Profile: Shawn Wells -- by Aaron “A*maze” Joseph, April 2006
Shawn is what some would call a work in progress. Chances are you haven’t heard of Shawn Wells, but if he gets his way, you soon will. He is 20 years old, ambitious and currently working on a slew of tracks for his upcoming sophomore album.
Wells was born and raised in Tsawwassen, British Columbia. A lifelong fan of hip-hop, Wells stepped into the arena at a young age, writing, performing, opening for others and dropping a few underground tracks. He recently moved to Los Angeles to spread his wings in the city of angels.
Wells is what most hip-hop heads would call a starving artist, or better yet a lyricist with a thirst for more. He explains that he is like most hip-hop heads, always getting in some trouble, whether it was being caught by teachers writing rhymes in the classroom, or for causing a ruckus with his freestyle raps in the hallways. This young man has always made his presence felt, wherever he’s been.
Like many artists, Wells writes about what he knows best, not about guns, bitches and rims, but about events from his unique past: lost friends and lost loves, having getting a job to survive, getting fired from that job and then being told that you would never make it.
“I have been rapping for close to nine years now,” says Wells. “But I really started getting serious about this crooked ass industry at around the age of 15.”
“It was around the end of our senior high-school year that I started noticing he got serious about hip-hop,” says classmate Elmer Arguelles, 20. “He got serious about it all, not just rapping, but the whole four elements of hip-hop.”
Long-time friend Andrew Francis, 20, noticed the change in Wells much earlier.
“All throughout high school he had his lil’ rhyme book,” says Francis. “He’d be rapping in the morning, on breaks between classes, on the way home from school. I’ve even caught him rhyming to himself in my room when I’d step out to get something to eat. I always thought it was a little weird.” He even remembers when his friend was trying to sell his CDs between high school classes. “I remember when he started selling his CDs for $2 a pop at school,” says a laughing Francis.
In 2004, Wells was starting to get heard by people as Lost 1, an alias he has now let go of.
“Lost 1 is underground, it was a name given to me by an old-school b-boy,” explains Wells. “At the time, I was like every other kid; fucked up shit was goin’ on, and I was basically lost. So when I finally grasped on to a generation through Lost 1, I got that out of the way and became myself, Shawn Wells.”
In a few years, Wells has gone from writing in classrooms to opening up for hip-hop legends such as Guru, from Gangstarr, and Wordsworth. In six months he has recorded more than 40 songs, including his single, “Flow,” which was released in February through Worldwide Westside Magazine (www.wwsmag.com).
With a style all his own, Wells comes off on a more artistic and descriptive angle on “Flow,” creating a simple, follow-through style of lyricism that can be at times very complex. He has placed himself in his own category of “west coast underground,” yet says he can be marketed to the world with a message almost everybody can relate to.
“Don’t get me wrong, what he does is hip-hop, but he breaks the rules,” says Arguelles. “What Shawn says actually has some type of meaning behind it, something hip-hop needs nowadays.” Wells isn’t afraid to expose rap fans’ ignorance about rap and the places it comes from. On “Westside,” Wells explains to listeners that it’s more than it appears: There’s more to the West Coast than bangin’ and hangin’ on corners, more than pop 3s and the Hollywood swingers…”
Shawn insists that he will change this repetitive industry: "You might not get it at first, and that’s what I want; I want to stay in the mysterious dark haze of the underground and when you least expect it, you won’t even know what hit you."
“I know the time, skills speaks for itself in rhyme & that’s the deepest thing up on my mind, so make a guess if ya steppin’ to test, I’m funky fresh in the flesh and I’m reppin’ the west.” - Westside
Wells has made plans to soon work with some of the rap industry’s better-known artists, and is also juggling his new company. "I just got my publishing company [1Soul] moving, and I’m using new types of technology in my day-to-day [life],” says Wells.
“Shawn is very talented, innovative and ambitious, as well as business-minded,” says Arguelles. “He always strives for more in a tough industry. He always carries that ‘Wells pedigree,’ always conscious of who he is and what he does.”
When asked about his style, Wells says he’s “always felt there was nothing else in my soul except for true hip-hop. Nobody taught me this; I had to learn about style myself.”
On “My Mind,” Wells details the thoughts of a young man trying to hold on despite losing everything else in his life: “Damn gotta eat, healthy with a rhyme, selling my watch ‘cause food is more significant than time.”
“I like his style of music,” says Jason Ho, 20, a fan that listens to nothing but old-school hip-hop and Outkast, but makes an exception for Wells’ music. “To me, it’s more of a retro, old-school style of hip-hop. His style is not too furious, but more laid-back.”
Being an ’80s child, Wells is about hustling and does what he can daily to make it.
He will and has done everything he can: give out free music, make new friends to get radio time, sell his CD on his own, meet with beat-makers, self-publicize (on radio, Myspace, fliers) – he has done it all. He is currently working on more material: mix tapes and a screenplay. Despite spending most of his days writing or being in the studio, it is obvious that hard work will soon pay off for this young musical artist. In this world, everyone is trying to do their own thing, but it seems as if Shawn Wells is doing it just a little bit quicker.