Shameika

Album: Fetch The Bolt Cutters (2020)
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Songfacts®:

  • When she wrote this song, Apple wasn't sure if Shameika was real or if she was confabulated. Before the album was released, Apple talked about Shameika in a New Yorker article that her third grade teacher, Linda Kunhardt, came across. Kunhardt emailed Apple a photo of Shameika, proving that she was, in fact, real.

    "She's so cute - she doesn't look like a bully at all," Apple explained to Vulture. "She's just got this big smile on her face. But on the piece of paper that Miss Kunhardt sent me, there's this short essay Shameika had written on the top. And, man, it is amazing. It's all about how she got put up to do this thing in church, in the service. And everybody was laughing because she was so cute and she messed up words or something. And she was so pissed. She was like, 'They used me to bring the people in there, to think it was cute. They used me.' I was like, This little kid realized what the f-k was going on."
  • Middle school is a formative time, and so important to Apple's development that it was still on her mind 30 years later. In this song, she remembers keeping to herself and trying to confront bullies, which didn't help. She says this was a time when she developed an unhealthy view of other women because her friends would often abandon her for someone more popular.
  • Shameika is Shameika Stepney, who was a year older than Apple (known then at Fiona McAfee) at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's school in West Harlem. She was living in Virginia Beach in April 2020 when she found out about the song from a letter Linda Kunhardt, who taught both Apple and Stepney in third grade, sent her. Stepney is a rapper, and when she and Apple connected on Facetime in July, they agreed to collaborate on a song, which Stepney released in November called "Shameika Said."

    As reported by Pitchfork, Stepney had her own traumas at St. Hilda's & St. Hugh's and was expelled in fifth grade.
  • The line, "Sebastian said I'm a good man in a storm" isn't about the martyr Saint Sebastian, but about her bass player, Sebastian Steinberg, who told Apple she was a "good man in a storm" after their tour bus was pulled over in Texas in 2012 and Fiona took their weed, knowing police would go easier on her (a little white girl) than on her bandmates.
  • In June 2020 Fiona Apple said she would donate movie and TV royalties from this song for the next two years to The Harlem Children's Zone, a nonprofit addressing poverty in Central Harlem. Apple added that if "Shameika" didn't feature in any TV or films before June 2022, she would give $50,000 to the charity, but the song earned a prominent placement in 2021 when it was used in the horror movie Candyman.

    "Shameika" can be heard playing from a record player during a scene in the film. Apple confirmed she would stick to her promise and donate all the royalties from the sync spot to the Harlem Children's Zone.
  • On Nov 19, 2020, Apple released an animated video for this song directed by Matthias Brown. Shameika Stepney's voice is heard at the beginning saying, "Take a moment."
  • "Shameika" won for the 2020 Grammy for Best Rock Performance, and Fetch The Bolt Cutters won for Best Alternative Music Album. Apple skipped the ceremony. "I'm just not made for that kind of stuff anymore," she explained. "I want to stay sober and I can't do that sober."

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