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A One Woman Army: Rapper Gangsta Boo Reflects on Two Decades in Hip-Hop

A One Woman Army: Rapper Gangsta Boo Reflects on Two Decades in Hip-Hop: Photo courtesy of Kelsey Fugere

Photo courtesy of Kelsey Fugere

Memphis-bred MC Gangsta Boo has been in the rap game for 21 years now—long enough to deserve a break. “When I’m having chill time, I’m having chill time,” the former Three 6 Mafia member tells me when I show up at her suburban home in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley last week. “I’m not one of those people who say, ‘I don’t watch TV.’ I watch TV.”

Boo got her start at age 14, with early-90s horrorcore pioneers Three 6 Mafia after getting discovered at a talent show. She would remain the only female in one of hip hop’s most influential groups, before going solo to release the hit “Where Dem Dollas At?” (Three 6 would go on to win an Oscar for Best Song without her, and co-founder Juicy J would blow up mainstream and hold a long term feud with Boo.) For a period, she left the game to find Jesus—only to come back to a reformed crew (renamed Da Mafia 6) only to leave it (again) to fly solo.

These days she’s in the middle of cutting a new record, which will likely give hip hop heads what they’ve always loved about Boo: rhymes that zigzag between cold-blooded barbs one moment and jokes the next, an exercise in concision that never feels canned. It’s no surprise, then, that younger female rappers—whether they write their own lyrics or not—are indebted to her flow. Her early ‘90s rhymes feel just as fresh today as in 1991.

After a thorough frisking by her pitbull Chilly, I sit down with Boo (or Lola, off-mic) in her living room to discuss what it’s like aging in hip hop, addictions to true crime TV, and her love of Weird Al.


Last year was rough for members of the Three 6 family with the death of founding member Lord Infamous and the warrant out on Crunchy Black.
It was. You know Triple 6 is just a crazy group. We’ve been crazy since we were kids working together. Assuming you get crazier with time. Losing Lord Infamous was hard, and it brought out some awkward emotions. And, you know, it is what it is. Everyone is just moving forward and focused on themselves and their family.

Everyone is an adult now.
Yeah, I’m the youngest one out of the bunch [at age 35]. I’m still an adult. They’re five, six years older than me.

What’s up with you and Juicy J. Is the beef between you two that’s been going on for at least a decade now killed?
Yeah, I talked to him before I saw him and basically…communication rules the nation. There were misunderstandings on my part, misunderstandings on his part. We grown, so grown ups know how to move on and move forward and be positive. Keep it moving and focus on what you’ve got to take care of at this point.

As you get older, is the difference between your rap persona and who you actually are getting bigger? How does anyone in music or in the rap game age gracefully? How do you seem with it and not come off like…Madonna or someone?
She’s way older—like mid 50s. I don’t want to see no one rapping some gangsta shit in their 50s, unless it’s in a movie or some shit. I don’t know though, stay current and youthful, pay attention to what’s going on around you.

I was just listening to some of the early Three 6 tapes (1991-1994), and if those came out now, they would both feel really ‘now’ and would probably be critically adored. Three 6 and DJ Screw basically invented trap music. You can hear it in Gucci Mane and T.I. and all these guys and also the influence on underground electronic music.
Yeah, we were ahead of our time musically and lyrically. My sound is still out there, so strong. People request it. It helps when people still want what you’ve brought to the table, even if it’s years ago. That’s what’s helped me age gracefully in music.

What inspires you as an emcee?
I listen to a lot of Project Pat [Juicy J’s older brother], when I’m trying to zone out. Old school Three 6 shit, you know. I listen to a lot of alternative rock. Sometimes I’ll go old school and listen to Marvin Gaye. It depends. I don’t have a particular genre of music I listen to. Sometimes I don’t even listen to much music and just do normal shit like watch TV all day. I draw my inspiration from anything.

So you watch a decent amount of TV then?
I do. I’m a fuckin’ couch potato. My life is so hectic so when I’m having chill time, I’m having chill time. I do prefer to be busy, to be honest, but I do like watching TV. I’m not one of those people who say, “I don’t watch TV”. I watch TV.

Any particular shows?
Wives with Knives. I used to love Wicked Attraction. Now I’m kinda hooked on Web of Lies or Obsession, which follows people who are obsessed with objects or people. There was one with a guy obsessed with his old house that he got evicted from and then anyone who moved into the house, he tortured the shit out of them.

What else do you do in your down time? Do you cook?
No. [laughs] My boyfriend cooks. I should cook. He and I watch a lot of movies at home. We don’t go out to the movies a lot. It costs like $15 to go see a movie out here. I’m old school as hell.

You’re very active on social media, but it takes a certain type to not let it consume you.
I do need to take a vacation from it at some point. It’s definitely something you should strategically do. But too much of anything is not good.

Are you sick of questions like “How does it feel to be the only girl in this boys club?” or “for a female, you’re a really good rapper”?
I don’t really care. I’ve got three brothers. I prefer to hang around dudes more than chicks. But I don’t prefer to travel consistently with all guys. I need my own space. I don’t want to hear dudes talking about chicks all the time. I don’t wanna see dudes cheating on their women. Certain things I don’t wanna see because I am a woman. Other than that, I don’t really pay attention to the “oh, she’s a female rapper.”

Has anyone ever approached you about ghostwriting? No, but I’d like to. I wanted to write for a couple girls or guys, but I haven’t had the opportunity. Hopefully that’s in the near future.

What about people who claim that Iggy Azalea have bitten some of her style, her cadence from you?
I’ve heard that, but to be honest with you, I can’t really hear it. I’ve listened to some of her songs, and she don’t remind me of me. I don’t think we’ll get to that point. She probably thinks I don’t like her or something. I don’t think any female would let another female write lyrics for them. I think it’s a pride thing at that point. They’d rather get one of the boys to do it, which is cool. I’m sure my cadence has been borrowed, but I don’t think it’s an intentional thing on anyone’s part, especially if you’re not writing your own material and someone else is doing it for you.

What’s your new EP about?
The title - “Candy, Diamonds, & Pills” - actually comes from “Anything, Anything” by Dramarama, which my boyfriend played for me in the car one day. One of the bars is like “I’ll give you candy, give you diamonds, give you pills, give you anything you want. Hundred dollar bills.” He was like, “candy, diamonds, pills…why don’t you use that as your title?”

That’s how I get the titles to a lot of my stuff - like “It’s Game Involved”. I was watching E-40 being interviewed, and I had just done a track for his record, and he was like “Boo is gassin’. She gassin’ on a lot of females. When she do it, it’s game involved.” I just love putting together titles and mind fuckin’ people.

You’ve mentioned enjoying LA because you never know who you’re going to run into. Any fun sightings since you’ve been here?
I’m still waiting to run into Denzel. But, I ran into Weird Al Yankovic here. We were at some Grammy event. I was like, “should I fan out? Nah, I’m too cool for that.” And I walked up to him and said, “you know you’re a legend, right? It’s super nice meeting you.” So that was pretty cool. He was super pleasant and was like, “wow, thank you.” He’s so legendary and old school. If he was to be a bitch right now, it would be a shame on him. But he was graceful and pleasant. That was dope.


“Candy, Diamonds, & Pills” will drop this spring. Gangsta Boo appears at SXSW on March 18th.

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