felt like I found a way to express myself honestly without being a bad (influence). Because I believe that as an artist you are a role model. You’re talking to people that are looking for an answer. And I had to find a way to be comfortable with expressing real life without it being glorifying of the negative stuff, but still being able to talk about it.
Speaking of role models, how do you feel about people criticizing your label mate Nicki Minaj's image?
I think for any artist, they put a lot on us, but they allow us to do a lot. You choose what direction you wanna go. Either you choose to be overly correct with everything you do and you’re poised every time you take a picture and you’re always doing positive stuff, or you can be real and be you and just get what comes at you for being real. I’m not too familiar with what they say about Nicki, but I just feel like Nicki pretty much decides what she wants to do and then does it. And I’m all about that.
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(Photo: Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images For BET)