Will Andrews speaks to Shaé Universe, the future of UK R&B
These current uncertain times will have many people yearning for some familiarity in the forms of the nostalgia fueled world of R&B. A genre which experienced a golden age throughout the 1990’s with the likes of Ms Lauryn Hill, Mary J Blige and D’Angelo performing at their peaks, it seemed that the foundations for future mainstream domination was set for the style. In these early years of the 21st century however, R&B is on the verge of popular extinction, becoming a mere sub-genre found only in bedroom playlists and kept alive by a strong underground scene. The fall from grace evidently depicted last December when American artist Jacquees declared himself the King of R&B for his generation.
It is clear R&B is in need of a facelift, a new experimental sound, a new queen. Two weeks ago, when Shaé Universe dropped visuals for her 2018 hit ‘No Stallin’, she reinforced her credentials as future heiress to this queendom. I spoke to the artist recently to get to the heart of what she has in store for us moving forward, and her experiences as an R&B artist in 2020:
Firstly, living in these unprecedented times, how are you finding lockdown and what have you been doing during it?
Honestly, it's been pretty up and down. Some days are better than others but I'm currently training myself to not be so hard on myself & allow space to take each day as it comes. Lessening my expectations has actually resulted in me being more productive as there's less mental pressure. In terms of activities I've taken up Spanish, been reading a lot of self-help books and recently started teaching myself how to produce music.
One of your most recent singles is entitled 'Misunderstood' - What makes you feel misunderstood?
Hmmm, that’s a hard question to answer directly as there's multiple things that make me feel misunderstood, but I think at the root of them all it's perspective. I've come to realise that our perspectives essentially shape our whole lives and the quality of it. I tend to feel misunderstood by people who may not share similar perspectives to me and aren't open enough to widen their own.
You have a degree in American theatre. Considering how many music artists cross over into film, is that something you would want to pursue? What are some of your other aspirations outside of music?
I would absolutely love to cross over into the acting/film industry at some point. I love acting as much as I do singing but music paved a way for me faster than acting did. I aim to gradually introduce mini skits into my music videos in hopes that it will highlight my acting ability and gain attention from actual film productions. Outside of music I aspire to create innovative products within the pharmaceutical/beauty industry for darker skinned women, start up some sort of support group/safe space for upcoming women (particularly black) to discuss tentative topics and lastly, eventually start my own clothing/shoe line catering to taller women as I'm 5'11.
Your music has often touched on themes of race. Your record 'Melanin', which features an amazing sample of Erykah Badu’s 'Bag Lady', seems to be a love letter to black identity. Previously, other UK BAME R&B artists such as Kelela and Ray BLK have been critical of their treatment within the music industry. What has been your experience as an independent artist?
My honest belief is that the black woman has it the hardest in the industry. My personal experience hasn't been all bad but the bad has been bad enough for me to notice an ongoing pattern when it comes to darkskinned women. If we're not being oversexualized or scrutinised then we're being put second to our lighter-skinned colleagues or just silenced completely. It's truly sad because a lot of today's urban inspiration comes from black women if you look it up. We seem to be secretly admired but not respected. I'm not sure what the solvent for this is but I hope it comes soon because I know that the industry's attitude towards black women has been very discouraging for me at times.
On the track No More Love you worked with one of your favourite singers in Etta Bond. Since you have also received vast recognition from other artists such as Chance the Rapper, Tory Lanez and Eminem. Who would be your dream collaboration and why?
Dream collaboration is too hard because I genuinely have many but for the sake of this interview I'd say FKJ. Technically I'm cheating because he's not a music artist, he's a genius musician that collaborates with music artists. Haaa
Building on this, since the theme of the series is lockdown inspiration and the fact that you started off your career doing covers on twitter - we want to know who inspires you - If you could invite five famous people for a dinner party, dead or alive. Who do you choose and why?
God, my family & friends, and the desire to live a comfortable life inspire me primarily. Musically I have loads of inspirations for different reasons but off the top of my head Whitney Houston, Brandy, Jasmine Sullivan, Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu. If I could invite 5 famous people to dinner it would be Michael Jackson, Lil Kim, Rihanna, Burna Boy and Jill Scott.
Finally, what more can we expect from Shaé Universe in 2020?
More fire visuals once the lockdown is over and my first ever EP :)
Will Andrews is a 21 year old student at King’s College, London. He’s the most southern man to come out of Yorkshire and spends his time procrastinating listening to music rather than studying.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England. Follow Slow Motion Panic Masters on instagram, like us on facebook and subscribe to our mailing list below to be alerted every time a new post is published on the site.