Best-selling album since 1990: Ghetto Fabulous (1998)
Hit songs since 1990: "Y'all Ain't Ready Yet," "Ain't No Limit," "Neck Uv Da Woods"
Throughout the 1990s, southern-based hip-hop gained commercial dominance by forging a fresh new sound from prominent synthesizers, complex rhythms, and drawling raps laced with regional slang. Mystikal was among a number of New Orleans–based rappers to win nationwide exposure during this time. Arguably one of the most talented artists to emerge from New Orleans gangsta rap impresario Master P's No Limit label, Mystikal spent the latter half of the decade developing a tongue-twisting, confrontational style of rapping that would propel him to great success early in the twenty-first century.
Although he was immersed in the New Orleans hip-hop scene from his early teens, Mystikal's rap career began in earnest when he returned to his hometown after a tour in the Gulf War. In 1995 he released a self-titled debut through local independent label Big Boy. The album was successful enough to attract the attention of New York-based Jive Records, which added a few new tracks to Mystikal and re-released it as Mind of Mystikal in 1996.
The backing tracks on Mind of Mystikal do little to deviate from the dominant sound of the time, the laid-back, melodic production style known as G-funk and pioneered by the L.A.-based rapper/producer Dr. Dre. Mystikal does, however, manage to distinguish himself from leading G-funk emcees such as Snoop Dogg and Warren G. In contrast to their lazy, sing-songy flow, he delivers his rhymes in rapid-fire bursts punctuated by James Brown–like shouts. The sound is aggressively new enough to lend weight to the obligatory boasts of superior microphone skills, such as this typically densely packed passage from "Here I Go": "I wreck beaucoup crews / with the words I use / I'm 'bout to be feelin' like ZZ hill cuz I'm screamin' and screamin' and singin' the blues." Mind of Mystikal became an underground rap hit, eventually going gold.
This success was enough to attract the attention of Mystikal's New Orleans neighbor, Percy Miller. Better known as Master P, Miller had spent the early 1990s steadily releasing cheaply produced gangsta rap through his No Limit label. Although No Limit records received no play on MTV or radio, grassroots sales turned the label into a mini-empire. Fortuitously, Mystikal signed with No Limit just as it was breaking through to huge mainstream success, thanks to Master P's sixth solo album, Ghetto D, and the soundtrack to the No Limit-produced home video I'm Bout It. Mystikal contributed the track "What Cha Think" to the latter, and in November 1997 No Limit released Unpredictable.
Unpredictable 's more polished production significantly improves upon its predecessor, showcasing Mystikal's menacing bark over stripped-down beats and jazz-tinged bass. Mystikal, for his part, distinguishes himself as a more talented writer and rapper than many of the often-generic emcees in the No Limit stable. On "Ain't No Limit," eerie strings and distorted chants serve as the backdrop to Mystikal's inventive, referential boasts: ". . . you talking weirder than Elvis Presley / I'm trying to blow out bigger than the jaws of Dizzy Gillespie." Unpredictable proved to be a commercial breakthrough for Mystikal, selling 1 million copies and creating major anticipation for his follow-up. Deviating little from the formula of the album before it, Ghetto Fabulous (1998) debuted nearly at the top of the album charts and also went platinum.
Like all No Limit albums, both Unpredictable and Ghetto Fabulous are at least as much about reinforcing the No Limit brand as they are about developing the career of the individual artist. In 2000, feeling the constraints of having to be a "team player," Mystikal left No Limit to return to Jive, which released his fifth album, Let's Get Ready. The move proved commercially and artistically fruitful. The lead single, "Shake Ya Ass," memorably harnesses the potential of Mystikal's voice as an instrument in its own right, playing his staccato outbursts off sparse, funky beats and a smooth, falsetto refrain. It was the biggest single of his career to date and ultimately drove sales of the album to the 2 million mark. In late 2001, Mystikal released his sixth album, Tarantula, which garnered two Grammy Award nominations.
As one of the main artists to benefit from and subsequently drive the ascendance of southern hip-hop in the 1990s, Mystikal developed a sound that would propel him to mainstream success at the turn of the decade.
Mystikal (Big Boy, 1995); Mind of Mystikal (Jive, 1996); Unpredictable (No Limit, 1997); Ghetto Fabulous (No Limit, 1998); Let's Get Ready (Jive, 2000); Tarantula (Jive, 2001).
"Mystikal." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 17, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mystikal
"Mystikal." Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Popular Musicians Since 1990. . Retrieved January 17, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/mystikal
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In truth, Mystical does not technically rap. “He howls, he bellows, he barbarically yawps himself raw, all at a volume and velocity as unrelenting as any hardcore punk or metal outfit,” wrote Mark Binelli in Rolling Stone.. et Mystikal’s talents lie far beyond his original style of rapping. By the late-1990s, the United States Army veteran who saw action as a combat engineer in the Gulf War (also known as Operation Desert Storm) cemented his reputation as one of the most promising MCs in rap music, supporting his blasting delivery with witty lyrics and a crafty flow. “Mystikal’s appeal rests in his unyielding vocal intensity, his ability to maintain his scream-like delivery at any speed, his vivid imagery and his utilization of self-created sound effects to accentuate his point,” noted Soren Baker of the Los Angeles Times. “To the uninitiated, he may come off as a Busta Rhymes imposter, but Mystikal is one of rap’s most gifted and distinctive artists.”
Although he catapulted to stardom with Master P’s No Limit Records, Mystikal had already established himself as a rising star long before millions of hip-hop fans purchased his first 1997 album for the label entitled Unpredictable. His independent, self-titled debut, as well as the reissued version The Mind of Mystikal, both released in 1995, sold more than 500,000 units collectively. And after copies of Unpredictable flew off record store shelves, Mystikal’s star continued to shine on 1999’s Ghetto Fabulous, the rapper’s third outing. Winning stellar reviews for its broad thematic scope—most No Limits artists dedicate their work primarily to gangster topics— Ghetto Fabulous, like his prior records, stood apart from other hardcore rap albums. Here, Mystical delivered a touching tribute to his mother, as well as stories from his childhood and high school days. “Mystikal is one of the few artists who sound fresh and exciting with each listen,” concluded Baker, “regardless of topic.”
Mystical was born Michael Tyler in New Orleans, Louisiana, a city rich in musical tradition. Growing up in New Orleans “gives you a different rhythm, since it’s a different style of music,” he told Binelli, but the southern town also held other advantages as well. “New Orleans is different from everywhere,” he explained to Charlie Braxton in an interview for XXL “We didn’t have gangs like in California, so you didn’t have to worry about all that. It was kinda like the Cosby Show without all the money. I was around the poverty and everything, but my mom kept all that away from me. She didn’t let me know how poor we were. I never did feel that.”
Nonetheless, Mystikal did spend his childhood in one of the most impoverished and violent communities in New Orleans, the city’s uptown area known as the 12th Ward. Many young African Americans in the neighborhood fell into selling drugs to make money, but Mystical was fortunate. His mother Marie Tyler, a single parent, along with a large extended family, showered Mystikal and his two siblings—older sister Michelle and younger brother Maurice—with love and affection, encouraging the children to excel in school, attend church regularly, and stay away from crime.
Although he had been rapping as a casual hobby for a long time, Mystical learned about the competence one needs to rap in high school, when a more competitive rapper challenged him in the hallway one day. When the other student showed him up, Mystikal realized that an important element to the art of rapping, in addition to knowing how to tell a story, included knowing how to boast for attention. Soon thereafter, Mystikal began overwhelming the other MCs in his neighborhood with his rhymes. “I wanted to get a certain reaction…. If you laugh, that’s like a ‘whoooo’ to me because I done said something hard. That’s why I evolved into such a live performer,” Mystikal stated for Jive Records. “To every word there was an action for it. After watching so many plain rappers, then watching good rappers, then putting my whole interpretation into the whole situation, that’s what my style came out to.”
Despite his lyrical talent, Mystikal first earned a name for himself around New Orleans not for rapping, but for breaking with a group called the Converse Crew. Through dancing, however, Mystical eventually hooked up with Beats By the Pound producer KLC, who would later serve as an important figure in his rap career.
For The Record…
Started rapping in high school; released self-titled debut, signed with Jive Records, released The Mind of Mys-tikal, 1995; released first album with Master P’s No Limit Records entitled Unpredictable, 1997; released Ghetto Fabulous, 1999.
Addresses: Record company —Jive Records, 137-139 W. 25th St., New York City, NY 10001, phone: (212) 727-0016, fax: (212) 645-3783.
When the popularity of dancing started to fade, Mys-tikal, like other southern hip-hop artists, turned to other areas of the culture such as rapping and producing in order to express themselves. In New Orleans, KLC stood at the forefront of rap as producer and DJ of a local group called the 3-9 Posse. Recognizing Mys-tikal’s unique style, KLC brought the young rapper into the studio and recorded and produced some of his early demo tapes.
However, after graduating from Cohen High School and trying to supplement his artistic pursuits with a series of odd jobs, Mystikal decided to put his rap career on hold and enlisted in the United States Army. During his time with the military, he served in the Gulf War and kept up with the New Orleans rap scene by visiting his home whenever possible. When he completed his service with the Army, Mystikal returned to New Orleans, where local groups and labels were starting to receive national attention. To Mystikal, it looked as if his former hobby could turn into a full-time career, and he immediately called upon KLC for help.
The producer, though busy working with several other hip-hop acts, nevertheless welcomed Mystikal back into the fold. KLC promised to produce an album for the hopeful rapper after the release of records for 3-9 Posse and Lil’ Slim—now known as Soulja Slim. But an impatient Mystikal, while waiting his turn, signed with another local label called Big Boy Records. In early-1995, he arrived with his self-titled debut, but local acceptance alluded the young rapper. At the time, a new homegrown style of hip-hop music called Bounce had taken over the New Orleans scene. “I had to compete with the Bounce artist [popularity] that was going on in New Orleans,” he told Braxton. “I love Bounce. I definitely love it. But it was just frustrating trying to get people to listen to me. I knew if I could please New Orleans’ fans, it was on.”
Soon, local audiences did take notice of Mystikal, and their support helped land the rapper a distribution deal with New York’s Jive Records, who reissued his debut, plus a few extra tracks, as The Mind of Mystikal in February of 1995. The album sold more than 500,000 copies and earned radio play nationwide, but Mystikal found himself in financial trouble. Adding to his frustrations, Mystikal was in the midst of dealing with the loss of his sister Michelle to domestic violence. Michelle, who had seen her brother through his struggling years, was killed in 1994 by her boyfriend Damion Neville, the grandson of Neville Brothers mainstay Charles. “Losing my sister in ’94, that changed my whole perspective,” Mystikal recalled to Braxton. “We grew up spiritual with a strong Baptist background. My family was tight. Then all of a sudden, that happened. September 22, 1994—losing my sister—that was my birthday present. Happy birthday to me.”
Although left with a deep emotional and psychological scar after Michelle’s death, Mystikal nonetheless pushed on with his rap career. Fortunately, his debut caught the attention of fellow rap artist Master P (born Percy Miller), the CEO of No Limit Records. Besides rap music, Mystikal had another connection with the No Limits chief. Master P, too, had lost a sibling, younger brother Kevin, who died in a drug-related murder. Thus, with Mystikal’s first album for No Limits entitled Unpredictable, Master P encouraged him to explore his feeling surrounding the tragedy. The album, released in 1997, contained a tribute to his sister, “Shine,” as well as a song addressed to Damion Neville called “Murderer 2.”
In 1999, Mystikal returned with Ghetto Fabulous, produced by No Limit’s production team known as Beats by the Pound, and featuring guest appearances by No Limit artists as well as Busta Rhymes and Naughty By Nature, two of the rapper’s personal influences. In early-2000, Mystikal, reunited with KLC at the producer’s spacious home studio to start work on his next album, Let’s Get Ready to Rumble, expected for release later in the year. Now a successful rap star with financial security, Mystikal lives in a large home in New Orleans in an exclusive gated community. The humble, religious rap artist credits God, rather than himself, for all his accomplishments him. “My talent is spiritual,” he cried as he looked toward the sky, as quoted by Braxton. “It’s not just me putting words together. This is a gift.”
Mystikal, Big Boy, 1995.
The Mind of Mystikal, (reissue of Mystikal plus extra tracks), Big Boy/Jive, 1995.
Unpredictable, No Limit/Jive, 1997.
Ghetto Fabulous, No Limit/Jive, 1999.
Let’s Get Ready to Rumble, Jive, 2000.
Billboard, July 13, 1996; November 29, 1997.
Los Angeles Times, December 13, 1998.
Rolling Stone, November 27, 1997; March 18, 1999.
XXL, January 2000.
Mystikal at Jive Records, http://www.peeps.com/jiverecords/index.html (June 5, 2000).
Sonicnet.com, http://www.sonicnet.com (June 5, 2000).
"Mystikal." Contemporary Musicians. . Encyclopedia.com. (January 17, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mystikal
"Mystikal." Contemporary Musicians. . Retrieved January 17, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/mystikal