Never Forget Me
Shawnna has an innate musical talent. But that can be expected when you're the daughter of legendary blues guitarist Buddy Guy. Growing up in Chicago during the 80's, the self-proclaimed tomboy was exposed to blues and rock ‘n’ roll through her pops yet it was hip-hop that captured her attention.
She first fell in love with hip-hop after listening to Rob Base and DJ E-Z Rock's 1988 hit, "It Takes Two," but it was Ice Cube's "Jackin' For Beats" that inspired Shawnna to write her first rhyme. In 1997 the aspiring MC signed her first record deal as one-half of the lady duo Infamous Syndicate and released their 1999 debut album, Changing the Game on Relativity Records. That same year, the duo split and after a chance meeting with DTP executive Chaka Zulu, Shawnna signed as a solo artist on Luda’s Disturbing Tha Peace crew on Def Jam Records.
The first lady of DTP went on to drop two solo records with the crew: Worth Tha Weight (2004) and Block Music (2006) and is currently finishing her third album, Mr. Radio, and a new mixtape, Jackin’ For Beats. Lately, though, the buzz swirling around the 28-year-old rapper has been more rumor than fact. There’s been speculation on everything from her relationship with DTP to the status of her all-female rap group with Remy Ma and Jackie-O. During a break from recording Mr. Radio in California, Shawnna sets the records straight with XXLMag.com.
There are rumors you’re leaving DTP. Is that true?
I’m actually in the process of leaving Disturbing Tha Peace. It’s definitely not on a beef-type thing. They got some new artists and there’s been a lot of distance since I first signed with Def Jam. When I signed, it was Kevin Liles and Lyor Cohen [running the label]. Now, we have a whole new regime up there. I feel like they don’t support me, they don’t love me. They don’t have that interest in me as Kevin Liles did, and Luda agrees. He supports [my decision] to get the independent thing poppin'. He’s like, “Well, wherever you go, I got your back. Just kill it.”
Is there any truth to the rumors it had something to do with money?
Nope. I ain’t never had a problem with them [DTP Records], never had any bad business. I just feel like… [Luda’s] done enough for Atlanta, and he’s shown me how to do it. I want to go home and do it for Chicago [now]. I want to be able to feed my kids. He’s supportive of that. We’re friends before business partners. He’s going to support whatever I do.
What label are you going to sign with for your next album?
Well, right now we’re probably gonna go somewhere independent, because that’s where the money is. Some heavy labels that already got money — that have their 50 Cents and their heavy hitters — they know they got platinum sales coming. They get comfortable with that and they don’t really put too much into their artists. I’ve learned that over the years, so I want to go somewhere independent [where] they’re trying to break through and prove a point to these major labels.
In a recent interview, you said you're no longer part of the group Threesome with Remy Ma and Jackie-O. What happened?
Everybody jumped the gun on that. Me, Jack and Rem just decided that we were gonna do some songs together, do a mixtape together [and] they just jumped on that, like, “Oh word? That’s fly. It’s a group.” They’re my bitches. We get down. We gonna do that shit. But [as far as] a group, and signing a deal, I got a lot of umbrellas over me right now. I gotta deal with Def Jam and Disturbing Tha Peace. I don’t want too many contracts on my table. And when you’re dealing with girls…it’s real critical, not something you can jump into. We’ve got to make sure everybody’s comfortable. We’ve all got kids, so we’ve all got separate needs. I don’t want to lose a friendship over trying to make a couple extra bucks.
Are you happy with the response that your last album, Block Music, received?
Definitely. I love it. That’s the reason that I’m still sane, because everybody loved me like that. I don’t like looking at the numbers because I know that the marketing and promotion wasn’t there. And if it was there, it was sloppy. I’m gonna keep it all the way fuckin’ real. Def Jam didn’t have it's fucking shit straight. If you tell me that my album was garbage, that I didn’t put out fucking fire, then I [would] understand. But I did all the fucking work. We put out “Gettin’ Some” by ourselves and sold it to DTP for the [Ludacris Presents: Disturbing Tha Peace] compilation. It wasn’t even gonna be on the compilation if it wasn’t for that move. I had one of the biggest fucking remixes of ’06. Why the fuck was there no video? I’m not holdin’ my lip no more. I gotta let muthafuckas know. Fuck this shit. Me and Luda, that’s my nigga. Like I said, that’s my nigga aside from rap, so I love him like that. But the rest of the people under that umbrella - I’ll see you later, man.
So Def Jam dropped the ball?
There was nothing done. They barely shot a video for “Getting’ Some.” You can look at the video and see there was basically two scenes. Come on! It was one of the hottest fucking club records of ’06. The video was nothing. So we come to the second single, which is “Damn.” We had Smoke from Field Mob featured on the song, and he was in jail at the time. So I personally didn’t think it was a good time to go ahead with the video. I just couldn’t take it no more. Honestly, I was left at home from the day my album dropped. My album dropped and I had no work booked. If it wasn’t for my management company and the agency doing something, as far as shows, there [would have been] nothing. The label didn’t even call me for a fucking meeting. I guess I was a write-off. I’m sick of it. When I started this shit, I had babies, and now I’m still screaming the same shit. [But now] I got big kids. [Laughs] Straight up, I’m trying to put trust funds together. I need college tuition. You need to stop fucking playing with me.
Are you doing an entire album with Ludacris?
Hell yeah. He came to me like, “You know, before you leave, I want to do this album with you that we’ve been trying to do forever.” Me and him been trying to do this Battle of the Sexes album ever since we first started going on tour together. People [always] made comparisons between us, saying how well we compliment each other and how I can hold my weight [with] him. You don’t normally see a female who could match a caliber like his. We’re actually like six songs in, and that was just from spending like a week locked in the studio together. His schedule is so crazy. He’s “Hollywood,” so there’s all kinds of other shit going on for him. I’m happy for him, though. Keep doing that shit, nigga. I’m chillin’. Whenever he gets the time, I know how we get in the studio. If the chemistry is off the chain, all it takes is another week to lock the next six of them down and we’re done.