Who's That Girl? No, it's not Eve, but Ms. Toi, the feisty female who joined Ice Cube and Mack 10 on "You Can Do It" from the "Next Friday" soundtrack and was introduced to hip-hop fans through Militia's popular "Burn" single three years ago.
The Inglewood, California, resident — whose debut album, That Girl, is scheduled to arrive in stores on June 19 — hopes to establish her identity as a solo artist with her new work; she already knows she can make music on her own.
"I've been 'That Girl' ever since Militia," Ms. Toi said. "My fans really named me That Girl, because sometimes they didn't know my name. I was always with all of the guys, so they'd be like, 'That Girl with Militia.' Then it was 'That Girl with Cube.' I had my attorney put my name on the [Billboard and sales] charts and the video so that people wouldn't call me That Girl, but it stuck with me. I'll be That Girl until I finish rapping."
Even though she doesn't feature any other artists on her festive first single, "Hand Clap," several of Ms. Toi's friends share mic time with her on That Girl. Among them are E-40 ("Work a Twist"), Nelly and the St. Lunatics ("Be Like Me"), MC Ren ("Bangin"), Squeak Ru and Ice Cube ("My Dogs & My Locs") and Poppa LQ ("Well Say That").
Producers on the album include Dame Grease, Punch, Mike City and Toi herself — she co-executive produced the album and also co-produced many of its songs. Bent on making it clear she's not a front for some silent male partner, she has also established her own production company, Ms. Toi Productions.
"I may not play any instruments, but I know that I'm instrumental in making the song complete," Toi said. "I like to work with a lot of producers. I'm not the one that's just going to sit with one person and do 20 songs. I like the feel of people bringing me new stuff. I'm into working with people and not just trying to stick in one frame of mind."
Many fans who are familiar with Ms. Toi only through her appearance on "You Can Do It" — or her guest spot on stage with Ice Cube on last year's Up in Smoke Tour — will notice that she stays away from the sexually explicit angle of that track on That Girl. Instead, she focuses on empowering women and offering a more complete portrait of the female experience in America.
In addition to her own album, Ms. Toi will be heard on the forthcoming collections from Ali of the St. Lunatics and Warren G. She'll also be hitting screens in "Tapped Out," an independent film starring Coolio. Toi portrays Pam, a musician who tries to convince a producer she's in love with to listen to her work.
In real life, Ms. Toi doesn't have a problem getting people to enjoy her music. She still gets compliments from her work on "Burn."
"People really remembered my earlier stuff," she said. "I still trip off of people when they're like, 'I remember you from Militia.' "