Although rapper Mia X says she feels she has matured as a lyricist since the release of her full-length No Limit Records debut, 1997's Unlady Like, she still says she has a ways to go.
In fact, she's quick to offer criticism of her latest album, Mama Drama, despite the album debuting at #7 on the Billboard 200 albums chart this week.
"Basically, I just wish I had more time to work on it," Mia X (born Mia Young) said earlier this week from her home in New Orleans, where she was discovered by No Limit mastermind and rapper Master P.
Mia explained that she wrote and recorded 16 of Mama Drama's 20 tracks in a marathon, 10-day session. One of the numbers features a guest shot by West Coast gangsta-rap icon Snoop Dogg.
"I wish I had the time to do the song with [fellow female rappers] Lil' Kim and Missy Elliott that I wanted to do," Mia said, "and I also wish I would've gotten a chance to put my poetry on this album like I did on Unlady Like."
Time considerations aside, Mia said that Mama Drama -- which moved 99,000 copies in one week -- sounds basically as she imagined it would during the pre-planning and production stages. She also suggested that the lyrics for various songs on the album -- "Ghetto Livin'," an urban portrait, "Whatcha Wanna Do," dealing with infidelity in relationships, and the gospel-flavored "Daddy" -- reflect her growth as a songwriter.
"Lyrically, I think I've ... kind-of sharpened my skills a little," Mia said. "I guess ... with time passing and with age, you mature a little bit. It's been 14 months since [the] last album, and I had a lot of experiences."
"The words on Mama Drama are tighter than on [Unlady Like]," Jennifer Nelson, a 16-year-old Mia X fan from Boston, wrote in an e-mail. "But it's not like she's gone all serious on us or anything. Most of the songs are still fun to dance to and have that bounce that is on every No Limit record."
Songs on the album with "that bounce" include "Thugs Like Me," a gangsta-rap reworking of "I Know What Boys Like," the song by new-wave band the Waitresses; and "I Think Somebody," which features the sound of gun shots as percussion.
"What's Ya' Point" (RealAudio excerpt) is the collaboration among Mia, Snoop Dogg and East Coast rapper Fat Joe. The song's chorus -- "What's ya' point, nigga/ What ya' trying to say?/ We got the same type of thugs right around my way" -- aims to bring a sense of unity to an often-divided hip-hop community, something dear to Mia's heart, she said.
On Unlady Like, for example, she rhymed with New York-based Foxy Brown and on her first EP, Good Girl Gone Bad, she featured San Francisco Bay Area rappers Suga T and Conscious Daughters. She said she still hopes to work with fellow Southerners OutKast, West Coast rap-king Ice Cube and Lil' Kim.
For "What Ya' Point," Mia wanted to rhyme with artists who had a lot of street credibility, so she turned to Fat Joe and Snoop to help her get the message across.
"It's a song that basically says people have the same mentality wherever they are," Mia said. "We've got to unify in hip-hop and make it a brotherhood and a sisterhood, so we've got three artists from different parts of the country on that song, rhyming about the same thing, showing it can be done."
Mia also used Mama Drama to pay tribute to the rapping women who blazed a trail for her in the early '80s. On Unlady Like, she remade the Salt-n-Pepa chestnut "I'll Take Your Man," and on Mama Drama, she took MC Lyte's "Paper Thin" and reworked it as "Mama's Tribute" (RealAudio excerpt).
As one of two females on the testosterone-fueled No Limit label, Mia said she can understand and appreciate how MC Lyte must have felt in the male-dominated, old-school rap scene.
"Salt-n-Pepa brought a lot of trends and style, but MC Lyte brought hardcore lyrics," Mia said. "MC Lyte would spit hardcore lyrics and you'd compare her to a guy."
With Mama Drama currently lodged in the top 10, Mia said that she is taking her sales into consideration when working on material for her next album. "I look at writing like I do putting on a concert -- the crowd has to respond. I ... see what songs people react to.
"Sometimes, they respond to my poetry or to a sentimental song, but sometimes it's the rowdy songs. We'll have to see what happens with this one."