Shawnna: Heads Home

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hawnna has been “gettin’ some” for almost a decade – props, that is. While Ludacris’ Disturbing Tha Peace brand made Shawnna an artist that registered with a Southern, audience, this Windy City native dropped a group album nine years ago. As one-half of Infamous Syndicate, Shawnna was rushed into the studio, and later displaced as a young mother with disillusions of industry grandeur.

With a hit-record on the radio trailblazing for her sophomore release on Def Jam, Shawnna has little reason to reflect on her simpler times. Still, the rebel daughter of Blues legend Buddy Guy revisits her path to prominence. The DTP first lady, remembers the basement and the people in it. Chicago is caught between worlds, and so is its newest celebrity, old to the new.

AllHipHop.com: What do you think is Chicago Hip-Hop, and how does Chicago’s style flow into it?

Shawnna: Chicago style can be trademarked by the way that Twista raps. I think that most rappers like to spit like that around the Chi, but we don’t like to be in a pigeon hole and rap to that specific style. Pretty much though, we can rap anyway and fit in with any style of rap.

AllHipHop.com: Your father was a Blues musician…

Shawnna: Yes, his name is Buddy Guy. He was just inducted into the [Rock & Roll] Hall of Fame.

AllHipHop.com: How did his art and Blues music affect your work?

Shawnna: He actually didn’t want me to get into rap. When it comes to rap, all he had [heard] was the violence that the media labels it with. Because he wasn’t a part of that generation, he didn’t really know. When it comes to rap, it was just me, my friends and whoever wanted to show some support. My mom was the one that cut the checks for me to get into the studio and buy certain equipment that I needed, without him knowing. Now he sees that I’m on this path that I won’t turn around from, and I have gotten a lot of recognition for what I do. It was more of a situation where he couldn’t beat me; he had to join me. [Now], he’s more open to what I’m doing and he has more of an appreciation for it.

AllHipHop.com: Was it difficult to do Hip-Hop without his approval?

Shawnna: It wasn’t very difficult. He was out of town a lot, because he was always touring anyways. He wasn’t going to the Hip-Hop clubs or the areas that I was going to. It was just when it was time to go to college, and I wasn’t going, that’s when it all kicked in. By that time though, I was signing my first contract with Relativity Records. Just like with my kids, my daughter is into fashion, music, and television, you can’t deny it.

AllHipHop.com: Where in Chicago did you grow up?

Shawnna: When I was younger, we grew up in the city. When I was in high school, I was in the suburbs: Country Club Hills.

AllHipHop.com: How is it different being in the city and suburbs?

Shawnna: Basically, the only thing that is different is the commute.

AllHipHop.com: How did you overcome the credibility issue of the suburban rapper?

Shawnna: Once you get the DVDs of me in the hood, that’s the only way people can really see. It’s not really what comes out of my mouth, it’s really what comes out of the streets. I won’t say anything [more], I’ll let people see for themselves.

AllHipHop.com: A lot of the Hip-Hop artists develop together in basements and crews, were you involved with any of them?

Shawnna: Everybody, I was real close was everyone. People from Do or Die, we still bump into each other. We partied together, all that stuff.

AllHipHop.com: How is it different going from the basement to some of the best studios money can buy?

Shawnna: The difference is the microphones. The exclusiveness and the intimacy that you get in the basement is lost when you move to these other studios.

AllHipHop.com: Who else started up with you in the basement?

Shawnna: My homegirl, Lateefa, who was in the [Infamous] Syndicate with me, Cap-One and my little brother, Ice Dre who produced “Splash Waterfalls” for Ludacris. A lot of family business going on in the business.

AllHipHop.com: Many people don’t know. Tell us about Infamous Syndicate…

Shawnna: It was me and my good friend, Lateefa. We signed a deal with Relativity in ’97, and we put a quick album, [Changing The Game] together. We went on some tours and opened up for everybody, anyone you can think of. That really put us on the map, and got people to see that it was time for women to step up in Hip-Hop.

AllHipHop.com: What happened with the group?

Shawnna: Relativity. I don’t know what happened with on the business end; they were taken over by Loud [Records]. They left it in our hands to either continue or get out of the deal. We had some management issues, and I just had my son, so I really wanted to be with him. I took about a year or so off, to make sure I was there for my son. But the rap life was calling me, and my family was telling me to go ahead and get back in. so I got right back.

AllHipHop.com: Is it difficult to have children and having the career you’ve built for yourself?

Shawnna: Seeing how much they love it makes it a lot easier. But if they wanted me to be around all the time, then it would be a lot harder. They got my back.

AllHipHop.com: The gang life in Chicago had a lot to do with making and breaking in the Chicago Hip-Hop scene. Were you involved with that?

Shawnna: I always repped with the Fo’s [short for the local gang, “Four Corner Hustla”]. But in the basement, we were in there for business. They made n***as leave that s**t outside, we were in there to make hits.

AllHipHop.com: Do you think it helped you or hurt you?

Shawnna: When I got on, we weren’t really about that anymore. We were more about hustling. That’s why you hear me rep every single gang in Chicago, because it’s not about separation, it’s about making money.

AllHipHop.com: What do you think keeps Chicago separated?

Shawnna: Chicago is a city of hate. I don’t know why. It was like that before I was born, it’s going to be like that after I’m gone.

AllHipHop.com: Do you think we’ll ever achieve the unity that cities like Atlanta have achieved?

Shawnna: As we get artists on bigger platforms like Kanye, Twista, Da Brat, and myself, people will have more to believe in.

AllHipHop.com: Why do you think that you Kanye and Twista broke out the way you did?

Shawnna: It’s all about timing. Kanye and Twista hit at the right time, I put out “Getting’ Some” at the right time, and it’s all about making the right moves now.

AllHipHop.com: Let’s talk about the “Getting’ Some” video, a lot of Chicago figures showed up.

Shawnna: I had to do that. It was for me, it was for my city, and it was for the industry to show how much support I have at home.

AllHipHop.com: What was the feel at the video shoot like and how did it feel to be there?

Shawnna: I wanted the shoot to be like a party. I don’t drink when I’m working, but I like people to drink — of age of course. But people have to have a good time.

AllHipHop.com: Why the beauty shop?

Shawnna: I feel that the beauty industry is a big part of the Midwestern region as a whole, so I just wanted to represent for us.

AllHipHop.com: Who do you think pioneered the style with the faster flow?

Shawnna: It was a group called The Snypaz.

AllHipHop.com: When did it click with you?

Shawnna: It was on a local radio station — one of those ones where if you drove too far, you couldn’t hear it anymore. I heard it, and I had never heard anything like that before.

AllHipHop.com: What are you listening to these days?

Shawnna: I’m bumping the DTP of course. I love the new Mobb Deep, I like the new E-40. I like the mixtapes more than the albums, because not a lot of people are dropping right now. I like everybody.

AllHipHop.com: Of everybody, who is featured on your new album?

Shawnna: I kept it in the fam. DTP all day.

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