Rising: British-Ghanaian rapper ShaSimone is just getting started
“I’m a Hackney girl, east London!” ShaSimone, born Shauna Yeboah, declares over Zoom.
The British-Ghanaian rapper, as with many in the UK scene, never fails to let you know where she comes from. “I know I act crazy/ I’m from East, not South,” she proclaims on her latest track Hushpuppi. Yet for all the artist’s pride in her hometown, it’s the work of the US greats who have shaped her style. “I would say my flow is very 90s inspired,” she explains. “I grew up listening to a lot of Biggie and Tupac.” It’s easy to see how these iconic influences have seeped into Yeboah’s attitude, too; she carries herself with a casual confidence that belies the fact that her first official single, Belly, was only released in 2020.
Her beginnings were typical of most fledgling teenage rappers. “Me and my friends used to send voice notes back and forth, back and forth,” Yeboah remembers. When she was in secondary school, she used Blackberry Messenger to share her raps with friends. Their words of affirmation emboldened Yeboah, who then began to experiment with real intent. Her first song was a freestyle over an instrumental of LL Cool J’s Doin’ It. “It was really hard… I was just thinking, ‘Rah, I can actually do this, this is jokes!’ From there it just kind of took off.”
Yeboah’s career began in earnest at the start of the first lockdown. Since then, she’s delivered a collection of intoxicating singles, from the laidback grooves of No Chaser to the Afrobeats-indebted rhythm of Back to Sender, where she rhymes with disarming conviction: “Anything they wish me back to sender/ Tryna keep it real ain’t no pretender.” It wasn’t long before the Mercury Prize-winning rapper Dave tapped her to feature on his latest album, We’re All Alone in This Together. “There’s a mutual producer that we work with and [Dave] was looking for a female artist,” Yeboah says of how the opportunity came together. “He loved the tone of my voice – he was just really with it. Then we got the call to come over.” The session lasted from the evening they linked up until the early morning the following day, leaving Yeboah in awe of what she’d just experienced. “He dropped a lot of gems on me that day!” she smiles.
While she enjoys collaboration, Yeboah recognises the importance of holding your own. “I think it’s good to collab, but you should also be able to make a great song by yourself,” she asserts. “That’s something I don’t depend on ‘cause I know I can make a banger.” This self-belief is integral to her artistry; it’s an energy that informs her writing as much as it invigorates it. But there’s also a more meditative side to her creative practice that isn’t often seen. “Sometimes I just go on a bus ride, stare out the window and just look at things. I might even go by London Bridge, sit by the water and just, like, zone out…” she trails off. “I don’t like when there’s too much going on,” she admits, adjusting her tone. “I need to be in the zone so I can write my best.”
It’s a focused approach that has proved fruitful so far – her prolific release schedule in 2021 is evidence alone – but there’s an unshakeable feeling that her best is yet to come. Almost on cue, Yeboah reveals that there’s an EP in the works but keeps the details close to her chest – though she does make a point to divulge that there will be no guest features: “This one is just me, on some real rap shit!”
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