*BATON ROUGE, La. — New Orleans is known for good music, good food and a good time. When it comes to music, it’s the birthplace of jazz and the home of Mardi Gras/Carnival music. However, in the early ‘90s, a fast-paced beat, along with repeated lyrics, became what was known as New Orleans Bounce Rap, the type of rap music meant for the nightclub scene.
That would all change by the mid ’90s, when 12th Ward native Mystikal, fresh off a stint serving the country in Operation Desert Storm, came roaring onto the scene, literally. Known for his fast-paced raps, highly energetic stage and studio presence, lyrical punchlines and random yells and ad libs, Mystikal didn’t epitomize the sound or the look of a typical New Orleans rapper.
The self-proclaimed “Braided Up Pimp” took the city by storm and went onto enjoy both local and commercial success. He was considered one of the biggest signings in the industry when he signed to Master P’s No Limit Records. With multiple platinum and gold albums as well as five Top-10 hits — including two No. 1s — Mystikal looks to regain some of that past momentum.
Zenger News recently spoke to Mystikal to discuss his past success, upcoming projects, his TV One “Unsung” episode and much more.
Percy Crawford interviewed Mystikal for Zenger News.
Zenger: Mystikal, what’s up with you?
Mystikal: What happening? Boy, everything is good, man (laughing).
Zenger: I see you back on the road doing your thing.
Mystikal: Man … Lord. Won’t he do it? Yeah man, we back at it.
Zenger: I always said if I ever got a chance to interview you, I would have to ask you why you never released “Back From the River,” the response to UNLV’s “Drag ‘Em N Tha River” diss aimed at you? I liked that comeback.
Mystikal: That was just regular promo. I wasn’t trying to do that kind of thing. Where you based out of New Orleans, Percy?
Zenger: I’m in Slidell.
Mystikal: Sli-diggity-Dell. St. Slammany Parish (laughing).
Zenger: You already know.
Mystikal: Yeah man, that was just radio promo. I wasn’t trying to promote that kind of stuff. Even though it was just fun, I wasn’t trying to do all that. That was for one purpose only, to smack them in they mouth; that was it. Because I was a national artist, so I couldn’t dedicate no time. Nationally, they would’ve been like, “What is he talking about?” That would’ve been blowing them up, you know what I’m saying? I wouldn’t have minded helping them, but not like that.
Zenger: You also did a session with Mannie Fresh in his truck that blew up. We were all waiting for something to come from that, man.
Mystikal: Like Deontay Wilder say, “Till this day!” Till this day people asking me when am I dropping that album, do you know that? Till this day, bruh. From that damn little session with Mannie Fresh. That was my first viral experience. I ain’t know what that meant. They were like, “Man, you went viral.” And I’m like, “Call the doctor, here go the bulls**t.” I was coming home from that big house, culture-shocked and behind the power curve, so, yeah.
Zenger: Seeing where Tupac and Biggie’s ‘beef’ went — and they were on different coasts — New Orleans is small, and I’m sure you and UNLV, BG and all the other cats mixed up in that beef saw each other often. What deescalated that beef? Maturity?
Mystikal: No, the media didn’t sensationalize it like the media sensationalized that East Coast and West Coast. The Tupac and Biggie thing wouldn’t have been as big as it was or as destructive as it was without the media pushing that like that, pushing that narrative, man. That was not cool, bruh. It was exciting. It was exciting because we were on edge. That was like anticipating a new movie coming out. “What he finna say now?” You know what I’m saying? It was two fantastic artists; nobody thought it was going to escalate to that kind of situation.
Zenger: The media took the rap competition out and made it personal. And that was just throwing gas on the fire.
Mystikal: There ya go! There ya go!
Zenger: I will admit, it’s great seeing ya’ll all take pictures together now — you, Partners-N-Crime and Lil Ya. That’s great to see that that situation never escalated to that.
Mystikal: Man … as a matter of fact I’m in Houston right now. One of my last concerts was in an arena out here. Somebody came backstage and said, “Man, you got a fan at the door trying to get in. I didn’t send nobody to get him; I went and got him myself. And it was like, “Wahhhh!” It was Lil Ya! Real talk. That’s real talk. I was the biggest UNLV fan in the world. When I said, “Three things I’m gonna never do, one, never gonna change my style; two, never gonna bounce; three, never gonna bow.” I was just taking a stab at Bounce music itself not UNLV personally because I was a fan. I was a lyrical artist, and I was at odds with the Bounce. That’s all that was — just being the artist that I was. I love those guys, man.
Zenger: You rolled out a style that New Orleans wasn’t used to. Were you ever nervous that it wouldn’t catch on?
Mystikal: Yes, I was, because they didn’t want to hear no lyrics. They wanted to hear Bounce music. Here I come with lyrics, and they were like, “You coming with that? Put that ‘Triggerman’ on, man.” That’s why I incorporated that line, “I got the gimmick to make them bitches Bounce like DJ Jimi.” I threw little nuggets of Bounce in it; you know what I’m saying? That’s what actually helped me craft that style. I had to come with it, man. And I started performing and getting they attention. And I said, “Aha!” What ya boy say on “Coming to America,” “Aha!”
Zenger: It was wild to see a New Orleans artist at the time be on Busta Rhymes’ album, and you had the feature with Joe.
Mystikal: I was a hip-hop artist, bruh. A true hip-hop fan and a true hip-hop head. The first thing I did when I went to New York was go by the barrel that’s on fire and jump in the cypher like, “Yeah!” And I guarantee you I was one of the last ones standing in front of the fire like, “Where ya’ll at?”
Zenger: You have such a huge catalog and so many different styles. How do you go about picking your lineup when you are performing live?
— Mystikal (@ItsMystikal) January 17, 2021
Mystikal: It’s crazy because I gotta be open-minded. If it was up to me, the concerts wouldn’t be as good as it could be, because I’m going to pick all my favorites, and I’m going to pick what I like to do, and that’s not necessarily the world’s favorites. For instance, I did not want to do “Shake Ya Ass” as a single. I just didn’t think it represented me lyrically like I should have been represented. I wanted to do something like “I’m Throwed Off,” “U Would if U Could,” something with hard lyrics. Jive [Records] said, “Listen man, trust us. If you don’t do nothing else, trust us on this “Shake Ya Ass.” Man, that came out; I did laps around this planet.
I said, “Thank you, Lord for letting me be open-minded.” And another thing, you know “Back That Azz Up” was out bangin’, and I didn’t want people to think I was trying to be like Juvenile. So, I wasn’t trying to be like Juvenile because I wrote that album in competition, because I actually wrote that when I was with No Limit [Records]. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to be a part of No Limit when that album was released. I wrote that album to kind of compete with “400 Degreez.” That was my biggest album to date.
Zenger: Cedric The Entertainer came out to “Here I Go” on “Kings of Comedy.” When you heard that, what was your initial reaction?
Mystikal: I was actually in the movie theater the first time I heard it. I can’t remember which one. I was in Baton Rouge. But I was in the movie theater watching “Kings of Comedy” and Ced The Entertainer came out to that buh buh buh. … I put it like this, people in the movie theater was like, “All right Mystikal, sit down now. All right.” I was like, “My bad. I’m sorry ya’ll. I’m sorry.” Real talk, bruh. I was excited. I still get excited when I hear my s**t come on the radio today, man. Real talk.
Zenger: Do you remember where you were when you first heard one of your songs on Q93?
Mystikal: At the house, I was in the house. I probably still got stitches from running through the house and falling down somewhere full speed.
Zenger: Who would Mystikal like to go against in a Verzuz?
Mystikal: Juvenile! Busta Rhymes, too. Cause I’m there with my brothers. I know they saying, Verzuz, but I’m saying, a good one-two punch. Me and Juvenile … man, that’s some of the hardest concerts I’ve done to date. And it don’t matter who go first and who go second. But let Juve tell it. When he have to perform behind me, he be like, “Man, ya’ll got me performing behind, Elvis, bruh.” (Laughing)! You can perform behind anybody. You could perform behind, The Beatles, boy.
Man, that boy got some hits. I definitely won’t be looking at it as no battle; that young man got hits. Hold up now, Juve. Juve is our golden child. That’s why I go hard in the paint behind him. When we out in the field together, and one of us gotta make it home and one of us don’t, he definitely gonna make it back to tell the story. I gotcha, lil’ brother. He gonna tell that story.
Zenger: I can’t wait for this new season of TV One’s “Unsung,” because you have an episode that I cannot wait to see. I’m not sure if I consider you ‘unsung’ because your mark down here is unreal.
Mystikal: That’s scary, bruh. It’s funny that you should say that because watching “Unsung” used to be a little depressing because all the artists on there were broke, had tax problems, loaded and broke. And it’s so funny because when I recorded mine, I was loaded and broke … hello (laughing)! It was fun though. That was so pure, bruh. Those guys did such a great job with it, man. For real.
TV One’s hit series UNSUNG returns on Sunday, March 21 at 9P/8C. The new season promises memorable stories of influential artists including @TheMorrisDay, @LeelaJames, @HezekiahWalker, @only1kwash, @ItsMystikal, @Syleena_Johnson, @BobbyV, The Jones Girls, and @lyfeonline419
— TV One’s Unsung Is Back! (@tvonetv) March 12, 2021
Zenger: I remember speaking with Carl Thomas and I asked him if he felt he was ‘unsung.’ He said he didn’t feel like he was because he wasn’t done yet. I know you’re not done yet, so can you relate to his sentiment?
Mystikal: I can see where he coming from with that. It was just that time for me. The Lord showed me it was time, so I wasn’t looking at it like that at all. Like I said, till this day, “Man please, you gonna drop something else, bruh?” I got ya’ll, bruh. I get that all the time. I don’t know; it seem like I need to go on “Star Wars” or something and use the force, Luke.
It seems like something is against me (laughing). It is what it is. It’s just a matter of me connecting all the right dots, doing all the right things and the timing being right. When I put together a body of music … man that’s what gets me through the ups and downs. Having that body of music that I can go perform that I know are hits. Ya’ll never heard it. I be in that house by myself, and I will never fake that. When I do what I do at its best, boy … yeah!
Zenger: So, you do have new music that you’re sitting on and waiting for the timing to be right?
Mystikal: Man … boy! I’m in the studio now. I ain’t trying to scare ya’ll or nothing, but I’m back in the studio with DJ Precise. The one that brought ya’ll, “Here I Go!” KLC and all, bruh … it’s on.
Zenger: Sometimes you gotta go back to the roots of where it started.
Mystikal: It is. I didn’t even look at it like that, but we just have fun, man. I did a song with Kango Slimm from Partners-N-Crime the other day. And I don’t know why I’m even surprised that it came together so fantastic. We had so much fun, and the chemistry was just so right.
But it wouldn’t have happened like that if everybody didn’t have the same mindset. Everybody had to be open-minded to be able to accomplish what we did the other day. It just so happens all of us are. All of us are true artists, comfortable in our own skin, no egos and all that. That would get in the way with the creativity. That was a dope-dope-dope moment, man. Everything that I’ve experienced made me the artist that I am today. The good and the bad, I take it in stride.
Zenger: We can’t wait to hear it!
Mystikal: Thank you!
Zenger: You’re welcome. When would you say you had your most fun making music?
Mystikal: Last night! That’s why I almost missed the interview, because of last night. I’m saying that because last night felt like 1993-94. That’s what me and Cise was talking about. “This sounds like Big Boy Records.” You know what I’m saying, Percy? We just said this last night.
Zenger: Those Big Boy Record days were serious. Ya’ll had an incredible roster.
Mystikal: Man-man-man! Rest in peace, Charles “Big Boy” Temple, man. Real talk. Shout out, DJ Leroy ‘Precise’ Edwards. Ghetto Twiinz, Boot Camp Clicc, Black Menace, rest in peace, G-Slimm, rest in peace, Tim Smooth. Ah man! I can keep going. It’ll be 7:00, and you’ll be, “All right Mystikal. I gotta go man.” (Laughing).
Zenger: Anyone you haven’t collaborated with who you would like to work with?
Mystikal: Of course! I can’t think of it right now, but of course. And sometimes you don’t know it until you do it. I know the answer to that question for a fact is yes. I just collaborated with Partners-N-Crime, and they were my neighbors. They used to rock with me. They were on stage hyping me up.
At the height of my career, I had Mista Meana and Kango Slimm and shout out Primetime, too. I had Mista Meana and Kango Slimm as my hype men on stage to help me rock the house. They used to help me rock the house because I knew that they were true showmen. So, doing that collaboration with Kango, it was like, “Damn, this was overdue.” Kango said, “Man, I’ve been dying to work with you, bruh.” And it showed. That’s how it go.
Zenger: I gotta thank my girl, Ang [Phipps] for linking us up, and ironically, it was your “Unpredictable” album where her husband Mac came on that “Born 2 Be a Soldier” and made everyone pay attention to him.
Mystikal: Oh, Lordy have mercy! Let me tell you something, the first time I heard Mac [was] when I joined the No Limit Army. … Ironically, there is that word again. Ironically, the first rap I heard from Mac was that song, “I Wanna Be Free,” and hallelujah he’s about to be free. That had to be ’97 for argument’s sake. He did that “I Wanna Be Free” and rapped that verse.
I hear the New York influence; I hear the New Orleans influence, but it was so original. I was like, “Hold on, Mac rap that one more time, bruh.” I made that boy run that again. “Everybody stop talking and scratching, go!” I knew he was the truth. If you do a poll across America of No Limit fans and ask who was their favorite artists, Mac’s percentage is very high. Angelique was telling me about J. Cole having Mac’s records and being a fan of his.
That made my nose burn. I got choked up hearing that. Wale was praising him, too. His time was coming, and the crazy part is, the last time I seen him, he still sharp as a tack.
(Edited by Stan Chrapowicki and Matthew B. Hall)
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