VIBE Interviews Shanell About Her Style, Being Artistic Director Of The “I Am Still Music” Tour & More

April 5, 2011 by Danny M


VIBE Interviews Shanell

VIBE got the chance to speak to Shanell recently about her fashion ads for Married To The Mob, where the marriage between hip hop and fashion is heading, why she dubs her next mixtape “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun 2011“, her artistic director role for the “I Am Still Music” tour, her style, being labeled as an “R&B” artist, and plenty more! Hit the jump to read the full interview.

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?

I’m glad you say that because some women aren’t as bold as they can be because they’re scared of being a “bitch,” you know what I mean? And that brings me into the next question. With your g-spot-inspired single “My Button”, what message are you trying to send?
Oh, gosh! The single [Laughs]. It’s a subject I’ve heard from friends, on TV shows. It’s a subject I heard on The View, you know! Women having to fake it when it comes down to that. The song is a story; I’m talking to my button and trying to convince my button. We may have to go ahead and fake it this time but just hang in there ‘cause if he doesn’t come through, I got you when it’s over with. It’s funny, but it’s real shit at the same time.

It really is, and what made you go with this song?
I was really nervous to play it. I had Cortez, Mack, Wayne in the room, and I was like, ‘I’m about to play a song and I don’t want y’all to get offended because it is kinda on the attack of men.” [Laughs] And they thought it was so funny and so real that they were like, ‘We wanna roll with this one,’ and I was surprised. It’s done in a classy way.

What does it feel to be at this point in your career with your first single about to hit radio rotation? What does that feel like?
I’ve been wanting to do this forever, so it’s crazy. A few years ago it was like people don’t know you until you drop a single, but people are like, ‘When’s the album coming?’ I’m like, can I do a single first? [Laughs] It feels great. I can’t wait. I’ve done and dealt with a lot of stuff in the last few years just media-wise–gossip blogs—and I’m really excited to put some music out for people to listen to instead of talking so much. This will give them something to talk about!

Who is giving you advice about this industry and helping you navigate the biz?
My sister D. Woods and Aubrey O’Day. There are certain things I call my sister about, and there’s certain things I call Aubrey about. They both have dealt with this whole world before I have, and sometimes if I’m crying or upset about something, they’re both looking at me like, get over it. [Laughs] They help me out a lot, and that’s the whole thing that we try to do—support each other. There’s not a lot of women that stick together like that.

What are the two pieces of advice that you Aubrey and D give you that just sticks with you every day?
Aubrey has said to me… Well, I’m a really nice person, and I tend to feel like people are friends. I put people close to me, and she’s like, ‘This is a business. Everybody’s here to use each other, so use people for what they’re good at and then keep moving.’ And it sounded crazy to me! I’m like, use people?! But I’ve seen it happen a few times with people that I work with. This business is not about loyalty, it’s about business and that was something I had to learn quick. That’s what Aubrey has said to me, and D says a lot [Laughs]!

Is there one thing in particular?
Her and I talk a lot more when it comes to the stage and performing. Usually when a person is like, ‘You did a great job,’ she’s the one that’s standing back behind everybody waiting to tell me, ‘Okay, you looked down at the ground five time and you didn’t hit that not right there. You have to breathe in.’ She’ll tell me what I didn’t do right, but I need that because everybody else is telling me, ‘Good job,’ and I can go to my sister to find out what I need to work on.

Constructive criticism is awesome to have. Now, to jump back into the music—On Shut Up And Listen, your sound was sexy and almost hypnotic in a way. Is that the sound fans can expect on your upcoming mixtape Nobody’s Bitch?
Nobody’s Bitch is going to be very loud and obnoxious to some people because it puts the more wild, fun, party side. The stuff on Shut Up And Listen feels good, it’s more melodic and you can two-step to it, but Nobody’s Bitch is when you got your hands up in the air dancing on somebody’s table.

So it’s more of a strictly party album?
Yeah. It’s “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun 2011”!

Does it have any house music undertones?
Definitely. I’m not done working on it yet, but I’ve listened to what I’ve done so far, and I’m like, oh my God! People are going to think I’m a house techno artist [Laughs]. There’s a lot more of that because, you know, I’m a dancer at heart. I need to get people up out their seats, and I wanna hear myself when I’m going to the club. Yes, I want to be sexy and melodic, but at the same time, I can party. Hard!

Do you like being labeled pop/punk? Some people even say that you’re R&B.
I don’t like the R&B label. I’ve always done a bunch of different sounds, and I kind of feel like that’s where the listener’s ear is now. There’s access to so much music so easily that people are starting to accept more. People that just used to listen to hip-hop now listen to dance music. Usher doing “OMG”, Chris Brown doing it. With me, the lines are gray. I do it all. I just don’t like “R&B”. I guess because when I was younger, R&B to me was Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. I didn’t listen to that. That was my sister, and I was listening to Madonna and Janet Jackson and people that did a bunch of different music.

I feel you. Your music is heavily influenced with pop, so I understand you not wanting to be boxed in.
They don’t expect a lot to me. I am a black girl that sings, but that’s not it.

Exactly. If you’re a black artist then people want to categorize hip-hop or R&B, but it’s not strictly that anymore.

Are there any specific writers or producers that you worked with for this mixtape that you’re excited about?
I’m really excited to hear my song with Jeffree Star. He just recently signed to Akon, and we got together and did a crazy song [Laughs]. I have some other features on there that I don’t want to tell, but it was so crazy because it was hard to find women that didn’t care what they said. ‘What’s the song about? Oh, I can’t say that.’ What?! Like, come on. So, I got some bossed up girls. We’re not apologizing for anything that we say.

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2 Responses to “VIBE Interviews Shanell About Her Style, Being Artistic Director Of The “I Am Still Music” Tour & More”

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