With Boom Bap permeating the local airwaves, R&B has taken a metaphorical backseat, until now. Buffalo’s current urban renaissance has diversified opportunities for rappers and crooners alike to strut their talents and collaborate. Now more than ever, singers are expanding they’re sound and image to capture the same hype and attention their rap counterparts have. With a handful of artists leading Buffalo’s new generation of all-encompassing, multi-faceted starpower,Nellè might be one of the most notable.
While the songstress has only been releasing music for the last year and a half, her string of highly anticipated singles and debut project “Ecstasy” has proven Nellè’s knack for song creating. Combining the nostalgic sounds of 90’s R&B with her high energy performances and noteworthy runs, Nellè is a triple threat who continuously keeps everyone on their toes.
“I just always wanted to be a star, always wanted to be in the front, anyway I can to showcase my talent.”
Recounting her younger days of attempting to perform as many times as she could in school shows, Chanel (or Nellè for short) was always surrounded by talent. With her father, the lead singer of 70’s and 80’s funk band Kool and The Gang and her mother, a singer and dancer, seems like destiny is playing its course – but it’s never that easy. Nellè’s formative years in high school were “shaky,” as she put; trying to focus her dreams on being an artist, while balancing the growing sense of reality and adulthood. Despite the opposition, Nellè buckled down on finding the right college to prime her talents. Working with music teachers to apply for schools and practicing overtime, one of the singer’s last auditions at American Musical and Dramatic Academy sealed the deal.
“Going to school there, is what transitioned me from doing music as a hobby to “this is your everyday life.”
Attending her freshman year at AMDA’s New York City location, Nellè’s immersion into the creative arts inspired her to begin songwriting. With her classes all contributing to performative talents; acting, dancing and singing, she swiftly moved to the college’s California location in Los Angeles as an upperclassman. “I loved being in L.A… I love how easy it is to network and connect out there, it was like everywhere I turned I was seeing somebody I seen on T.V or Instagram. It was to the point where it was normal…there was always something going on,” she said. Noting that the grind in NYC is heavier than L.A- Nellè also acknowledged the Big Apple’s no-nonsense culture contributing to her hustle while in California.
“Once you make creativity a habit, you can’t go back on it.”
Graduating in 2017, and moving back to Buffalo; Nellè was eager to record. With a focused mind and stronger pen game, her work in the studio led to a group of singles with the very first, titled “Body.” released toward the end of 2017 and produced by local musician Kevin Swift, “Body” was the singer’s formal introduction to the world. Rebranding her aesthetic ( bright colored ponytails and body suits in tact) and officiating herself from Chanel McQuiller to Nellè made local artists pay attention to her. Releasing the 6-track “Ecstasy” at the end of 2018 solidified the starry-eyed crooner’s talents, and initiated an ascendant rollout for 2019. Full fledged, Nellè premiered a thread of music visuals, created fan merchandise and headlined a sold out show with R&B counterparts Miles B and Kane Wave; and this all happened before the end of February.
“I’m great at telling my own stories. That’s what I love about writing so much. No one can explain a story you’ve been through better than you.”
Even as someone who doesn’t manifest in the subtleties, Nellè’s passion as a songwriter and confidence as a performer IS her star power. With a surface level bravado, a listen to Nellè’s music taps into a deeper story of balancing both vulnerability and firmness. Tracks from the now well-received “Ecstasy,” like “Can’t Stop Staring” and “Want You Bad,” captures the buoyant energy of new love without skipping a beat.
Lyrics from “Can’t Stop Staring”
“Are you single? Are you taken? What’s your motive?/I wanna know the reason why you came and spoke to me?”
In the same breath, Nellè draws sultry sparks on songs like “Skin” and “Yours.” Recounting intense moments or hopeful thoughts for the future, Nellè doesn’t shy away from spilling her hearts desire over the tracks. Synthy, atmospheric productions sets up the songstress to ad lib her passionate oohs and ahhs.
Lyrics from “Right Here”
“Don’t you worry/ I’ll help get rid of the negativity/ And help you release all the pain that’s trapped inside of you, so you can be one with me.”
“I feel like people look at especially a black girl that sings and automatically “Oh you R&B,”…baby I’m mainstream as hell.”
Nellè bold vulnerability in her music is exactly the reason she should be referred to as the Ghetto Popstar. Molding her sound with inspiration from Rap, Hip Hop and R&B, she sees her music as a spectrum, rather than a genre. This idea coupled with her epic performances, thanks to her dance crew at Future Dance Center in Hamburg- the sassy songstress is fully equipped to be a star . She also frankly acknowledges Buffalo’s impact in her life and how that finds fruition in her music; no matter how honest.
“…girls in Buffalo, we kind of like Niggas in a way just based on how we get at motherfuckers. Other places I’ve been to, the girls aren’t aggressive as the dudes in regards to getting what they want.”
With that said, Nellè’s playful, yet no-nonsense demeanor plays into her growing buzz in the local music scene. Holding up in a room full of crass rhymers, rappers and producers isn’t intimidating to her, they’re her competition. Effortlessly, juggling her identity as a singer, dancer, songwriter and creator, Nellè’s impact is constantly cracking the ceiling for what R&B can be in the Queen City.
Be sure to check out her new single “I NEED” available on all streaming platforms
Follow Nellè on Social Media! IG:@nellemignon FB: @Nellè