Greatest Southern Artists of all Time
Words Julia Beverly / Photo J Lash
5 ESSENTIAL MIA X TRACKS Master P f/ Mia X “Bout It, Bout It Pt. 2” Ice Cream Man 1996 Mia X spits fire on the ghetto “national anthem.” Mia X f/ TRU & Mystikal “You Don’t Wanna Go 2 War” Unlady Like 1997 Mama Mia trades verses with the TRU boys and the newest No Limit recruit, Mystikal, over this KLC classic. Mia X f/ Master P & Foxy Brown “Party Don’t Stop” Unlady Like 1997 Before “Make Em Say Uhh,” this was the first No Limit record to get consistent radio play nationwide. Pairing up Foxy Brown and Mia X was a stroke of marketing genius. TRU f/ Mia X “Freak Hoes” TRU 2 Da Game 1997 After TRU drops three verses telling women to bend over and touch their toes on this Southern strip club classic, Mia X crashes the testosterone party and reminds the ladies: If you’re gonna do what they’re asking, make sure you get that money! TRU f/ Mia X “No Limit Soldiers” TRU 2 Da Game 1997
t a time when Foxy Brown and Lil Kim were battling for female dominance in the rap game, Mia X made history as one of the first female rappers in the South to get national exposure. The world was first introduced to Mia X in the mid-90’s through her appearances on No Limit party anthems like “Bout It, Bout It Pt. 2” and “Party Don’t Stop.” But her rap career had actually begun a decade earlier, when she was still a young teenager.
promotions, no radio play, no videos. She spent the next several years performing throughout the South and promoting the record. “I put out The Payback with an old friend who was based in New Orleans,” Mia recalls. “We were actually making copies of the tape ourselves. We’d be dubbing two or three tapes at a time and selling them out of the trunk. Once we got a barcode, we got a lil’ distribution deal and put it in Texas and Florida. Things took off from there.”
In 1984, Mia was recruited for a five-member rap group which also included a young Mannie Fresh. Founded by a Queens native, the group was called New York Incorporated and brought the sounds of the East coast to New Orleans. Their Southern-flavored rhymes over East coast breakbeats was a formula for success. Within a short period of time, New York Incorporated was getting paid to open shows for popular 80’s acts like Jekyll & Hyde and Kool Mo Dee. By age 14, Mia X was a “professional” rapper.
At the time, groups like Salt-N-Pepa were moving over 2 million units, so Mia didn’t grasp magnitude of her accomplishment. “I didn’t realize how big it was until I looked at it from a monetary standpoint,” she says. Most of the major labels weren’t aware of Mia’s underground success, but a few did approach her. With the money that she was making independently and her regional fame, she was comfortable financially and didn’t see any reason to sign with a major. Plus, she didn’t feel that she was ready. “I was trying to develop my sound,” she says. “I wanted to be the total package lyrically.”
In 1986, New York Incorporated officially disbanded. Although many rap groups dissolve due to internal conflict, creative differences, or financial mismanagement, their reason was much simpler. They needed to “concentrate on high school.” Mannie Fresh and Mia X were a year apart in school, and they graduated in ‘87 and ‘88, respectively. Mannie was gaining a reputation as a DJ around New Orleans. After graduation, Mia had a baby and dropped out of the music scene. For many female artists, childbirth spells the end of their career. But for Mia, it was just the beginning. “[Pursuing a rap career] with a baby wasn’t as difficult as you might think, because I had a strong support system,” Mia X recalls. “My mother was in my corner 100% and she knew rap wasn’t something I was just playin’ with.” After a brief hiatus to adjust to motherhood, Mia released an indie album called The Payback in 1992. The response proved that New Orleans rap fans hadn’t forgotten about Mia X. She sold over 77,000 copies with no marketing, no
In addition to developing her rap skills, Mia was active in the New Orleans community as a motivational speaker and mentor. She began working with the school board and various homes for battered women, sharing her own experiences and providing hope for women and children who had none. The more active she became in the community, the less focused she was on pursuing her rap career. “I didn’t really go to the clubs much, but you could definitely find me at an educational function or a battered womens’ event. Any event that pertained to helping our city, you’d see me there,” she says. In late 1994, Mia X met a young entrepreneur named Percy Miller. He’d heard her record and was looking for a female rapper to add to his roster. Although several independent labels had already tried to sign Mia, something made her take Percy - a.k.a. Master P - seriously. “Most of the [label owners] I had come in contact with just wanted to say they had a label, and they weren’t really hustlin’. Something in [Master] P’s eyes let me know that he was very serious about turning his label into something big.”
Master P’s label, No Limit, did become “something big.” Something huge, in fact. And Mia X played a key role. Virtually every hit that put No Limit on the map featured a blazing verse from the Mama Mia herself: “No Limit Soldiers,” “Make ‘Em Say Uhhh,” and many other songs that defined the No Limit era. While No Limit was putting New Orleans on the map, there were rumors of beef between the camp and another New Orleans-based powerhouse: Cash Money. Mia, who had maintained a friendship with Mannie Fresh and considers Brian “Baby” Williams and Ronald “Slim” Williams as brothers, never saw it that way. “I didn’t really feed into what the media was saying about Cash Money and No Limit, cause personally, I never saw any beef.” Her stint with No Limit ultimately came to an end in 1998, and they attempted to reunite in 2001 but the “business wasn’t straight.” Even to this day, Mia X rarely receives the credit she deserves. At the time of No Limit’s success, many hip-hop fans considered Southern rap music to be a gimmick and didn’t take her seriously as a lyricist. Plus, she adds, “Image is everything for sisters. [The female artists] were half-nekkid and shit, and I was one of the plussize girls.” Mia X’s filthy mouth, no-nonsense attitude, and “sassiness can be heard in the music of many up-and-coming female Southern rappers today: Trina, Jacki-O, Khia, Miss T, and the Ghetto Twins, for example. Today, Mia continues her work within the community, speaking at educational events such as BET’s Rap it Up. “I’ve been [on the road] with so many men, and I saw so many sisters put themselves in a position to be just another verse in a song,” she says. “When I speak to women, I tell them not to be that next rhyme. Handle yourself like a lady.” Representing for the females both on and off wax, Mia recently formed her own label, Music Life, and is recording a new album. “I didn’t get the opportunity to do a lot of collaborations at No Limit,” she says. “I’ve got this indie freedom now, so I’m spreading my wings.” OZONE APR 2005
Ozone Mag #33 - Apr 2005