It’s evening at Miss Lily’s 7A Cafe in Manhattan’s Lower East Side, and Shenseea is trying to define herself. “Being in a box is no fun,” the Jamaican dancehall singer says. “Shenseea is Shenseea’s biggest critic.”
Just then, the chef comes over to personally check on her dinner. “We need more shrimp!” she yells out. “It’s fire!” She turns back to me, continuing her self-exploration over the Caribbean crustaceans. “Musically, I would say I’m a chameleon.”
She’s not wrong. Since the release of “Jiggle Jiggle” in 2016 — her pulsating debut single, written in a day — Shenseea has consistently evolved her island sound, paving the way for her rise from a child church singer to a collaborator of Kanye West.
Her lyrics are known for their hyper-sexual honesty, riding over upbeat drums and horns. Just listen to “Lick,” released with Megan Thee Stallion earlier this year. “I always wanted to write a suck pussy song,” she said. “Some of y’all need guidance on how to eat.”
On March 11, Shenseea will release her debut album, Alpha. Despite her reservations about it — “It still gives me anxiety” — it’s only the beginning of her stardom. “I get bored easily, so I’m always looking for something different,” she says. “My ultimate goal is to be a pop star.”
Born Chinsea Lee, Shenseea began singing in the church of her hometown Mandeville as a child, her voice influenced by hours spent listening to Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. “I sang ‘Greatest Love of All,’” she says of her first performance at age 8. “I was so shy, I ran out before I even got the feedback.”
It wasn’t until 2016 — a month after giving birth to her son Rojeiro — that Shenseea took becoming a musician seriously. While promoting parties around Jamaica as a bottle-service girl, Shenseea found herself in the company of producer Romesh Major, who became her music manager.
“What I like about my journey is that I started from the bottom,” she says. “I didn’t skip no line or disrupt the algorithm. I’m right here, still taking my time to the top.”
Following the release of “Jiggle Jiggle,” she collaborated with Vybz Kartel for “Loodi,” which launched her across the Caribbean island and made her a household name. In 2019, she signed with Interscope Records through the imprint Rich Immigrants and dropped “Blessed,” with Tyga.
Shenseea recently piqued the interest of Ye, which resulted in a double feature on Donda, scoring her a chart entry for “Pure Souls,” and Rauw Alejandro, who featured her on his TrapCake Vol. 2 mixtape. She hopes to be selling out stadiums in five years, a thought that makes her want to cry.
“This is my purpose,” she says. “My family members didn’t want me to be an artist. I got pregnant and they thought my life was done, but I’m still here. I always make time for my kid, I’ve never missed a birthday. I video call every day. He’s a fan of my artistry, so it makes me happier doing what I love.”