Return of the Gangsta 

With a new record, new city, and new attitude, estranged Three 6 Mafia moll Gangsta Boo comes out swinging.

Enquiring minds want to know: Whatever happened to Gangsta Boo, the onetime femme fatale from Three 6 Mafia? The rap diva is alive and well, and today she's happily promoting her third solo record, Enquiring Minds II: The Soap Opera. With cuts like "Sippin' and Spinnin'" and "Where They Hang," the album effectively bridges the gap between the hardcore style Boo popularized on When the Smoke Clears, Three 6's classic Y2K release, and the forward-minded approach favored by the rap community in her new hometown, Atlanta, Georgia.

"I've been hanging out in Atlanta on and off for the last five years," Boo explains. "Memphis is gangsta. You're from the 'hood, and either your momma split or you don't know your daddy. I don't know whether it's our personalities or the way we talk, but Memphians tend to stand out."

"Out here in the A, everybody is less uptight," she adds. "Atlanta has a great money market for black people. All the black colleges are here, so there are more educated folks. It seems like every guy I meet comes from a two-parent family and from a house that's not in the projects. There's also more of a nightlife, more projects happening in the studios, and a lot of artists helping each other out. Everybody's more uplifted and in party mode."

So what happened to the 20-year-old who rapped "I'm a gangsta 'til I die" on the song "Love Don't Live (U Abandoned Me)," released way back in 2001? "Anyone who has been through trials and tribulations, who's still standing and maintaining with a smile on their face, is a gangsta," Boo says. "I have a thick skin, so, yep, you could say I'm still gangsta."

Boo's thick skin has come in especially handy lately: While she hasn't heard Three 6 Mafia's newest release, Da Unbreakables, she laughs when read the lyrics to the track "You Scared Part II." "Which one of you rappers wanna feel them shots/Sayin' that Juicy J fuck you out your record money, flop/Hope you know these North Memphis soldiers keep a plastic glock," goes the menacing rhyme, clearly directed at Boo, who's been decidedly vocal about the reasons behind her split with Three 6's Juicy J and DJ Paul.

"They know they fucked people out of money; everybody in the world knows it," says Boo. "It's not a secret. They act like it is, but they keep pumping it up themselves for publicity. They're making fools out of themselves," she says disdainfully. "It's a damn shame when the label you came up with from day one does you like this. I don't need friends like that. I'm not mad about it, though. I'm a person who believes in karma."

While the split was acrimonious, Boo still has fond memories of her early years in Memphis. "I grew up between North Memphis and Blackhaven," she says, "attending school at Sheffield and Hillcrest. I met DJ Paul when I was in eighth grade. He was in 10th or 11th --he might've failed a few times," she jests.

"My dad owned a karaoke machine, and my girlfriends and I would practice rapping," Boo says, citing such artists as MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, LL Cool J, and Big Daddy Kane as early influences. "I grew up with the old Memphis underground rap scene -- Eightball, Skinny Pimp, Al Kapone, DJ Squeeky, Playa Fly, and Project Pat. I used to rap with a guy named DJ Fila; he's dead now, rest in peace. He got shot and killed at a club in Raleigh," she says, softly adding, "there were a lot of people in Memphis who helped me find the style I've got today."

Enquiring Minds II features plenty of up-and-coming Memphians, from producers Drumma and Suwizzo to Boo's own brother, Lil' E, who guests on the duet "Weed & Cocaine." Atlanta scratcher Mr. DJ (best known for Outkast's "Jazzy Belle" remix) and New Orleans' Mo B. Dick, who has worked with everyone from Eightball & MJG to Master P and Mystikal, also got in on the act.

"Everyone I worked with on this album is a top-notch producer," Boo emphasizes. "They're underdogs, guys who need to keep knocking until the door opens. Why pay a hundred grand for a producer with a name when I can get the same quality for much less dough?" she asks rhetorically. "I'm the underground queen, so I mess with all the underdogs."

With songs like "Cutty Girl" and "Infatuation Luv," Boo shows how far she's come since the strictly Dirty South days of tracks like "Kill, Kill, Kill, Murder, Murder, Murder." "I've cleaned things up a bit, but I never said I'd make a gospel album," Boo says, alluding to her highly publicized religious reawakening, which occurred in September 2001. "I'm still making mistakes, but I'm learning from 'em now. My relationship with my higher power is a personal thing."

"Hopefully, you can tell that my music is still the same signature style. My beats still have the same flow, and the things I rap about are still of the same nature," Boo says. "But I'm 24 years old now. I tell people: Don't just know me, understand me."

"Of course, things haven't changed too much in the 'hood, and that's basically where my raps come from," she continues. "It's just not something you hear me yell on hooks throughout the whole CD."

"Now I'm so happy with my life. I'm just focusing on what I've got to do to be as successful as possible before I get too old," she says, just half-kidding.

E-mail: localbeat@memphisflyer.com.

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