One of the surprising situations that emerged from the 2014 BET Hip Hop Awards weekend in Atlanta was the story that Chicago-based rapper Shawnna was blocked from the festivities by her former label head Chaka Zulu of Disturbing Tha Peace. AllHipHop.com broke the story that Zulu supposedly made the decision to prevent Shawnna from walking the event’s red carpet at the last minute.
Shawnna split with Zulu, Ludacris and DTP years ago, and by all public accounts it seemed to be a civil separation. Or at least, that’s how the parties involved presented it in the media. According to Shawnna, that was just a facade done out of the belief in loyalty.
Behind the scenes issues over lost million dollar deals, allegations of owed money, and contract disputes actually forced a not-so-friendly divide between DTP and the “Gettin’ Some” performer, but both sides still kept the drama in-house.
The closeted problems weighed on Shawnna. The dark side of the industry became so hard to deal with that she says it killed her passion to make music. Shawnna decided to step away from Hip Hop and returned to Chicago to work at a club owned by her father – Blues legend Buddy Guy.
After a few years separated from the business, Shawnna could not reconcile just walking away from something she committed nearly a decade worth of time and effort. A need to be an inspiration for her children and seeing female rap re-emerging in a major way sparked the emcee to rediscover her enthusiasm for recording. She hoped the BET Hip Hop Awards would be the site of her national return to the spotlight. But that ambitious move would not happen.
AllHipHop.com spoke exclusively with Shawnna about what went down in Atlanta and her current feelings about the Disturbing Tha Peace camp.
What happened at the BET Hip Hop Awards?
It’s crazy. We put a lot of money and effort into getting down to Atlanta for BET Hip Hop Awards weekend, so we could promote my new single “Gettin’ To It.” It’s getting a lot of buzz here at home in Chicago, but it takes more than that to break a record. So we were all set up, ready to go down there, mingle with DJs, and get a good look on the red carpet.
I actually didn’t even know they were considering me for the cypher. We were right outside of Atlanta, and they contacted my manager and said, “We might have another slot in the cypher, and we’re considering Shawnna.” So we hit the metal a little harder [laughs].
When we get there, my manager says, “Shawnna I need to talk to you. Our PR person just got word from BET that you have been denied access to the red carpet and the BET Hip Hop Awards.” At that moment, my whole world stopped. It had been a minute since I had been this excited about getting back on the scene and letting everybody know I’m ready. I was embarrassed, hurt, angry, all in one. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
A lot of people have been asking me the past four years, “What’s up with you and DTP? What happened?” It just brought back old emotions of the same type of stuff I was dealing with when I was with this label. I said, “I’m fed up. I’m not taking this anymore.” It’s been four years. I’ve been nothing but cordial about the situation. I never bad mouthed this company. I never said a bad thing about Ludacris.
I just wished them all the best. Knowing that I knew other things could be said to ruffle the feathers, to play the dirty side. This is in no way a ploy to promote a mixtape, cause I don’t even have a mixtape right now. All I was trying to do was get down there and make a little noise with my single, network, communicate with people. They just tried to put a stop on everything. But God is good. We kept grinding. We kept doing our thing.
All-in-all it didn’t turn out to be a bad situation. But the things we had planned to do never happened, because of some situation with Disturbing Tha Peace not wanting me to be involved in it.
There was never really any public discussion about exactly what happened with the split between you and DTP. From the outside looking in, it seemed like it ended with everybody being cool with each other.
I made the decision to keep it cordial. I’m not the type of person that likes negativity. The way my faith is set up, I feel like they’re going to get it back from a Higher Power. So, I never wanted to go out and blast the company or Luda, because overall it was one of my best experiences in my career.
Don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of things I didn’t agree with. I just chucked it up to being part of the business. But something would say, “Nah, this ain’t good business.”
It’s no secret I was with them for ten years, and all I had was two albums. I had a feature here and there, but it wasn’t enough. People would come up to me and say, “Shawnna didn’t get the push that she needed.” I don’t have to say all these negative things about them. The proof is there.
After four years of me being cordial, me not saying anything, they want to take the position to still try to keep their foot on my neck. What could I have done – me independently with my own cash – walking the red carpet? I know what I could have done if I got in that cypher. Don’t get it twisted. But me just trying to network and letting the people know I’m back working, how could that have hurt them in any way? I don’t understand it, and I’m sick of it. Nobody’s over there. I left. Everybody else left. It ain’t rocket science.
I haven’t signed any deals. I haven’t done anything in the industry since then. If they think that I’m still going to allow them to have publishing on me after I broke away from that company, they got s**t f**ked up. They’ve awaken a sleeping giant.
I wanted it to be a situation where we kept it cordial and walked away amicably. But when they made this move and took this shot at me, they knocked the top of the pot off.
What was BET’s reason that they gave on why you weren’t allowed to participate?
BET was just saying that they had gone into a partnership with Disturbing Tha Peace. They came together to present the festivities. This, in my opinion, is what gave [DTP] the authority to do so. No shade to BET. BET has always shown me mad, mad love, so I know this had nothing to do with them. That’s the other reason I’m so upset. I know exactly where it came from.
In any interview you’ve seen or heard me in, I’ve never said anything bad about [DTP]. After four years of being silent and turning the other cheek – to still try to take this slap from them. I’m not taking it laying down in no way. To me it’s saying they still want to go to war with me. They got a problem. If you got a problem with me, okay we can address it. We can get it out there. What you wanna do? You can’t keep going in my pocket.
Are you still contractually tied to them?
No, I’m not. I have not been signed to Disturbing Tha Peace for four years. I have no connection to them. I haven’t even spoken to Luda since before we even got to the split. I haven’t spoken to Luda since we were in the studio working on [the intended Shawnna-Ludacris collaborative album] Battle Of The Sexes.
I don’t understand why after four years, y’all still wanna take this shot at me. I have no idea what their next move could be, because I had no idea they’d make this move. I honestly thought they were on the same page as me – we’re going to let what happened between us, be between us. Let’s move forward on our own paths amicably. Obviously, I was wrong.
Do I just take this and walk away with it? Or I do let it be known I’m not going to take this. I rep my city. So if I take an “L”, my city takes an “L”. I can’t do that. I love them too much, and they love me too much.
Females in the industry cannot afford to take “Ls” like that. If I win, females win. If I lose, females lose. That’s how I look at it. So even if I wanted to say, “Ah man, whatever. I’m gonna just walk away.” It’s not just doing that for me. We already got so much against us.
It doesn’t seem like there’s issues from your side. From what you’re saying, the problem is coming from them. Is there anything they could do at this point to smooth the situation over?
You ever heard of “too little, too late.” Ludacris knows. DTP knows. They see me. They’ve seen my interviews. They’ve heard my records. They know I never said anything negative about him nor his company. They know that. So why would you take it upon yourself to try and stop me from doing what I wanna do?
It was a complete slap in the face. It would be different if something was building or if we bumped into each other and had words or my camp was shooting shots at their camp. It was nothing. The waters were calm.
So over the last four years, they haven’t given any indication they had an issue with anything that you were doing?
Nothing at all. It was: I don’t speak of him and he doesn’t speak of me. When people would ask me, “What happened with the DTP situation? Why did you leave Luda?” I would just say, “I wish Disturbing Tha Peace and Ludacris nothing but success. All good things come to an end.”
That’s what I said each and every time. I am a very loyal person. Regardless of what people said at the time of our split – I mean they threw me way under the bus. I let them go with it, because the media, they don’t care about the real story. They want that story. So I let them go with it, but I’ve always been loyal.
I know you’re in the studio right now putting in work.
Yeah, I need to be heard. I need for this to be known. People think I’m dead, gone, buried alive. People think I just walked away, I’m done. No, I’m out here working. It’s just so many situations with people trying to have their foot on my neck.
For so long I was always playing the nice guy. Saying, “Things happen for a reason. It’s gonna get greater later.” F**k that s**t! I’m done with that. I’m done playing the nice guy. If that’s what I gotta do, then that’s what I gotta do. You wanna go to war with me, I’m war ready. Point, blank, period. You wanna leave me alone, then leave me alone. You wanna go at it with me, let’s go.