Wonderland.

SHAYBO

The undisputed Queen of the South on mastering her craft, empowering her fans and female representation in rap.

Shaybo wearing multi-coloured jumpsuit and jacket

Coat by GOLDSMITH VINTAGE, top and trousers by UDARA COUTURE and shoes by PRADA.

Shaybo wearing multi-coloured jumpsuit and jacket
Coat by GOLDSMITH VINTAGE, top and trousers by UDARA COUTURE and shoes by PRADA.

Taken from our Winter 2020 issue. Order your copy now.

“Seeing female UK artists like Lioness, Mz Bratt, Shystie, Ms. Dynamite, Amplify Dot — all those legends back in the day — really encouraged me,” remembers south London MC Shaybo, telling me that watching music videos on Channel U with her siblings made the idea of becoming a successful rapper feel attainable. “I deemed it possible… They created that spark inside me to want to do music.”

It wasn’t long before a 13-year-old Shayon Brown would find her freestyle videos going viral on YouTube. “I don’t necessarily like those videos,” she laughs, “but I keep them up so people can see the growth and that, sometimes, Rome isn’t built in a day. It takes years.”

“Sometimes it’s not about the fast-tracking of things and doing things quickly, because I feel like if I was to make the music I made when I was 13 now, I wouldn’t be where I am,” Shaybo explains. “It’s about showing people that, sometimes, musicians don’t just come out of no- where — we work for this and spend years mastering our craft.”

Shaybo close-up shot
Shaybo wearing white fur coat

Hat by 50M, coat by LANVIN and shoes by NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD.

Shaybo close-up shot
Hat by 50M, coat by LANVIN and shoes by NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD.
Shaybo wearing white fur coat

Still learning a decade into her career, it’s this experimental approach to her craft that has helped Shaybo develop as an artist. “I’ve failed so many times that I know what not to do,” she admits. “I want girls looking up to me to see that, when I was that age, I was doing music and just developing myself. Evolving. I want them to feel empowered, like strong independent women that don’t tolerate nonsense from anybody,” she adds, delivering a presidential-style mission statement. “I want them to feel like no matter what situations they go through — whether it be heartbreak, work pressure, relationship pressure, or just dealing with friendship groups — that they don’t have to tolerate things and feel confident in what they do and how they speak.”

While Shaybo believes female representation in UK rap music is definitely improving, she doesn’t think it’s on the same level as in the US. “In America there are so many female rappers and different styles that people can listen too, and I feel that the UK should have that as well. We’re getting there,” she considers optimistically. “It’s about encouraging the next generation to see that it’s possible.” It’s unsurprising, then, that Shaybo — whose 2021 aims include a vast tour (“hopefully I can sell out the O2 Arena”) — has her sights set on going global. “I want to show the next generation of women that I can cross over to the African market, or the American market, and that I can be a worldwide success,” she manifests. “I want future female rappers to see that even somebody from the UK can be as international, or as big, as their American counterparts.”

Shaybo wearing Moschino dress
Shaybo wearing Moschino dress
Shaybo wearing Moschino dress
Hat by 50M, coat by LANVIN and shoes by NICHOLAS KIRKWOOD.
Shaybo wearing Moschino dress

She’s right to be confident, too. “I’m versatile” is Shaybo’s response when asked what makes her stand out from others in the scene. “And that people see me as a voice for women who think things but don’t say it. I’m very raw and direct. I just say what’s on my mind.” Tackling a range of different themes and sounds in her no-bullshit bars, Shaybo is keen to state every aspect of her CV, including making it clear that she’s not just a drill rapper. “I sing as well. I can do different types of raps and I embrace my culture because I’m originally from Nigeria, so I speak in Yoruba as well… There’s a real variety of everything.”

It’s this versatility that really shines on her long-awaited debut EP, “Queen of the South”, the release of which was delayed to give space to the Black Lives Matter movement. “I felt like it was a time for the whole of society to reflect, and see what’s wrong in the world,” she insists. As someone who’s always on the go, the effects of lockdown have given Shaybo space to reflect personally, too. “It was hard for me to stand still,” she recalls, “but sometimes you have to be able to live in the moment and observe what’s going on in the world. It just let me chill out”. Now though, she’s ready to show everyone what she’s been working on, promising that the best is yet to come. “Musically, I’ve evolved to another level,” she asserts. “But, because I’ve got so many songs in my archive, people have only heard the beginning stages. They’ve not heard what I’ve been making recently, so I’m happy for people to hear my story.” After all those years developing herself, evolving her sound and mastering her craft, Shaybo’s time is now.

Shaybo wearing black jumpsuit

(LEFT) All clothing and accessories by GCDS.

All clothing and accessories by GCDS.
Shaybo wearing black jumpsuit
Shaybo wearing Moschino dress
Shaybo wearing Moschino dress
All clothing and accessories by GCDS.
Photography
Jack Bridgland
Fashion
Toni-Blaze Ibekwe
Words
Ben Jolley
Fashion Assistant
Anastasia Busch.
Fashion Intern
Nami Galvan
SHAYBO