Tiffany "Charli Baltimore" Lane's rap career has been filled with as much drama as her movie character namesake saw in "The Long Kiss Goodnight." She was discovered by her boyfriend the Notorious B.I.G. in 1996, who named her after Geena Davis' gun-busting heroine. He then put her down as a faux Faith in the video for "Get Money."
After his death in 1997, B.I.G.'s friend and business partner Lance "Un" Rivera signed Baltimore to Untertainment. Along with Cam'ron, hot new femme fatale Charli was supposed to put the label on the map. And while Cam's debut, Confessions of Fire, went gold in 1999, Charli's Cold as Ice was never released, even though it had been heavily hyped for over a year. Creative differences with Un had led to delays, then Rivera severed ties with his distributor, Sony, and it was over for Baltimore.
Like the silver screen Charli, the rapper changed her life and is now a domesticated newlywed wife (she was married in July). Last week, though, the Philadelphia native said that she's about to delve back into the circle of self-proclaimed gangstas, thugs and killers with a new record deal.
"I'm a Murderer now," Baltimore said of her new contract with Murder Inc. Records. Baltimore showed just how loyal she was to her new musical fam, more specifically Murder Inc.'s biggest seller, Ja Rule, by playing the "Bonnie to his Clyde" in the video for their duet, "Down Ass Bitch." The clip was shot last week in Los Angeles.
"The concept of it is bananas," said Charli, who rhymes in the song about going so far as to donate organs to her man if he needs them. "I don't want to give up the plot of the video, but I will say that it's not a performance video. It's almost like a movie. If you listen to 'Down Ass Bitch' it damn near reads like a movie. Listen to the song, you'll sort of see where the video is going."
The signs of her indoctrination into "the world's most dangerous label" have been apparent for a while. She appeared in Ja Rule's "I Cry" video earlier this year, then later jumped on Caddillac Tah's underground cut "Get It Right" and Ja's "Down Ass Bitch," which appears on Ja's Pain Is Love album.
Joining the professed musically homicidal collective wasn't easy, though. Although she and Murder Inc. CEO Irv Gotti have been close ever since he produced two tracks for her permanently shelved LP Ice in 1999, it took some time for him to become a believer.
"He was sort of doubting my skills as a rapper," she admitted on the set of the "Down Ass Bitch" video last week. "It was just a slow process and me proving myself to Gotti. Every time I spit for him, he just got more and more impressed and we built a relationship that way.
"But in the process of that, he sort of became like a mentor to me," she added. "He taught me a lot of things about the game and we had this ill chemistry where he just knew how to bring that side out of me. He was really impressed that I was a girl and wrote all my own material."
Charli, who said she instantly clicked with the other Murderers, including the first female to be down with the crew, Vita, remembers a time when she put down her pen and almost closed her rhyme book for good. It was when things went sour with her first label a couple of years ago.
"When I found out, it was two weeks before [my album] was supposed to come out," she said. "So I'm still on the promo tour, I'm doing shows, I'm doing interviews, I'm like, 'Yeah my album is out in two weeks.' Next thing I know, nothing's jumping. It was almost heartbreaking. 'What the hell is going on?' I went through a whole period of being depressed and just not focusing, not writing."
A brief gig with Company Models and acting as one of the militant Mau Maus in Spike Lee's "Bamboozled" and in the upcoming "Snipes," which stars Nelly and Dean Winters from "Oz," helped take her mind off the past while she contemplated a new career. Friends like Gotti and Noreaga eventually helped her work her way back to the mic.
"I don't really have any negative feelings towards that situation because I feel like I had to step back and look at it for what it was," she said. "I think when I came in the door, I sort of almost had an easy ride. I never really appreciated it.
"On top of that I wouldn't have wanted to come out under the circumstances that they would be putting me out under," she added. "I was 'Biggie's girl.' It never seemed to be about talent to the press. That's not how I want to be presented. I would read my own interviews and see my own pictures and be like, 'Yo, this isn't me. This isn't how I wanna be seen or how I want people to take me as.' "
Baltimore said she just wants to start anew and finally see her career take off.
"It's my second shot," she said. "It's not too many people that went through the f---ed up sh--- I went through in this game. I don't have no grudges or gripes. I'm not coming out with the ill vendetta or nothing. I'm the type of person that takes all the negativity and I build and grow from it. I'm like Mary [J. Blige] no more drama."