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Lady Lunatic Toya Follows Hot On Nelly's Heels

Singer/rapper's hit single 'I Do!!' will be followed by debut LP in August.

Here are the clues: the artist is from St. Louis, sometimes uses delivery that mixes singing and rapping, and currently has the sixth-best-selling single in the country.

Nelly's your final answer, right? Wrong. A cutie from the Louie has popped up, and her name is Toya.

"Now that Nelly has done his thing, there's a magnifying glass on St. Louis," Toya said of the multiplatinum MC she often refers to as a big brother. "So I definitively have to give respect and props to Nelly and the [St.] Lunatics for opening the door up. Now I'm just trying to do my share of representing for the ladies."

These days Toya, whose self-titled debut will drop August 7, has been putting it down hard for the ladies with her unabashed musical enticement of a six-foot, light-skinned, braided-up dream thug on "I Do!!" The singer co-wrote the song with one of her managers and was inspired to pen the lyrics after seeing male model Sean Newman (who happens to be the former beau of Toya's Arista labelmate, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes) in the video for Kandi's "Don't Think I'm Not."

"I got a chance to meet him at a party about two months ago," Toya said. "I walked up to him, and I was like, 'I wrote a song about you.' I think he thought it was just a line or something, but I was like, 'No, I'm for real. You'll hear it.'"

Newman, along with a few other people, has since heard the tune. And while the cut's crackling synthesizers, chimes and bass have people shaking it fast, the words have been stirring up more attention than the beat.

"There's a lot of St. Louis slang in the song," said Toya, who classifies her music as a mixture of R&B and hip-hop called "Rop." "I say, 'He's got a hickey in his pocket.' Everybody thinks it's X-rated or something, and I'm like, 'Y'all, the song is totally PG.' It means he's got money in his pocket. Another term I use is 'He's an iced-out balla.' It can mean material stuff, but my definition wasn't material stuff. It's more like if you think you've got it going on, you have that self-confidence, then you're iced-out in my book."

Eighteen years ago, Toya's mom knew her baby was going to grow up to be a frosty playa. She had so much confidence in her little one that she wanted to name her after one of music's royal family — Toya Rodriguez's first name is short for LaToya, as in LaToya Jackson.

"My mother was either going to name me Janet, Rebbie or LaToya," said the singer, whose parents are black and Hispanic. "I'm glad it was LaToya."

Toya was indoctrinated into the St. Lunatics extended family in December when she met Nelly's manager Courtney Benson at a studio where she was trying to cop some beats to start working on a demo.

"I went in there and sung for him, and he was like, 'OK, do you have a demo?'" Toya said. Living by her "fake it 'til you make it" credo, she lied and spent the next three days going from her classes at St. Louis University, to work, to the studio, where she recorded until 6 a.m. Not only did her 72 hours of work overdrive turn into a production deal with Hard to Hit Entertainment the next week, but Arista CEO Antonio "LA" Reid brought her to his label in January and made her project a top priority.

Reid, the album's executive producer, showed his clout by calling on beatsmiths such as Soulshock & Karlin and Dallas Austin. Meanwhile, Nelly and his fellow St. Lunatic Murphy Lee have also recorded for Toya.

"I don't have the year or two years to get that buzz going, so I have to work 10 times harder," Toya said. "I told my management and my record company whatever it takes for the world to know who I am, I'm willing to do. Everything's falling into place."

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