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Mixtape Review: Shanell – Nobody’s Bitch 2

September 1st, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Mixtape Review of Shanell – Nobod’s Bitch 2, courtesy of Meaghan Garvey

It’s not easy being a YMCMB benchwarmer. The biggest look of Shanell’s career thus far is a guest spot on PromQueen,” the lead single from Rebirth, generally considered to be Lil Wayne’s worst album. She’s yet to release an official album (though she pops up on a Young Money compilation once every five or so years) and at this point, that cause is long since lost. But that’s a shame: Shanell might just be the most underappreciated member of the YMCMB roster (all due respect to Gudda Gudda), and she proved that on 2012’s criminally slept-on NobodysBitch.

 

From the jump, it was clear that Nobody’s Bitch wasn’t just a mixtape—it was a thesis statement. “The Opening Statement” has Shanell objectifying a nameless man: “Can you rotate slowly so I can get a good look? Now you know what it feels like to be a sexual object.” The interludes drops immediately into a barrage of “Fuck me daddy, fuck me good” over a DJ Carnage beat that’s half ItTakesTwo,” half peak-time Mad Decent Block Party. “You’re a ho to them either way, so play the game that they play,” she warns with a cynical smirk on “These Hoes Is Winnin.” And she saves the best for last with tape closer “Pay Me,” a NOLA bounce-tinged celebration of money over dudes, on which she chants, “It must be the money ‘cause it ain’t yo dick.” In an age where mixtapes often feel like a collection of loose ends barely tied together, her unified (and gutsy) statement felt especially revelatory.

 

Two years later, Nobody’s Bitch 2 attempts to pick up where Shanell left off. The tape starts strong, with a cover of the acapella version Soul II Soul’s “Back To Life (However Do You Want Me),” a nod to the iconic intro of Belly, which has her voice sounds stronger than ever. By taking it back to 1989 from the start, it’s clear the tape is far more grown-and-sexy than its predecessor. Sure enough, instead of the pointedly raunchy, super-feminist bangers of Nobody’s Bitch, NB2 is filled with a mix of raw, thoughtful break-up ballads and coy come-ons. The snarling self-righteousness makes way for a more vulnerable side of Shanell, as on the tape’s emotional crux “Breaking Down,” which has her reflecting on an unbalanced relationship: “If I had a dollar for every man that’s tryna holler, I’d have millions and I’d give that shit to you / But you never take these things into consideration.” Where she once used relationships gone wrong to fuel her fire, she now sounds a bit burnt out.

 

Shanell’s talent is clear—she’s a bold but considerate songwriter with a great ear for beats—but it’s hard not to want more from what she delivers here. On several tracks, she doesn’t just soften her take-no-prisoners stance, she completely reverses it; on “Service,” she bends over backwards to please her man, and on “Stay Down” and “Hittin’ Like,” she uses her sexual prowess more as a bargaining tool than a form of empowerment (the latter includes a cringe-inducing guest verse from Chanel West Coast that makes Iggy Azalea sound authentic). Scattered remnants of her former self remain, though; on tape highlight “No Time For That,” featuring kindred spirit Trina, she sings, “All my real chicks, leave them fuckboys on the shelf,” and slips in a much-needed dig at Chris Brown’s toxically catchy “Loyal.” Here’s hoping for more of that Shanell in whatever’s next.

 

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