Fiona Apple reconnects with the real “Shameika”
“Shameika” is one of the standout tracks on Fiona Apple‘s recent album Fetch the Bolt Cutters. It sees the songwriter reflecting on her experiences with childhood bullies, and the one time a kind classmate intervened. “Shameika said I had potential,” she sings, repeating the reminder that has clearly stuck with her over the years.
“I’ve had this feeling for my whole life that nobody stands up for me,” Apple tells Pitchfork‘s Jenn Pelly. “I have no memory of anybody ever getting in the way of somebody else being shitty to me, from when I was a kid to when I was an adult, except for this one moment where this girl walking by saw something going on, and leaned down and said, ‘Hey, why do you care about them? You have potential.’ I got to carry that in my head my whole life. When there was nobody on my side, I was able to call up those words.”
After the song was released, Apple realized it didn’t feel complete without hearing the real Shameika’s side of the story — but she didn’t know how to get in touch with her, or even if, three decades later, her memory of the girl was accurate.
Shameika Stepney has been rapping for more than 30 years, sometimes under the names Dollface and Chyna Doll. She and Fiona were never more than acquaintances, and lost touch after their school days. It was their third grade teacher that reconnected the two after hearing about the song earlier this year, sparking an ongoing collaboration between Stepney, her producer Rhyte-Jus, and Fiona Apple’s band.
Shameika appears on Fiona’s new music video for the namesake track, and she’s also released a new song, “Shameika Said,” that confronts her own childhood traumas — especially the racism she experienced in school. Apple, featured on the track, sings: “She stood up for me / I wish I could have done the same for her.”
“This is a white woman during Black Lives Matter giving a Black woman her flowers,” Shameika says. “That’s some real shit. That’s why it’s so powerful.” Listen to both songs below and read the full story as told to Pelly here.