Ms. Jade Gives Up Hustling, Hair School For Timbaland's Beat Club

Hunger, persistence pay off for Philly MC.

If you think that your favorite artists are sitting around the studio sharing cheese fries and downing sodas while they work on collaborations, you have another thing coming. When somebody makes a cameo appearance on another performer's song, most of the time the two parties aren't even in the same state.

Such was the case for Timbaland/Missy Elliott protégé Ms. Jade and Nelly Furtado. Although they've appeared on two songs together, the two first crossed paths last week when Jade made a surprise appearance at Furtado's New York show.

"[That] was my first time meeting her," Jade said the night after the concert. "She's on my album and I'm on her album. She's real cool. Not stuck up at all. I dig that about her."

Jade was also digging how the crowd at the Hammerstein Ballroom received her as she performed her lyrics from the "Turn Out the Lights" remix. She must have made a good impression, as the rapper has now been tapped to open for Furtado on her spring tour (see "Nelly Furtado Testing New Material On Spring Tour").

Jade, who's signed to Timbaland's Beat Club imprint, has been dreaming of spitting for crowds ever since she was a young buck coming up in Philly with fellow puppy-powered line throwers like State Property's Chris and Neef, who lived two blocks down from her.

"I was working everywhere," she said of her time before she was discovered. "The Gap, Express, Old Navy. I was selling fake pocketbooks. I was hustling."

She stopped struggling with odd jobs long enough to go to hair school, where she would cultivate her craft while she was supposed to be hooking up her customers' dos. "I'm getting in trouble for writing when I'm supposed to be doing something else," she recalled, "but the rhymes was pulling me close, like, 'This is what I want to do.' " After she graduated, finding ways to break into the rap game became her full-time gig.

"I didn't want a job anymore," Jade remembered. "I said, 'I'm 'a make it or die trying.' I would be on the corners, bus stops, ball games — wherever people was spitting at, I was there. I would leave 16 bars on people's 2ways and answering machines. I'd be the last chick standing most of the time, battling cats. That was my favorite part of the game, just being hungry."

That hunger was satiated when she met Missy Elliott a couple of years ago in a studio after being introduced by an executive at Elektra Records. "I spit for Missy," she recalled. "Missy turned around, called Tim, like, 'Listen to this.' I'm spitting for Tim over the speakerphone. Then it was on. I went out to L.A. for about three weeks, and it was everybody in the studio working. It was Ginuwine, Tweet, Missy, me, Tim. It was like, I'm the new rookie to everything."

Being the new jack to the crew meant learning how to ride Tim's roller coaster-like production. Jade couldn't quite get the hang of it at first.

"Tim put his beats on and I start writing, he was like, ['Nah']," she said, giggling. "I was like, 'What?' I know my thing is tight. He was like, 'Look, you're not on beat.' I was used to rapping a certain way. He had to sit there and show me.

"One day we were driving in the car. He came and picked me up and was like, 'Listen.' He just taught me how to listen to the drum and listen to everything. He taught me how to flow."

She needed every bit of that tutelage for her late spring release, Girl Interrupted, as she had some pretty hefty guest stars jumping on tracks with her. Besides Furtado on "Ching, Ching, Ching" (which she'll shoot her first video for in the next few weeks), Bubba Sparxxx, Petey Pablo and Lil' Mo also checked in, as did Jay-Z on "Count It Off."

"That song is showing the flow," Jade said of the collaboration. "It's a cute party song. To me, it's showing I can keep up with him. He's not stepping on my toes."

Her current single, "Feel the Girl," has hit the underground to get everybody ready for the full album.

" 'Feel the girl' was in the hook, and the song made you feel it," Jade said of the cut's title. "The song is basically me introducing myself to the rap game, basically showing you how I get down. What me and my girls deal with, how I deal with certain situations."