In just four years, Nigerian-born Shae Universe has very quickly become one of the most exciting new talents in the UK’s R&B scene. Pulling on irresistible R&B rhythms, Shae has caught the eyes and ears of across the US, UK, as well as her home country.
Shae first made viral waves on the Internet through song covers which she would upload to social media and garner mass attention. Recognizing that she could make something out of it, Shae Universe found herself capitalizing off that moment and several thousand listeners later released “Big Mistake” featuring Ms Banks in 2017. Fast forward some years later, the gifted songstress unveiled a slew of singles such as “Tell Me the Truth,” “Meant to Be,” and “Misunderstood,” which propelled her to new heights.
Shae Universe also featured on rapper Westside Boogie’s “No Warning” in 2019, which helped spread her sound across the world. She mentions that the two have collaborated on several occasions, although no telling when or if those records will come out. Furthermore, Shae Universe also put out a handful of visual efforts such as “Levels” and “You Lose,” which amassed thousands of YouTube views.
Having spent lockdown shelling out soul-tinged single “Royalty” and stepping into her queenship, Shae Universe is set to spend 2021 focusing on the release of her debut project. Although she emphasizes that she isn’t as nearly close as she wants to be just yet, the multifaceted artist is set for a huge takeover this year. Read our conversation with the wonderful Shae Universe below.
How did you initially discover your love for music?
I’ve been singing for a very young age because my mom was the choir leader for as long as I can remember. So she kind of naturally ushered me into that scene of singing. When I was really young, it kind of felt like a chore but then I got to a point where I actually started to enjoy it for myself. I guess at the time I was too young to really understand how it was influencing me but it did.
Weird enough, I started as a poet and then it kind of migrated in this space of rap. I remember at a certain part of time there was this music genre grime before I went on to singing. All I know is that by the time I was in college, I was partaking in college shows and saying “okay, I actually want to be a singer.” When I graduated from university, I started to post these short little covers on Twitter and to my surprise, these videos would go viral. In late 2015, I started to think to myself oh, I might actually have something.
Were your parent rather supportive of your decision to pursue music over a traditional career?
I’m Nigerian and I came to the UK when I was four. Usually, in traditional African households, they don’t really deem creative subjects as a worthy path to go down. I understand it because with music careers, the music doesn’t coming flying in. You have to work your way up, build your following, and when that song blows, the money comes. It’s a process that takes a lot of patience, however, my parents have been very very supportive from the jump. One, because they saw its something I had a general love for. Two, because they saw hat I was actually good at it.
This past year, so many Black women in the UK have taken over R&B and Hip-Hop—how does it feel to be at the forefront of it?
I’m humbled because though I do work very hard, it started as a dream in my heard. Sometimes it can be a bit overwhelming because its like wow, this is my life. It feels good, I’m not halfway where I tend to go with my music. However, being a Black women in the music industry comes with its challenges. It comes with a lot of people trying to exploit you with your gift, but not give you what you’re worth. I’ve been through a whole bat of shit, but because of my character, I’m still humble.
Do you feel like there’s anything missing amongst your peers in the UK music scene?
Unity. If I’m being honest, the only bad thing about the music scene is that it almost feels like there’s not enough room for us to thrive. It’s a very recent thing that we’ve seen multiple Black women killing the game and even with that, I still see and feel tension. It comes from the industry at first then it starts to manifest into actual relationships. Just generally, everyone seems a bit isolated or scared to collaborate. Hopefully, unity comes organically over the next few years.
You recently put out a single, “Royalty,” how did it feel to put that out?
That was like the biggest weight off my shoulder because I had been sitting on that song for so long. It’s like when you release it into the world, it’s amazing, it’s been doing extremely well so I’m blessed. Big ups to Kojey Radical, he will always have my love and respect because he was the first external feature I did. I can wholeheartedly say that he acknowledged my gift and he believed in me. The song “Royalty” is the first rollout single to my first ever debut project.
That’s exciting, what can you tell us about your debut?
I really feel like this first project of mine is going to be explosive. I have some really exciting people who I’m talking to who could take this project to a whole ‘nother dimension. I’m blessed to be in a position where I have a decent level of exposure for someone who has never released a body of work. I’m in an incredibly fortunate situation because now I have all these important eyes on me as I release my first project.
A while back you were also featured on Westside Boogie’s Everything’s For Sale?
A lot of people don’t this but I’m not only “No Warning,” but also the intro song “Tired / Reflections.” I’m not actually singing a formal verse, just doing background vocals. However, working with Boogie came about through social media. I did a particular cover to Childish Gambino’s “Redbone” and then someone that had Boogie on her radar had reposted it. He caught wind of it and hit me in my DM. Obviously, I was super ecstatic and over the moon.
Til now, me and Boogie have about over ten projects that we’ve worked on. I don’t know if they’re ever going to release because you know how music goes. You have to narrow it down and decide what’s going to be on a project. At the time when he discovered me, he would send me a bunch of demos and I would do a lot of stuff for him. And then, Eminem had two tour stops in London and Boogie asked me open for Eminem with him. That was my biggest crowd to date so it was super super exciting.
Where do you see yourself in the next five or ten years?
In ten years, I’m definitely going to be a legend. One thousand percent. In five years, I would love to be a globally respected music artist. I want to be remembered for creating timeless music and empowering, inspiring visuals. I want to be remembered for being myself unapologetically and also being a multifaceted woman accepted for being that way. Obviously, one thing we hear about often is women talking about how women feel like they’re boxed in the music industry. People tend to have an idea of what a Black female artist is supposed to be, however, I’m a diverse Black woman and I just want to make it to a point where it’s acceptable to be that way.
If you enjoyed in convo with Shae Universe, check out our interview with Aáyanna!