It's a special skill to put on false eyelashes. It's even more amazing if you can put on falsies with a full set of long acrylic nails. But Shana B has that covered. Today, the St. Louis rapper is wearing lashes that can only be described as plush and dreamlike; she's got a big personality with even bigger blinks to match.
Shana's eclectic sense of style is part Barbie doll, part Harley Quinn. It's a fusion of pretty pinks, dainty fabrics and cutesy handbags that crosses into loud hair colors, punk platform shoes and Hot Topic's best. And Shana wears it well. It's a reflection of how she enjoys the uniqueness of fashion, while staying ahead of trends and constantly reinventing herself. It's a mentality that has not only shaped her fashion influences, but her ethic as a musician and businesswoman.
"Over the years, my image has grown to be more wise, mature and professional," she says. "I feel like I've influenced a lot of people here; every time I change, I make sure it's something that only I'm doing. When it's redone, you know where it came from."
While Shana B is just 21, she's been on the local rap scene for some time. Dating back to her teen years, Shana snuck into places like Cicero's in the Delmar Loop, eager for a chance to perform in rap cyphers. She remembers being the only girl in a room filled with guys, but holding her spot better than most of them. It's indicative of where rap is today. Shana is not a female rapper; she is a rapper.
"The image that's been pushed in recent years has been a sexual-raunchy type of look for hip-hop, and it hasn't given rappers the chance to broaden the different genres of music," she says. "It only opened the door for women promoting sexuality, versus women having lyrics or expressing pain and love."
Pain is where Shana's music took root in her early days. She experienced the loss of many friends due to violence, and her music was influenced by that pain. Shana admits her music is street. It's not filled with overly sexual euphemisms about tricking men out of their money for Chanel boots, or letting the other girls know that Shana could have your man if she wants him. It's unlike music coming from other women that have emerged in the mainstream, artists like the City Girls, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. Shana B is self-aggrandizing, letting her listeners know she's not the one to sell herself out to succeed. She's got the kind of self-awareness and assuredness that's surprising for someone her age.
"I've failed so many times with business, to the point where I had no choice but to succeed," Shana says. "I've wasted so much money doing stuff I had no business doing, paying people I had no business paying, so I had to learn from mistakes."
Shana's pain has taken a more physical form as well. Looking at the 21-year-old, it's not apparent that she's experienced health trauma of the dramatic kind. But last fall, Shana was seriously injured in a car accident while leaving a nightclub with her friends. She says she woke up in a hospital bed to the news she'd broken her neck in six places. She'd also been in a coma for almost two weeks. Miraculously, Shana was not paralyzed but wore a neck brace for several months and had to undergo major surgery. The doctor visits will continue frequently for a number of years, but it's nothing short of a medical miracle that the rapper recovered from her injuries so quickly.
"I feel good," Shana says. "I have aches and pains here and there, but nothing worse than when you lay on your side too long."
With intensity, Shana's fans are waiting to see what's coming next. She's reluctant to call her next music move a comeback since her accident, but it's inevitably going to be seen as one. She may release more freestyles over popular instrumentals, but it's unclear what the plan is just yet.
"My goals are still the same," she says. "Now, I don't even chase money or riches. I just want to reach people and show them it's OK to be an outcast. I want longevity, and my goals have only broadened. Things started seeming less important and more mediocre after I went through this. It made me start taking better care of myself and loving myself."
Earlier this month, Shana was nominated for a SlumFest award for best female hip-hop artist. The title went to KVtheWriter, but Shana was in attendance at the ceremony and was brought on stage, where she was met with a sea of applause and admiration from attendees. With a reputation in the city as "Lou Queen," Shana didn't need the award to know she is loved and respected. Taking the mic, she talked about how blessed and grateful she was to be alive, and all she'd accomplished to that point. Some of those accomplishments include releasing music, being nominated and working with Netflix and Cardi B.
Yeah. About that: In November, RFT reported that local artist Nikee Turbo was a contestant on Netflix's first season of rap competition Rhythm and Flow. According to Shana, both she and Nikee made it through the Chicago round of auditions. On television, it appears that Nikee was the lone St. Louis contestant.
"So let me explain. This is how TV works," Shana says, scooting her seat closer. Her recollection of the Netflix experience mirrors that of Nikee Turbo. She was contacted by a talent scout, flew to Chicago and auditioned. In Chicago, Shana was told by the judges that she made it. Then a producer from the show came into the room where contestants were waiting and essentially let everyone know that too many people had been chosen to move on. Shana was cut. Nikee Turbo moved on. She was told she'd be on the second season.
"They'll probably hit me up for season two, but I'm gonna be bigger than that by then," she says with a smile. "I've had my share, and that was God trying to tell me, 'You don't need this show, girl.' God has other plans for me to be successful than being on a rap show."
It's clear Shana B is on a path to reaching the success and longevity she longs for. In 2019, she released her debut project, aptly named Barley Quinn, that follows a history of mixtapes and performances. She continues to remain conscious of what her fans want, while being hypervigilant in what she wants from herself. Her experience last fall didn't change who Shana is to the core: a self-aware, humble and hardworking woman. That, and a young woman who wants to make music and look good doing it.
"Can you take my picture?" she asks, handing over her iPhone. "Tell me where I should stand. How's this look?"