Anyone who was listening to No Limit Records’ seemingly endless stream of acts during the label’s late ‘90s commercial peak is more than familiar with the first lady of the tank, Mia X. But fans of “Mama Mia” have not heard much from the self-described “Sheba with two heaters” since the release of her Mama Drama album 11 years ago.
“My parents died in ’99,” Mia explained to HipHopDX recently of the heartbreaking circumstances that led to her nearly 10 year exile from the Rap game. “My parents died five months apart – [shortly] after I dropped Mama Drama. And, my mom was the care-provider for my children. That allowed me to tour and to do the music thing. And [my children] were relatively young when she died [in a car accident]. And on top of being extremely devastated and heartbroken, I had to also make the choice to fill my mom’s shoes because she was mom to all of us. So I had to raise the children. That meant I had to go to the P.T.A. meetings and you know, be more proactive in the children’s lives and their extracurricular activities. My mom was also like my biggest fan.”
The loss of Mia’s parents was tragically compounded by the losses of several more loved ones.
“I also lost 14 family members in that 18-month period [after my parents passed],” added Mia. “[And] I had [more] personal tragedy [before that]. Thirty days before my mom was killed, my brother’s father was killed. I had a lot of things going on, a lot of things that I had to deal with.”
In addition to the personal tragedies that befell Mia and her family that subsequently hindered her ability to tour and perform the other demanding duties of a professional recording artist, Mia’s label home was beginning to fall apart.
“Master P decided to play basketball,” Mia noted of the origin of the tank’s demise once the label’s leader decided to suit up and play in the CBA and tryout for teams in the NBA. “There was a breakdown in the family unit at No Limit as well as my own personal tragedy.”
There was no struggle to get out of her recording agreement with the No Limit Colonel because there was no formal agreement.
“I never had a contract with P,” Mia revealed. “We really and truly were brothers and sisters in the game. And at that time you know, he was pursuing basketball anyway. And he was totally understanding to what had happened. He had a close relationship with my mom. So he understood the pain that I was in. He understood that I really wasn’t gonna be able to just come in and record and go on tour. And he wasn’t really doing much of that himself anyway. He had decided to pursue a whole thing in basketball. And, No Limit, we was used to being just together. It was a family unit. We were very close. And when he decided to play basketball he had to bring in an unfamiliar staff. And so a lot of things just started to like breakdown. So, it wasn’t a situation where he was feeling like, you’re at the height of your career [and] I can’t let you go. He was like, damn, her whole family is dead.”
Even with having to deal with the many losses in her family, as well as the rapid dissolution of the once mighty No Limit dynasty, Mia never put her pen down.
“I signed a couple of confidentiality clauses and I still continued to write for other artists,” she revealed. “I just didn’t make any music for myself… I never stopped writing, I just had to fall back to be a mom.”
Slyly dodging inquiries about who she was writing for, Mia would only offer to DX that, “It wasn’t No Limit artists, it was all…high-profile artists.”
In addition to the ghostwriting, Mia dabbled in real estate, but her main gig during the ‘00s was that of family matriarch, as Mia not only oversaw the daily lives of her children, but also the endeavors of her entire family.
“I was focused on my little sister – it’s two of us,” explained Mia. “She had just graduated from university when my mom died and entered her master’s program. And then she went on to medical school. I’m happy to say that today she is a doctor of Internal Medicine and Molecular Genetics.”
“So, you know,” she continued, “I had to be Mama Mia for real. I had to really, really walk it like I talk it. That’s what was going on with me. Now, Ashley’s a doctor. And my children, [my son] Sean and [my daughter] Tye are grownups, 22 and 20… I had always put in the back of my mind that when the kids were grown and stable that I definitely was gonna throw my hat back in the ring.”
Having reached her goal of overseeing the rearing of her children in the wake of her parents passing, Mia can now devote her full attention to her passion.
“My love is Hip Hop,” said Mia. “I fell in love with Hip Hop in ’79. I started rockin’ mics in ’84. [I] put out my first record in ’92, hooked up with Master P when he came [back home from Richmond, California] for a visit to New Orleans in ’94… I’ve always wanted to be a rapper, ever since I heard Angie Stone [of the group] Sequence [who scored a hit in] 'Funk You Up.' When I heard Sha Rock [of Funky 4 + 1] spit, I wanted to be a rapper. I realized girls could do it. And, this is my heart. This is truly my heart. And so now I’m able to freely record music and put it out and just do the damn thing.”
Although having been back in the lab for roughly the last three years, it wasn’t until friend and fellow female spitter Gangsta Boo had Mia tag along with her to a recent recording session for Gucci Mane (in Mia’s new homebase of Atlanta) that the seeds of a full Mia X comeback were planted and plans for her fourth album, Betty Rocka Locksmith, were finally put into place.
“I’m a cook,” Mia began, breaking down her unique album title, “and most people in the game they know me for cooking just like they know me for music. My family had a catering company [for] 50 years. We are known in New Orleans [for] being a long line of great cooks… So, okay you know Betty Crocker is a popular baker and original recipe creator. So I am Betty Rocka, because I can cook and at the same time I spit that crack. [And] on the streets, when people get into the street game they aspire to have keys. So as far as this game goes, I’m the locksmith.”
Tentatively due this coming February (via Mia’s own label, MusicLife), Betty Rocka Locksmith will boast tracks featuring former No Limit labelmate, and someone Mia affectionately notes as her “little brother,” Fiend (“Got The Scale Doing Pushups”), as well as the aforementioned Gucci Mane (who immediately requested Mia’s microphone services upon their in-studio introduction), KRS-One (“Hip Hop 101,” which can be heard via Mia’s MySpace, and many more notable names in the game.
Production on Mia’s comeback will come courtesy of post-Beats By The Pound in-house producer for No Limit, and Mia’s musical partner in the creation of songs for other artists, Donald “XL” Robertson (who laced Mia’s ’06 formal reintroduction to the game, “Verbal Assault,” along with the Mary J. Blige/Mia X union, “To Be Real”), as well as members of the aforementioned army of hitmen in No Limit’s heyday formerly known as Beats By The Pound and now known as the Medicine Men (including frequent Mia collaborator KLC, who produced the organ-driven street banger “The Package Iz In”). Mia’s also working with notable new southside beatmakers including Drumma Boy, Zaytoven, Street Kingz, S8ighty, and Black ‘N Mild (who produced “1 Life 1 Love,” another one of Mia’s current buzz cuts in addition to the dedication to her Hip Hop roots in the ‘80s, “I Get The Paper”).
But maybe most notably, Mia will be reconnecting with her original group member from a quarter-century ago in the New Orleans-based crew called New York Incorporated (member Denny D was an NYC transplant to the Big Easy).
“I’m also linking up with my old road member from 1984, Mannie Fresh, and he is blessing me with a beat,” Mia revealed. “I’m gon’ be working with Juvenile. He’s blessing me with a verse. B.G. is blessing me with a verse. So, I’m very happy with the way that Betty Rocka Locksmith is coming together.”
In addition to the album, Mia is also recording for her forthcoming mixtape-before-the-album, Unladylike Forever. The street release (with big-name deejay host currently to be determined) culling its title from Mia’s gold-certified 1997 offering, Unladylike, will boast appearances from some of the often-overlooked female spitters in the game, both past and present. Mia has reached out to her childhood inspiration for rhyming, Angie Stone, as well as Rah Digga, Yo Yo, Trina, Queen Pen, Gangsta Boo, La Chat, Khia, and one of her personal favorite femcees, The Lady Of Rage (“She is cold as muthafuckin’ ice water on a summer day,” said Mia of Rage).
“Unladylike is not about being uncoof, it’s about having an unladylike flow,” Mia explained. “It’s about going against all odds, and when people hear you they have to respect you for the contribution you making to the game. And not just because you’re cute, or not just because you like to pose and you like to shop. Unladylike is a representation of the real pitbulls of the game… Unladylike is a state of mind, and that’s what the mixtape is all about.”
And to tide her long-patient fans over until the release of her new mixtape and album, every Tuesday, beginning December 1st with the release of “Grown Woman,” a brand new Mia X song (some from her upcoming album, some loose tracks) will be available for download at iTunes, Amazon, and other digital retailers.
“I’m gettin’ my Master P and my Gucci Mane on,” she declared of her onslaught of new music. “I’m gonna just be releasing that heat every single Tuesday. I owe it to my fanbase. I been gone 11 years, so I have to just continuously hit them with that work and remind them why they fell in love with me. And I’m so honored and humbled that people are still checkin’ for me.”
Betty Rocka Locksmith is due in stores and online February 2010 from MusicLife Recordings.
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