When LL Cool J released “Doin’ It” in January of 1996, the record went on to become one of his biggest, hitting #9 on the Billboard Top 100. The single was spinning on radio and rocking clubs, and a video was ordered up to be directed by Hype Williams. This was when things got a little tricky.
In one of hip-hop’s most controversial moments, rapper LeShaun who was prominently featured on the song was excluded from the video and replaced with a model. But, there is more to the story. LeShaun wasn’t just a feature on “Doin’ It,” the song was for all intents and purposes a remake of her song, “Wild Thing.” She explains that it was Chris Lighty who came to her personally when LL wanted to remake the song, so they did, and she was on it. But, as Hype Williams prepared to shoot the video, LeShaun was not included because she was 7 months pregnant with her now teenaged daughter. So, she sued… and she won.
Since the lawsuit, LeShaun pursued a career in photography and is a “body work” expert, she performs massages, does personal training and she lives what she teaches as demonstrated by her own amazing body. She is too often remembered for being one-half of one of “hip-hop’s biggest beefs,” but in reality, she and LL are still friends, and she would love to perform “Doin’ It” with him if, and when, he is inducted in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
AllHipHop.com caught up with LeShaun about LL, photography, female rappers, and if there is any such thing as life after hip-hop.
AllHipHop.com: Being part of Flavor Unit seemed like it had to be so fun, jumping on and off of each other’s records. Take us back to some of the early days in your career.
LeShaun: Wow. It was fun. But, at the same time it was stressful, because there weren’t very many females, doing what we were doing. There were some that were out, but they weren’t writing their own shit. So it was really nerve wracking to say the least, because those of us that were really talented and writing our own stuff, we weren’t depending on a ghost writer. But, it was kinda like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ like this person is doing this that and the other she did not even write that, you know, it would piss me off, you know. Because we knew we were writing our own stuff and we had the talent, but it was just so hard for us to really get our foot in the door and get the recognition that we deserved you know as female artists that were doing our own thing.
AllHipHop.com: Why do you think things are so challenging for female artists in hip-hop?
LeShaun: I don’t know it’s almost as if guys don’t wanna hear girls rapping, I mean, not only just guys, I guess. People just don’t want to hear females rapping. I’m not sure. I love it (to hear female rappers), of course, obviously I’m a little bit biased, but, you know, I have always loved it. I’ve always loved to see women get involved in something that is male dominated and then do their thing. I am the type of girl that loves to watch a movie and then there is a bad a** chick in the movie and, I’m like ‘Yeah!’ I have always been that type of girl.
It’s weird now because it’s still that same struggle that I had when I was younger. Rap is still very male dominated, and you have one or two females that are doing something, and it’s like there is not enough room, but there is enough room for a hundred male rappers to all be doing well at one time. And that kinda sucks. I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know what it is about the culture. But you definitely you got a lot of females that are out there, some that have not even been discovered yet–that are dope as hell, that write their own stuff and can can spit like like the guys you know just right off the top and it’s just harder for them. You know, it’s just weird.
AllHipHop.com: Can you talk about “Doin It,” and why it was important to you to speak up for yourself and and take legal action.
LeShaun: Ummm well… Let me see…First of all, I need to say there was a lot of stuff going on as far as me not being visible in the video. Because LL was the person that I was doing the song with, and he was the talent, he was the one that they sort of put in the forefront (as making the decision to exclude me from the video), but it wasn’t LL It was the people behind him saying, ‘you know we can’t do this; she is pregnant.’ The media, they don’t care about the middle man, or anybody behind the scenes they want to make it about the talent, the artist and the person that people know that they are familiar with which was LL. And so… we had our issues.
I was really upset about the situation because I was pregnant, but I still felt like I wanted people to know who I was, you know? Someone else was going to get the recognition for the hard work that I did, and that’s what really upset me. I really wanted to make a statement that I thought it was unfair for me to not be able to do my thing. It was not fair for me to just you know sit back and say here’s my voice and nobody knows who the hell I am. This was one of the biggest songs of you know of his career. It was huge, “Doing It” went triple platinum and that could have done a lot more for me career wise.
And still to this day, I feel like had I been in the video, I think it would have probably helped my music career move along, but then again I had to think that everything happens for a reason. I was pregnant. When I look at pictures of myself when I was pregnant, I ask myself if I really want that to be looping over and over and over again 20 years later with my pregnant face when they were shooting the video, I had my daughter, but I still had that pregnant look. You get that pudgy face your nose is wide and you just don’t really kinda look like yourself, I don’t know if you have any kids or if you’ve ever had any children and went through that but your face looks different. You know, And so I don’t know, I’m kinda like did I really want that to be the face that people remember 20 years down the line, I don’t know.
AllHipHop: Have you left rap behind and, if so, what is that like?
LeShaun: No I haven’t, I still write pretty much every day. I still write songs, I write poetry. I am actually about to finish up my book of poetry. So some of them are funny, some of them are cutthroat, they come from life experiences. Some of them are street, I mean I’m still Brooklyn (laughter). Some people that have run in my circle are gonna say, ‘holy sh*t she talking about me.’ I am planning to tie in my photography with the book. I am definitely not giving up on hip hop. I would love to get my ass back out there on stage and do a show or two.