Gangsta Boo, a former member of Memphis hip-hop group Three 6 Mafia and a pioneer of female Southern rap music, has died today (January 1), DJ Paul, WREG Memphis, and Fox 13 have confirmed. She was 43 years old.
Born Lola Mitchell in Memphis, Tennessee on August 7, 1979, she started writing poetry at an early age. She often gave her poems to her father, who in turn decided to gift her a keyboard and a karaoke machine. By the time she was in junior high, Mitchell caught the attention of then-classmate DJ Paul while rapping in a talent show at age 14. “He wanted me to get on his mixtape, so I got on his mixtape and I became really popular,” she told Passion of the Weiss in 2012. “I was being requested to be on more of the Three 6 Mafia songs and I kind of just got in the group like that. People kept requesting me.”
Mitchell adopted the moniker Gangsta Boo and set to work rapping in Three 6 Mafia. She was just 15 years old when she recorded her verses for their debut studio album, Mystic Stylez, which came out in 1995. The LP quickly cemented itself as a game changer for both the Southern rap scene and hip-hop at large, largely due to defining Three 6 Mafia’s horrorcore sound. When describing Mystic Stylez for Pitchfork’s list “The 150 Best Albums of the 1990s,” Alphonse Pierre wrote, “Collectively, their writing feels as if they’re all competing to rap the most shocking bar, and the nightmarish tone is emphasized by colorful and hyper-specific references to satan, coffins, and soul snatching.”
As Three 6 Mafia expanded their sound and reach, they continued to churn out studio albums—1996’s Chapter 1 The End, 1997’s Chapter 2: World Domination, 1999’s Tear Da Club Up Thugs, and 2000’s When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1—with Gangsta Boo seizing each as an opportunity to up her game. Her flow was best defined by its aggressive, rapid-fire delivery and her ability to integrate both a charismatic and musical tone to her cadence.
Gangsta Boo further developed her voice as a solo artist as well. When she released Enquiring Minds, her 1998 debut solo album, she found an everlasting hit in her single “Where Dem Dollas At?” featuring Juicy J and DJ Paul, in which she nonchalantly waxed about piles of stacks at just 19 years old. After Three 6 Mafia released their soundtrack Choices: The Album in 2001, Gangsta Boo parted ways with the group to further pursue her solo career. That same year, she dropped her sophomore LP Both Worlds *69, which hit No. 29 on the Billboard 200 chart. She followed it up with the 2003 album Enquiring Minds II: The Soap Opera, which served as a sequel to her debut.
During the 2000s, Lil Jon, Gucci Mane, T.I., and E-40 all regularly tapped Gangsta Boo to hop on their songs, and OutKast invited her to contribute to Stankonia with “I’ll Call B4 I Cum.” Gangsta Boo went on to share numerous mixtapes as well, the most recent of which was 2018’s Underground Cassette Tape Music 2.
“I have to admit, respectfully and humbly, that I am the blueprint. I hear my cadence in a lot of men and female rappers,” Gangsta Boo told Billboard last month. “I used to run away from it. I used to didn’t want to even give myself flowers because I’ve been so low-key and humble, but I’m on some fuck that shit. It’s time to claim what’s mine. I’m one of the main bitches. And it feels fun to still be able to look good and be relevant in a place where I don’t have this million-dollar machine behind me and I have all my natural body parts, no shade to the ones that don’t. But it just feels great to stand in yourself and look in the mirror and be like, ‘Wow, you did that.’”
In recent years, Gangsta Boo collaborated with a number of artists, both in the hip-hop world and beyond. She was featured on songs by Run the Jewels (“Walking in the Snow,” “Love Again (Akinyele Back)”), Gucci Mane (“Trap Girl”), Blood Orange (“Gold Teeth”), Latto (“FTCU”), Clipping. (“Tonight”), Junglepussy (“Long Way Home,” “Stamina”), and Yelawolf (“Throw It Up”), among others. Last month, Gangsta Boo said she was working on a new project titled The BooPrint that she planned to release in 2023.
After learning of Gangsta Boo’s death, countless artists have paid tribute to the late rapper, including Juicy J, Missy Elliott, El-P, Questlove, GloRilla, Open Mike Eagle, Ty Dolla $ign, A-Trak, Mr. Muthafuckin’ Exquire, Flo Milli, Clipping, K. Michelle, and Duke Deuce.