So big things do come in small packages. Shanell, the next lady of Young Money stands at an average height somewhere around five-foot-five, this was before I noticed her heels. She was easily noticeable at the Chelsea eatery, The Park, her hair beaming with purple and blue streaks, she stands out. Amongst her Young Money compatriots consisting of Drake, Jae Millz, Gudda Gudda, Nicki Minaj, Tyga and of course Lil Wayne, her talent is the diamond in the rough.
It's time to discover Shanell, not just for her killer looks that's often pictured with one of those nose ring-to-ear accessories. The name of her signature piece of jewelry escapes me but her angelic voice bumping over her booming David Guetta-produced single, "The Other Side" has more of a sticky factor. When we sat down to talk about her new mixtape, Shut Up and Listen, we talked about being a part of Atlanta's prominent high school alumni, getting discovered by Lil Wayne, and her loyal gay following.
INTERVIEW BY RICHARD "TREATS" DRYDEN
I read you’re from Atlanta. Given the famous community of folks from there, did you go to school with any celebrities?
Shanell: The name of the high school is called Tri-Cities. I didn't go to school with them, they graduated before I got there. Andre  or Big Boi went there, Kandi from Xscape, Bangledesh, Keenan [Thompson] from Saturday Night Live, D Woods— my sister. My parents split up, my mother moved to Atlanta. She found this high school for me and my sister to attend.
Wait, D. Woods is your sister? Like blood relative?
Shanell: Yeah, “big” little sister.
Has she schooled you to the game, as an artist?
Shanell: Yeah, I learned a lot from her whole experience. Tri-Cities was a performing arts high school, we both did a lot of theater, and like concert dance, like modern ballet, so when she got into the music business, the whole mentality of talent is different. It's not about talent, it's about business. So seeing her go through those changes and having to realize that it was like, "Whoaaa" I've been singing and dancing and writing for a long time, but not on that level. She kind of opened to my eyes to what it really is.
Did you always want to be in the music business, after seeing her go through her ups and downs?
Shanell: I was already kind of in it. I wasn't performing in mass arenas or signed to a Puffy at this time. I was still writing records for other people, dancing for other artists. that didn't stop me, I was just ready for whatever.
Who were you writing for?
Shanell: Everybody. Like any other writer, just trying to get different placements on different albums. I got some stuff on their album, Danity Kane's album, on Kelis Was Here. I wrote “Aww Shit!”
What’s the scope of your solo album?
Shanell: I wanna do a little bit of everything. I want my album to be a fusion of music like, I don't listen to one thing, and I don't want my album to be one thing because I'll feel like I'm selling myself short. That mixtape [Shut Up and Listen] has a lot of R&B sounding stuff, and stuff that sounds like "The Other Side"—a mixture. We're pushing it out now. The response from it so far has been really good. I hear a lot of people say it's different, it's fresh and that's important to me because I don't want my music to sound like any other R&B or pop or rock chick could have done that. It sounds like that's Shanell. So it's got a lot of good responses.
I see you've got a Salaam Remi record on here.
Shanell: Yeah I don't know him at all. Haha. I only talked to him one time, he was working on the Sex and the City soundtrack, and I was trying to get on it. I called him up, and he was like, ‘sorry we're already finished with the soundtrack.’ Actually he did that song with Eve and I just jumped on it.
So you're one of two ladies of Young Money, what's that like?
Shanell: I don't think about what it's like, I don't know (laughs). The guys are like brothers to both me and Nicki. Wayne structured Young Money to be like a family not just artists, artists, artists. So it's like I got a bunch of guys that will beat a boy up that tries to do me wrong.
How did he approach you to be a part of Young Money?
Shanell: He heard my music, and at the time I was shopping it and selling it to other people. We were on the same tour together, so he saw me perform. He was just like basically, "Why are you giving your music away? If you really wanna do it professionally, you can do it over here."
LIL WAYNE F. SHANELL, "RUNNIN"
Do you have any shows coming up we should know about?
Shanell: Actually yes, I don't know if you’d want to go.
Why not? Why wouldn't I?
Publicist interrupts: It’s for Gay Pride, June 26th.
Shanell: Wanna come?
Yeah, totally, I'm always out during Gay Pride. Um, not in that way.
Just for that day I'm out (kidding!). The city is great during Gay Pride, it's like so much energy and fun, if you're into that whether or not you're gay.
Shanell: I love that fan base. It’s so loyal and so supportive. Those kind of shows for me are the fun shows because they want to have fun with you whereas other shows they just stare at you and just wait for you to mess up and have something to say about you.
How did that come about?
Shanell: Before Young Money, my fan base in Atlanta was gay. I just came from that, so when we were talking about doing shows outside of—when I say we, I say my management—Wayne, I was like, “I gotta go back to where I came from because they're so supportive and they've followed me on my journey to success," so it was only so right.
So what about your show that draws that so much attention, aside from the uptempo sound?
Shanell: It's uptempo, it's trance, it's sexy and it's fun.
Is it just you dancing?
Shanell: I have a band, I have dancers.
Um, guy or girl dancers?
Shanell: Right now, girls. So I guess you'll like that.