Lil' Wayne's Label Mate Shanell Rocks New Genre

By Melissa Castellanos

If you're in the same musical arena as multi-platinum, Grammy-award winning rapper Lil' Wayne, then you've got to have the chops and the edge to back yourself up.

Shanell, a self-described "urban pop rock artist" who toured with Lil' Wayne has proven that she has what it takes to hang with the big "dawgs."

She has penned four of Lil' Wayne's chart-topping hits, including "Prom Queen" off of his certified gold 2010 album, "Rebirth."

"I want to be the new voice for women," the singer-songwriter told It's really all about female empowerment."

Photos: Lil' Wayne

The edgy artist, whose signature look includes a nose ring with a chain, came off of a 52-city U.S. run performing with Lil' Wayne on his headlining "I Am Music Tour."

The thrill of performing in massive sold-out arenas alongside Lil Wanyne says Shanell, gave her the insight and boost she needed to further her solo career.

She also had the chance to see the rapper in a different light.

Lil' Wayne, now serving a one-year jail sentence for having a loaded gun on his tour bus, has an incredible work ethic, according to Shanell. Despite his hard-core street persona, she says, he would dedicate so much time in the studio perfecting his craft that he would practically sleep there.

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Shanell, who also goes by the moniker, SnL, has generated a lot of buzz on the mix-tape circuit with the recent release of "Shut Up and Listen," a follow-up to the successful "A Taste of Shanell." She also hopes to release her debut album sometime this year.

She first made a name for herself as a songwriter, penning tracks for Ne-Yo, Jennifer Hudson, Danity Kane and Kelis, before mustering up the courage to get behind the mic herself. And as her career blossomed, so did her roster of musical collaborators. She has also worked with Usher, Beyonce, Lloyd, and Keri Hilson, among others.

Like Lil' Wayne, Shanell is a fan of the rap-rock genre.

Although it's been done before by Run DMC and Aerosmith, Shanell says that she is trying to create her own genre or "fusion of music," which includes rock, R&B and pop. She made a cameo in Lil' Wayne's video for "Prom Queen," where she got the chance to rock out with the band, Korn.

Inspired by Madonna, Mary J. Blige and Cyndi Lauper, among others, Shanell points out that there is a double standard for female artists.

But that doesn't keep her from writing provocative lyrics.

Shanell references her song, "Substitute Lover," which falls into the realm of "not-so-safe subjects," she says, but "men do it" and are able to put themselves out there lyrically without any repercussions.

"I have worked long and hard," she said. "I support all women who are making music."

The Young Money Entertainment/Universal Motown artist attended a top-notch performing arts school called Tri-Cites High School with alums like Outkast and producer Bangladesh. She is also a trained dancer in modern, ballet, African, hip hop and theatre.

Lil' Wayne, born Dwayne Carter, is serving time at the height of his career. His latest album, "Rebirth," was released last month. He could be released in about eight months with good behavior.

Watch Shanell's cameo in "Prom Queen" and her "rock star" kiss at the end with Lil' Wayne.

By Melissa Castellanos
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