Gangsta Boo, a former member of Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia, has died aged 43, her bandmate DJ Paul has confirmed. No cause of death was shared.
The rapper, born Lola Chantrelle Mitchell, joined the group in 1995, upon which it changed its name from Triple Six Mafia to Three 6 Mafia. That year she appeared on their debut album, Mystic Stylez, which became a cult classic, a landmark southern hip-hop record and – with lyrics delving into gore and the occult – a defining example of the horrorcore genre.
The album “led the way for an entire subset of Memphis rap and would influence artists for decades to come”, wrote Complex critic Justin Ivey on the 20th anniversary of its release. The magazine described Gangsta Boo’s delivery as “commanding, taking control of any track when she arrives”.
It began a wave of mainstream success for the group. In 1996, they released Chapter 1: The End, and would sign to Sony to release Chapter 2: World Domination a year later, which was certified gold with sales of more than 800,000 in the US.
The group’s own label, Hypnotize Minds, released Gangsta Boo’s debut solo album, Enquiring Minds, in 1998, which reached No 15 on the US Top R&B/Hip-Hop albums chart and produced the enduring hit Where Dem Dollas At.
Musicians including Missy Elliott, Questlove, GloRilla, Ty Dolla $ign, Flo Milli and Clipping paid tribute to Gangsta Boo. “i don’t have the words yet,” wrote Run the Jewels rapper El-P on Instagram. “I just know we lost a part of our family today. we love you, Lola. thank you my friend. our sister forever.”
Gangsta Boo was born in Memphis on 7 August 1979 and started rapping as a teenager, having written poetry from a young age. “I’m from a middle-class family that kind of moved to the hood after my parents divorced, so I had the best of both worlds,” she told i-D magazine in 2014. “It’s just Memphis. It’s ratchet.”
She caught the attention of her classmate DJ Paul when rapping in a talent show at the age of 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.” She was 15 years old when she recorded her verses for Mystic Stylez.
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Now considered a female rap pioneer, Gangsta Boo told i-D that she was made aware on a daily basis of how women were treated differently in hip-hop. “Men are more chauvinistic than they even know, really. I’ve had to go through certain things where I’ve had to push a titty up or two to get things done, whereas a man doesn’t. He can just scratch his balls and shake hands with a CEO to get his deal signed.”
Despite being isolated in her field, she declined the music industry game of pitting women rappers against one another. “Everybody is different, I don’t view it as a competitive sport. I’d rather compete against these dudes. I don’t really watch these b!tches.”
Three 6 Mafia’s 2000 album, When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6, Sixty 1, was certified Platinum. It would be Gangsta Boo’s final album with the group. She left to focus on her solo career, but around the release of her second album, Both Worlds *69, she took a break from the spotlight, finding Christianity to be a relief from problems including depression, addiction and feeling as though she was “getting sabotaged within my own camp”.
She would release one more solo album, Enquiring Minds II: The Soap Opera, in 2003 – and a collaborative EP, Witch, with fellow Three 6 Mafia rapper La Chat, in 2014.
In 2012, she told Passion of the Weiss that she dreamed of getting out of rap to open a beauty store or work as a music industry executive: “I’m just not going to waste my time and the rest of my years trying to blow up, as they say.”
In the last two decades, Gangsta Boo collaborated with the likes of Outkast, Lil Jon, TI, E-40, Run the Jewels, Blood Orange, Gucci Mane, Junglepussy, Yelawolf and Latto.
She had plans to release a new project in 2023, she told Billboard in December. “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 the magazine.
“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 b!tches.”