New Orleans is better known for its food and its festivals, but rapper Mystikal has also put it on the map of the genre. With monikers like Black Prince of the South bestowed upon him by media and fans alike, the chart-topping artist's impact on the hip-hop scene is undeniable.
Mystikal: No Mystery, Just Music
Born Michael Lawrence Tyler in 1971, Mystikal credits much of his style and early work to the influences of artists like Gregory D, MC Thick and the late Warren Mayes – all were natively from New Orleans, and all were part of the local indie rap movement there in the 1980's. Of his influences, he says that his earlier works were either “challenging them” or was as an opening act for their shows.
Mystikal, the Man
In the world of commercial music, his career started with the release of his self-titled debut in 1994 under Big Boy Records, an independent New Orleans label. Mystikal gained much success, establishing his early fan base and earning the top spot on the Top Heatseeker list, declaring the artist as an up-and-comer. And up-and-comer he certainly was; his sophomore album came out just two years later under mainstream Jive Records.
Mystikal was on a roll. Right after Mind of Mystikal was released under Jive in 1995, No Limit Records signed him on for Unpredictable, which rolled out in 1997. Unpredictable was his biggest commercial success to that point, and also earned him praise from critics in the music industry. Various collaborations followed, such as his work with Busta Rhymes on the latter's Extinction Level Event.
Collaborations with other artists also represent a big part of his success. Aside from his guest appearances on various albums, his Danger (Been So Long) on 2000's Let's Get Ready had him performing with pop star Nivea all the way to the top of the R&B charts. Collaboration with The Neptunes for Shake Ya Ass also became very popular, helping propel Let's Get Ready to the top of the Billboard 200.
As jazz, hip-hop and swing came together in his 2001 effort Tarantula, Mystikal reached even greater heights. Not only was Tarantula well-received by both fans and critics, but it also got a nomination for the Best Rap Album and earned him another nomination – for Best Male Solo Rap Performance – at the 2003 Grammy Awards.
Work continued much as usual for the few years after Tarantula. Besides collaborating with increasingly bigger acts like Ludacris and Krayzie Bone, Mystikal also began venturing beyond just music. 2003 saw the release of 13 Dead Men, a feature-length film where he starred.
Personal tragedy was a shaping force in the artist's music. Michelle Tyler, his sister and the vocals for the chorus on Not That Nigga from Mystikal, was murdered in 1994, just as the album was about to be released. Dedicated to Michelle Tyler (from Mind of Mystikal) and Murder 2 (from Unpredictable) were both done in her memory.
Mystikal: Not So Smooth Sailing
Dissing is a common fact in hip-hop culture, and this artist didn't find himself exempt from the practice. In his early years in New Orleans, Mystikal found himself the target of other emcees from the area, the likes of BG and Lil Wayne. He didn't take it standing, either; he struck back at his detractors on Beware, from Mind of Mystikal.
Not long after his musical and cinematic successes, Mystikal also found himself in some hot criminal water. After his hairstylist pressed charges for extortion and his forcing her to perform sex acts – as well as the discovery of the crime's videotape at his home – he was sentenced to six years in prison, which began January 16, 2004. A one-year sentence in 2006 for tax-related misdemeanors also followed, which he concurrently served at the Elayn Hunt Correctional Center in Louisiana.
With a string of successful albums, hit singles and even a film under his belt, Mystikal has established himself as a big name on the hip-hop radar. And as his January 2010 release date draws near, there's a fan base and music industry waiting for his next big hit.