One of the many highlights of Fiona Apple's excellent 2020 album, Fetch the Bolt Cutters, is the percussive "Shameika," whose repeated refrain of "Shameika said I had potential" has the resonance and staying power of a schoolyard chant. The song was inspired by a real classmate of Fiona's, who intervened, telling her she had potential, when bullies were picking on her in third grade. Fiona has now reconnected with Shameika Stepney, who has been rapping for over 30 years, a new feature from Pitchfork reports, and they've collaborated on a response to her namesake song. You can hear the result, "Shameika Said," below.

From Pitchfork:

Listening to Fiona’s track, Shameika was transported back to that incident in the cafeteria three decades ago, when the mean girls wouldn’t let Fiona sit at their table. “This group of girls used to bully people all the time—that was their thing,” she recalls. “But I wasn’t scared of them. I sat at every table. My parents paid like $35,000 a year to send me to that school, so I can sit at any table I want, and you’re not gonna tell me otherwise! All of these tables are mine! I was like a warrior as a little kid—I was fearless.”

Shameika remembers a young Fiona as “so absolutely adorable,” and says she and her sister Amber were vilified by other girls at the school because of their natural beauty. “Fiona’s hair used to be all the way down to her ass, literally,” Shameika says. “You wouldn’t dare see someone pick on this little girl.” She recalls telling Fiona, “Sweetie, you got potential. You don’t have to worry about these girls, Fi. Come sit with me at my table.” Her voice softens. “I’ve always been a protector of anyone else who’s smaller, who can’t defend themselves. I love to speak life on people.”


Shameika was in such shock over the song “Shameika” that it took her nearly three months to reach out to Fiona. They finally FaceTimed in July, unpacking the past and present for nearly two hours. “We both cried,” Fiona says, “The word ‘magical’ was used a lot.” When Shameika mentioned that she raps, Fiona lit up: Would she do a remix? Fiona sent over the song’s stems. Shameika and her producer, Rhyte-Jus, ultimately wrote a new track entirely. The process sparked a cross-country collaboration between Shameika and Rhyte-Jus in Virginia Beach, and Fiona and her band in Venice Beach, that is ongoing.