Lola Chantrelle Mitchell, the Memphis rapper and former member of Three 6 Mafia who, as Gangsta Boo, helped define the genre in the South with her confident flows and forged a path for other female artists, died on Sunday. She was 43.
She was found dead on Sunday afternoon in a neighborhood west of Memphis International Airport, the Memphis Police Department said in a statement on Monday. “There were no immediate signs of foul play,” the police said, adding that the investigation into her death was ongoing.
With clever lyrics that were at times flirtatious and playful, forceful and proud, Gangsta Boo quickly established herself in the 1990s as a rising rap star who hailed from and flourished in the South. As a teenager, she joined Three 6 Mafia, an underground rap group that would go on to become one of the most influential of its era.
In 1995, Gangsta Boo and the other members of the group, Juicy J and DJ Paul, released their debut album, “Mystic Stylez,” a nightmarish addition to the booming rap scene at the time. The album, part of the subgenre of rap known as horrorcore, captivated listeners with its dark references to death and murders, eerie beats and ominous vocals. Gangsta Boo referred to herself on the album as “the devil’s daughter,” capturing the supernatural tone of the project.
Three years later, Gangsta Boo released her first solo album, “Enquiring Minds.” It featured one of her best-known hits, in which she transformed a teasing line into its title and a sticky and memorable hook: “Where Dem Dollas At!?”
While the single hinted at a superficial sentiment, Gangsta Boo said in an interview with HipHop DX in 2014 that it also touched on the pressures of motherhood and raising a child.
“How can you have a baby by a dude that has nothing? I feel the same,” she said. “I feel like that even more now. That’s why I don’t have kids. It’s got to be the right one and the right moment.”
Lola Chantrelle Mitchell was born in Memphis, where she was raised alongside three older brothers in an environment that she once described in an interview as “rough.”
“I got a hood in me because I had a lot of hood friends,” she said in an interview with All Urban Central in June of last year. Details about her mother and father, and her birth date, were not immediately available. A list of survivors was also not available.
Gangsta Boo said that, as a child, she always felt comfortable around boys because of her brothers. Their neighborhood in Memphis was called Whitehaven, but Gangsta Boo said she and her siblings and friends nicknamed the neighborhood “Blackhaven,” because the area’s residents were predominantly Black.
In school, she met DJ Paul, whose real name is Paul Duane Beauregard. Soon, the two bonded over their love of music.
Impressed by her lyricism, DJ Paul asked if she wanted to join his crew, Three 6 Mafia. She did. At 16, Gangsta Boo made her first significant leap in the music industry.
“It just happened like that overnight,” she told All Urban Central, adding, “we took off kind of fast.”
Gangsta Boo collaborated with Three 6 Mafia on several albums but left the group in the early 2000s to pursue a solo career.
When asked why she left, she said in an interview with MTV in 2001: “There’s no problem. Sometimes people grow apart, and basically that’s what it is. There’s no drama, no beef. It’s still the same. I just kind of grew apart, and I’m not doing things that they’re doing. I’m not cursing in my music no more. We just grew apart like a marriage.”
That same year, Gangsta Boo renamed herself Lady Boo because she said that she was not “living the gangster lifestyle” and wanted to align herself more closely with God. Her website still referred to her as Gangsta Boo at the time of her death.
The makeup of Three 6 Mafia evolved over the years. In 2006, after Gangsta Boo’s departure, the group won an Oscar for best original song with “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp,” from the film “Hustle & Flow.”
Later in her career, Gangsta Boo collaborated with numerous rappers, especially those with roots in the South.
She told Billboard last year that “as far as female hip-hop and rap, I think it’s in a good space.”
“They say, ‘Gangsta Boo walked so a lot of people can run,’” she added.
In recent years, she reflected on how she had been one of the first female rappers to build off the gangster rap image and sound that took off in the 1990s, singing about smoking, payback and villainous intentions — themes typically reserved for men.
“A lot of guys in Memphis was like ‘Gangsta Pat,’ ‘Gangsta Black,’ — gangsta this, gangsta that,” she told All Urban Central.
But toward the end of her life, the moniker had taken on an enhanced meaning.
“It’s more, you know, just enjoying my life as a legendary gangster,” she said.
Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.