At the tender age of nine, Lola “Gangsta Boo” Mitchell spit her first raps on a karaoke machine that she got as a birthday present. Years later, this childhood hobby blossomed into her delivering standout verses on gold and platinum albums, worldwide exposure, and being labeled a legend within the Southern rap movement.
Largely known for her role as the only female emcee in the male-dominated hardcore rap group Three 6 Mafia, her professional career began at the age of 16 when she signed a record deal with Prophet Entertainment (then owned by D.J. Paul and Juicy J) as a member of the group.
Three 6 Mafia’s debut album, Mystic Stylez, sold more than 100,000 records independently. This would eventually lead to the group securing a major record deal and releasing several gold and platinum albums such as Chapter 2: World Domination and When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1.
Gangsta Boo's unorthodox style on songs such as “Tear Da Club Up” and “Late Night Tip” built demand for her to release a solo album. In 1998, she did just that with her debut installment, Enquiring Minds. The album featured the successful single “Where Dem Dollas At” and reached number 15 on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and number 46 on the Billboard 200. In 2001, she dropped her sophomore effort, Both Worlds *69, which reached number eight on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart and number 29 on the Billboard 200.
After parting ways with Three 6 Mafia due to monetary disputes and other issues, she released Enquiring Minds II: The Soap Opera on her independent label, Crazy Lady Entertainment in 2003. The album served as an introduction to her musical collaboration with platinum producer and fellow Memphian Drumma Boy.
Since then, Gangsta Boo’s released a series of mixtapes and has officially joined forces with Drumma Boy as part of his Drum Squad collective.
Prepping the release of her latest musical installment, It’s Game Involved, Gangsta Boo took time out to speak with me about her music career, her short tenure as curseword-free “Lady Boo," how E-40 inspired the title of her new mixtape, the difference between working with DJ Paul and Juicy J versus Drumma Boy, and a lot more.
What sparked your interest in music?
I started off writing poems. I used to write my dad all kinds of poems. [I grew] up in a musical home. My dad and mom used to sing all the time. My dad used to have a bunch of albums. He had a record player. So I used to watch him sing, and being in Memphis, Al Green lived in the neighborhood that we lived in — Coro Lake. Just growing up in the musical town of Memphis inspired me to do music.
Did your music career begin with Three 6 Mafia, or were you making a name in the city before you joined the group?
I used to be on [the late] DJ Fila’s mixtapes. He and DJ Pinky, I used to be on a lot of their mixtapes. How I ended up meeting [DJ] Paul was, I used to hang out with this girl named Kim, and she used to rap with Paul under the name of K9. She, for whatever reason, wasn’t making her studio appointments on time, and Paul heard about me through Hillcrest [High School]. I used to go to the same school he went to. I used to rap in talent shows, and I had my own little name within the Memphis rap community. There wasn’t a big a community of rappers at the time, and I was a girl. I was just in the pursuit of my music career, so I stuck with it. [DJ] Paul put me down on his mixtape, Vol. 16 [For Da Summa of ‘94] and the rest was history.
Since launching your career, you've gone from being recognized locally to nationally, and have been involved with many Gold and Platinum albums. How does it feel?
It feels great. I get to work with some of the best artists in the world. I get to be around some of the best people. I get to meet and do business with some of the greats. It’s pretty much like I’m living a movie. I’m living my dream. It’s great to do a song with Eminem. It’s great to do a song with Outkast, [and be featured on] Stankonia, one of their best albums. It’s just an honor to work with those types of geniuses, and they want to work with me as well. It’s motivational.
Shortly after the release of Three 6 Mafia's album, When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1, in 2000, you left the group, changed your name to Lady Boo, and decided to refrain from cursing in your music. What exactly caused you to leave the group and deliver a different message in your music?
I was young as hell. I was like 21 years old [when I left]. I was doing my thing. I [had been] traveling since I was like 16. So from 16 to 21 years old, seeing money and seeing stuff and going through stuff, I was extra-stressed and under pressure, and I wanted to try something different. I thought it was religion. I dipped and dabbled into it and found out it really wasn’t for me, so I decided to be more spiritual than anything and just become a better person. Have a more positive attitude, because I pretty much used to walk around with the ‘I don’t give a fuck’ attitude like I was Tupac or something. I really wanted to kinda leave all that in the past. I started reading more books and hanging out with Pastor Del and different people who uplifted my spirit at the time. You know, during my departure from Three 6 Mafia, I was at a down place in my life, but God brought me out of the darkness.
What made you return to "Gangsta Boo" and everything that the alias embodies?
Well, I never was gospel. That’s one thing. What I said at the time was I don’t want to curse in my music anymore. That’s what I thought. I thought, ‘Aw man, I’m about to be clean.’ I guess I was going through so much that I just wanted to get away from anything negative, anything dark. And what converted me back to Gangsta Boo wasn’t necessarily because I’m gangsta hardcore street, but [to me, gangsta] means "Getting a necessary greatness stimulating the abnormal." I get a kick out of it, which is the greatness part of it, when I stimulate the abnormal, which is people like Outkast, Yelawolf, Eminem, and Lil’ Jon. All those people are abnormal. They’re not normal people, so when I stimulate them, I think it’s a greatness and that’s gangsta. So I just decided that that fits me better then the whole Lady Boo thing, which is still in me. It’s Crazy Lady Gangsta Boo. It’s Miss Lola. It’s Miss Yea Hoe. I got a whole bunch of different code names. As you grow, you make decisions, [and] when you’re young, you make decisions.
You’ve had the opportunity to be on both a major and independent label. Which do you prefer?
It’s just the right situation. Of course when you’re major, you’ve got more of a major push, but sometimes you can be sat on the shelf. I know a lot of people with major deals whose albums flopped. They’re doing better off their mixtapes. I think whatever situation fits you the best is the best situation for you. For me, it’s the same thing. Whatever situation fits me the best, I think is a good situation. Right now, I’m affiliated with Drumma Boy, Drum Squad. That’s like my brother from another mother. We’re so close. And I have my own movement with my DJ, Speakerfoxxx. She’s a dope DJ out of Atlanta, and we’re working on an indie-EP together.
How did you develop a relationship with Drumma Boy?
Well, he was one of the first producers I got with when I left Three 6 Mafia. He was about 17 at the time, maybe 18. I went to his mom’s house in Cordova. He was so excited to meet me. I autographed his stuff.
He never judged me when I was considering going 100 percent clean in my music. He was still giving me beats. He was loyal throughout the whole, ‘Oh, you messing with Gangsta Boo? She washed up. Oh, Boo ain’t shit.’ He stayed through all of that, so I just feel like me and him have some sort of loyal connection, and that’s why I’m down with him. I respect his movement. Dude is a young brother, and he’s doing a lot of positive things for his city. I acknowledge that and I love having his energy around me. He’s a creative genius and he’s going to end up being one of the greats.
You've had the opportunity to work extensively with both DJ Paul and Juicy J, as well as Drumma Boy in the studio. Is there a correlation between working with the two?
I honestly miss working with [DJ] Paul and Juicy [J] in the studio. As producers, they’re some of the greats, just to be real. And does Drumma remind me of them? Uh, yeah but Drumma Boy reminds me of Drumma Boy. When I’m in the studio with him, I don’t think about Paul and Juicy, maybe because it’s been so long. I’ve been with Drumma pretty much since 2001. But in comparison to Paul and Juicy, I would pretty much consider them on the same level.
As far as production, I’m pretty content with Drumma Boy. I’m about to do some business with SpaceGhostPurrp. I’m working with Lex Luger, so I’m really not missing any type of beats as far as from Paul and Juicy. I’m working with some of the greats.
Did you ever think you would be the first female rapper from Memphis to gain national exposure and reach the plateau that you have?
I actually thought I would be bigger by now. I see way more things to come. This is like the beginning, and I feel like I’m finally about to get my just due this year. I don’t know where the feeling is coming from, but I’m loving it. I feel like it’s going to be a good year when I drop this mixtape. I didn’t drop any mixtapes last year. I was just doing a lot of features. This time around, I want to drop my own mixtape, It’s Game Involved. It’s dropping on livemixtapes.com. It’s going to be featuring up-and-coming producers. It’s going to be featuring Crunchy Black, Future, Drum Squad, Young Buck. I’m looking forward to what I got going on.
We’re going to do the whole tour thing. Like I said, working with Speakerfoxxx is giving me a dope advantage because she’s a fly white girl and she definitely taps into the hippie market and the indie market very well. And I gained a lot of new fans working with Yelawolf and Eminem [on the song "Throw It Up"]. That’s why I say I still feel so new, because a lot of folks still don’t know who I am. I’m still gaining new fans, and it’s a real good feeling. I have so much more room to grow. So, yeah I saw it and I see it being even bigger.
What inspired you to title the mixtape, It’s Game Involved?
I couldn’t come up with the perfect title, and I didn’t want to force a title. I just wanted it to come to me. So you know, I did a song with E-40, and he was doing an interview. They were like, ‘You got a song with Gangsta Boo. Yo, the Boo is back.’ He was bigging me up. Telling me how I’m smashing on a lot of the current females right now. And after he finished bigging me up, he said, ‘and when she do it, it’s game involved.’ I was like, 'bam that’s my title right there.'
What exactly can fans expect from you with this new mixtape?
That Gangsta Boo they want. Ms. Yea Hoe. A lot of the ‘Yea Hoe’ ad-lib chants. A lotta classic songs. I brought Crunchy Black on there. You’re gonna have a lot of classic, great music. And it’s going to be totally different from my indie-EP. That’s going to be for when I tour and do festivals like Coachella, but the mixtape is going to be for when I perform in the 'hood. It’s for my brothers in jail. My brothers and sisters in the struggle. It’s going to be the typical classic Gangsta Boo people have been fiending for, because my sound that I’ve had for so long is obviously still current, so it’s like I’m not missing a beat. I’m still current. It’s like I’m superior. And the mixtape is going to be some real superior queen shit.
When will the mixtape be released?
It’s scheduled to drop in May. It’ll be right in time for Memphis in May, and I’m having a really dope exclusive mixtape release party in Memphis. I’m doing it in conjunction with the Memphis Jookers. It’s going to be a dope gangsta-walking ass mixtape.
Who is Gangsta Boo a fan of within the Memphis music scene right now, and what did you grow up listening to?
I’m an extreme fan of Young Dolph. I like P-London. I also have some young cats I’m working with out of Memphis. They gangsta walk. But as far as who I see doing their thing next out of Memphis outside of Drumma Boy, since he’s pretty much established, is Young Dolph.
As far as what I grew up listening to: 8ball & M.J.G., Tela, Skinny Pimp, Ska-Face Al Kapone, Al Green, Isaac Hayes. All that Memphis shit.
Outside of music, I understand you’re active in the Memphis community.
Yeah, I wish I could be more active. This past Thanksgiving, I hung out with Stephen Brown at Logic Church. I helped them feed the homeless.
I’m also in the process of organizing some things where I can speak to women just to encourage them. The domestic violence situation is getting out of hand, and I just want to encourage women to get out of that situation. You don’t really need to be with a guy if he’s putting his hands on you. I want to be more involved in that.
And I want to be more involved in just saving Memphis. So anyway I can help, I’m putting it out there. I’m easy to reach. I follow Memphis Gun Down [an initiative launched by Mayor A C Wharton to help lower youth gun violence]. I’m just active in anything that has to do with bringing more peace to my city. More things to come. You know, free shows. Just whatever I can do to help, I’m down.
You participated in this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) event in Austin, Texas. How was the experience?
SXSW was so fun. This was my second year performing. I just love the love, because there are so many different genres of music. There are so many different [races] of people. And it’s all of your fellow artists. All of the bands. All of the free showcases. It’s just dope. I saw Trinidad James perform a couple times. It was so fun, because me and him are actually friends. I knew him before he blew up. It was dope watching him do his thing in front of the masses of people. I got a chance to catch up with Yo Gotti and his shows.
I saw you tweet that you got a chance to meet Ghostface Killah at SXSW, which is one of my favorite rappers. I know that was a cool experience.
Meeting Ghostface Killah was definitely one of the highlights of my career. I’ve been a long time Wu-Tang fan, so meeting him and getting the love that he gave me back and just still seeing him do his thing was great. It’s always an honor to see your fellow musicians, especially from the generation that I came up in still out looking well and doing their thing but also still getting the respect that they deserve. Shout-out to all of the new cats, but at the same time, if it wasn’t for people like me or the Wu-Tang Clans, the Three 6 Mafias, the 8ball & MJGs, there probably wouldn’t even be the who’s who of now, so it’s always good to be around veterans of the game.
Is there anything else you would like readers to know?
All of the nonprofit organizations, if you ever need me to speak at a high school, college, or church about my testimony, my life story feel free to contact me at (901) 492-1240.
Also, I consult new and old talent in entertainment. My connects will save them time and money. Contact me for consulting monthly fees.
Lastly, I want to say rest in peace to my grandma. She used to love the Memphis Flyer. Grandma Mitchell, rest in peace. I wish you were still alive to see all of the success I’m about to get, but I know you’ll be with me in spirit. I also want to say rest in peace to Natina Reed of the group Blaque. Wish she was still here to witness the stuff that’s about to go on with me.