Interview: Gangsta Boo

In one of the more unexpected comebacks of the year, Three 6 Mafia’s Gangsta Boo has returned to the limelight with a new mixtape – It’s Game Involved – and a crew of up-and-coming admirers that include SpaceGhostPurrp, Big K.R.I.T. and more. Anthony Obst catches up with the Memphis Queen to chat about Three 6, the ’90s revival and being a “fucking genius.”

As a core member of Three 6 Mafia during the mid to late ’90s, Lola Mitchell, AKA Gangsta Boo, was an early champion of Memphis’ distinct, gloomy rap sound. It’s one that has recently caught on with a new generation of rappers and, on her new mixtape, It’s Game Involved, Gangsta Boo extends her hand to her disciples, bridging the generation gap to great effect.

It’s weird that some of these kids think I’m this new bitch on the block. But at the same time I get a kick out of them googling me and then feeling stupid.

One of the most contemporary-sounding releases of the rap year, It’s Game Involved is a success few could have anticipated. After a stint as Lady Boo and a handful of releases that fell short on capturing the attention of a wider audience, Gangsta’s latest effort exhibits a clear understanding of how the game works in 2013, while largely sticking with the classic Memphis rap sound. Her team ups with Big K.R.I.T., as well as SpaceGhostPurrp and three other affiliates from his Raider Klan posse – the latter of which have been particularly heavy on the Memphis influence – has gone a long way to exposing her work to a demographic that back in 1997 was too young to “tear da club up.”

“It’s weird that some of these kids think I’m this new bitch on the block,” Lola laughs. “But at the same time I get a kick out of them googling me and then feeling stupid.”

To shed some light on her past, present and future, we checked in with Gangsta Boo for a Skype call from the Drum Squad mansion, where she was eager to chat about then and now – about Raider Klan, DJ Paul and that other guy, and how it feels to be a cult icon.

What immediately struck me about your mixtape was the amount of Raider Klan features you had on there. It’s good to see this kind of fusion between first generation Memphis rap and the kids who are all on that similar vibe now. What was your reaction when you first heard their music?

I first heard SpaceGhostPurrp through the ASAP Rocky material. Then I was scheduled to do a show in LA with Amber London where I was headlining and I was like “who is this girl?” Everybody was tweeting about how we should do a track together. So I researched her and found out that she was on that old ’90s style. It really amazed me cause they had clearly done their research. I respect them for that. They pay homage to the point where I feel like they’re really excited to work with me. And Amber’s just really dope. She’s humble. I fuck with the Raiders.

Having been part of the early Hypnotized Mind and Three 6 Mafia movement at a young age, does this sort of cult around the style strike you as weird in any sort of way?

It’s too weird. It’s surreal. It’s scary. It makes me mad that the Hypnotized Mind brand is dead. I got so many emotions about it. But I just look at it from a positive angle. We were ahead of our time. That’s what’s up. I’m a fucking genius. I gotta look at it like that. And if y’all want the old ’90s shit back then OK, here we go.

It definitely sounds like you’re on a mission on your new mixtape It’s Game Involved. Like you want people to get it correct that Gangsta Boo was among those laying the foundation. Was that part of the motivation behind the tape?

Definitely. I mean, I told SpaceGhostPurrp and Amber London that they really inspired me, too. Just realizing that people love that sound, and me being one of the innovators – that really hit me. That was definitely part of what motivated me on this tape. But when I put it out, I really didn’t expect anything. I didn’t expect everybody to be talking about it. It’s not like I didn’t think it could happen, but I didn’t see this reaction coming.

I don’t know if you wanna talk about it, but the whole way that you left Three 6 Mafia, after having been with them from a very young age, it still doesn’t seem like things are particularly cool between you guys yet…

I miss being around Paul. I miss helping him create music.

Well, I will always love me some DJ Paul. That’s my friend and I fuck with him. I’ll always have a certain level of loyalty toward him, even if I might not agree with some of his ways. But he was young, too. We just never really had a chance to sit down and talk about it. I don’t fuck with the other cat [Juicy J]. It’s just a respect thing. I can’t fuck with people I don’t respect, and I don’t respect him. But I’m cool with everybody else.

Out of that whole camp, Juicy J is the one who appears to be doing the best right now…

He signed with Wiz Khalifa when Wiz was at his peak. That’s what happened. It’s just a situation where he did what he had to do, or where he felt he wanted to do it. He crossed a lot of people in the process of doing it. And he better just ride the wave while he can.

Was being crossed also an issue when you broke your ties with Three 6 Mafia?

Honestly I was just really young and I was mis-managed. If I would have had a manager telling me to just chill out for a second, you’re going through emotions, I probably would have hung around. I don’t know. It was so long ago. At the time where I did it, I just felt like I didn’t want to stay. But yeah, I miss being around Paul. I miss helping him create music. I just wanna see him doing what I’m doing. People wanna hear that old shit.

What’s Paul doing these days?

He’s DJ’ing at dope-ass parties. He’s doing what he loves and that’s making him happy. He’s a cook, too. I think he got a restaurant or something. I know he got barbecue sauces. He’s doing a lot of stuff that doesn’t have anything to do with the rap game, but that’s kinda what I wanna see from him real soon. Hopefully we can all get together and just make some real dope music like we used to. Minus the other one.

After your split with Three 6, you went through a period where you went by the name of Lady Boo, staying away from curse words and all that…

I found myself in a kind of dark state. I was depressed and wanted to pull myself closer to the light.

Yeah, that happened. I was just going through a lot. I was so young. I was like 21. And I was having all this money and all this fame and all these emotions and all these problems and I had nobody. I had no consultant or anything. Every decision that was made was either Paul, Juicy or me. So when I had to buck against them, I was the only one making certain decisions. I found myself in a kind of dark state. I was depressed and wanted to pull myself closer to the light, if that’s what people call it, and I did that. I started getting religious at the time, but now I’m more spiritual. Cause I found out I didn’t wanna be hella religious either, you know? There’s a lot of shit going on with that as well. But I got a better sense of who I was, as a woman and as an adult, so it definitely helped out.

And going back to Gangsta Boo was also a way of you feeling comfortable in your own skin again?

Definitely that. But also just the fact that I can’t stay away from making music as Gangsta Boo. And gangsta doesn’t mean “shoot ‘em up, bang, bang” but Getting A Necessary Greatness Stimulating The Abnormal. That’s what I do, I get a kick out of blowing people’s minds. Old Lady Boo can do it, but ain’t nothing like crazy lady Gangsta Boo.

You’re also an official part of Drumma Boy’s Drum Squad now. When did that come about? You’ve been working with him for a while now…

Yeah, I’ve been messing with Drumma for a long time, even before he really blew up. Me and him just got like a brother-sister thing. I love him, whether we’re doing music or not. I’m definitely a Drum Squad-affiliate to the core. He was the first producer that I got with when I left Three 6 and he’s still my producer now. In fact I’m in the Drum Squad castle right now. We’re kind of like a family. It’s comfortable here.

Is that also where you record most of your music?

I record everywhere. I didn’t even do a lot of my mixtape songs here. I did “Bad Times” here with Krit.

How did that collaboration with him come about? Cause he’s really also one of those folks who pays a lot of homage to the originators.

Yeah, that’s true. He’s so humble. And that’s why I really like him and also why I like the Raider Klan. They might sound like a mini-Three 6 Mafia but they still pay massive homage. But yeah, I linked up with Krit when I was in New York, at Shade45 on DJ Kay Slay’s show. He was in another room and I guess he heard me talking about the mixtape or whatever and he said he wanted to be a part of it. And I was like, “Really?! Okay!” [laughs] So I sent him a song and he sent it back with his verse. On some 24 hours type shit. Shout out to him. I got lots of love for all those cats who got respect for the foundation.

By Anthony Obst on June 21, 2013