Boston Beat

By 
Michael Gaskins

Shea Rose

Shea Rose '11

Steve Morse, a former music critic at the Boston Globe, has described Shea Rose ’11 as “that rare artist who can bridge diverse styles such as soul, funk, rock, rap and jazz and bring her unique stamp to each.” Rose’s growing audience has found her chameleonlike musical approach and image a draw. 

Rose got her share of the spotlight during her time at Berklee. “I was invited to open the concert called ‘Women Who Rock,’” she recounts. “It was an amazing opportunity to meet Terri Lyne Carrington, Cindy Blackman, and Meshell Ndegeocello.” Later, Rose opted to take Professor Carrington’s directed study class. “During that time, [Carrington] mentioned her upcoming [album] The Mosaic Project. She asked me to arrange the Nona Hendryx song “Transformation” for it, and I did a hip-hop, throwback-’90s version.” Rose already felt intimidated and honored by the task, even before learning that Hendryx, Cassandra Wilson, and Dianne Reeves would be featured on the album. Rose’s voice was also added to the album, which ultimately won Carrington a Grammy.

Rose released her debut EP in 2010, Rock ‘n’ Rose, and followed it up with the “Little Warrior” mix tape, both showcasing her range and versatility. This summer she plans to release a new EP, including the B-52 cover “Dance This Mess Around (DTMA).” So far, Rose has won two Boston Music Awards in the R&B/Soul/Urban Contemporary Artist of the Year (2011) and Pop/R&B Artist of the Year (2012) categories. 

Rose’s choice of instruments in the writing process frequently guides the musical approach. “Often times I write either with piano or guitar,” she says. “Those songs tend to be a little more singer/songwriter oriented. When I receive tracks from producers, the songs tend to be more pop and hip-hop-driven.” Rose did not grow up in the rap world but was influenced by Lauryn Hill and after hearing Buffy Hubelbank ’03 rap in an Americana/folk style, Rose began experimenting. “One day I was having one of those intimate moments playing guitar and I started rapping in that style and I liked it,” She recalls. “It’s a cool tool to have in my kit, but I hesitate to call myself a real rapper or MC.”

Rose has a conviction that music can affect social change, and established My Angel Wears a Fro, an organization that regularly partners with the other organizations including Action for Boston Community Development and their Safer Is Sexy campaign encouraging young people to be responsible.

Given her stylistic versatility, Rose is still focusing on personal style. “SESAC sent me a certificate of recognition for being part of The Mosaic Project, which was in the jazz category. So while I’m in r&b, acoustic soul, rap, pop, and rock, they’re trying to figure out if I’m a jazz artist. It’s crazy.”