The Tragic Triumph of Mystikal
“Shake ya ass, watch ya self, shake ya ass, show me whatcha working with.” This chorus is as familiar as ANY to many a would be club goer in the 2000’s. It’s one of the many classic hits produced by the legendary Neptunes and it helped Michael Tyler, aka Mystikal, attain superstar status. However, there’s a morbidly dark story behind this polarizing rapper from New Orleans. It’s a tale that took place at the peak of his fame and one that is unfamiliar to some.
Michael Tyler joined this universe in 1970. After a stint in the U.S. Army and even combat duty in the Middle East during operation Desert Storm, Tyler turned his energy towards music. At age 24 he released his debut, self titled album to very little fanfare though his aggressive, unique style of rhyme would not be muted for long. His second LP, “The Mind Of Mystikal” was better received, fueled by the the southern cult classic jam “Here I Go.” The buzz the album created lead him to a career altering move, signing with the monsoon-like movement of the late 90’s – Master P’s New Orleans based No Limit Records.
Nineteen ninety seven saw the Mystikal’s third career release, “Unpredictable.” Thanks to the rapper’s unrelenting, high powered word play and No Limit’s bouldering way of marketing, the album was a huge success. Master P’s motto: everything shiny, jewel encrusted and BIG (the label’s album covers were groundbreaking to say the least). Still, even larger success awaited Mystikal.
Mystikal released one more LP on No Limit before embarking on a mission to become more viable commercially. My personal fave of his discography and another platinum banger, “Ghetto Fabulous.” He sought out the hottest producers in music at the time, Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo also known as The Neptunes, to help shape the sound of his fourth album “Lets Get Ready.” The plan worked. The album featured the aforementioned “Shake Ya Ass,” an iconic urban anthem to this day, and the killer follow up single “Danger.” “Lets Get Ready” sold close to 3 million copies further positioning Mystikal for rap supremacy. Grammy nominations followed. Movie roles came a knocking. Another album, “Tarantula,” dropped in 2001 dipping in sales (we were now entering the free downloading digital era) from his previous release, but it still attained gold status. High profile producers such as Scott Storch and Rockwilder joined the Neptunes on production duty this time out. Mystikal was also prominently featured on the Ludacris monster smash, “Move Bitch.” At age 31, Mystikal had established a formula his increased fan base had grown to adore. Unfortunately, the party was almost over.
In early 2003 Mystikal was arrested and indicted on charges of sexual battery and extortion. After being accused of stealing money from him, Mystikal along with his two bodyguards forced the accused female stylist to perform sexual acts and they taped the incident. In 2004, Mystikal was sentenced to 6 years in prison. While incarcerated he also incurred a tax evasion conviction. 100 to 0 real quick, huh?
Following his release from prison in 2012, the now 42 year old Mystikal was mandated to register as a sex offender. He also has dealt with child support issues and a domestic abuse charge. Fast forward to late 2014, you may have seen the rapper appear on Saturday Night Live along side Bruno Mars and Mark Ronson performing “Feel Right,” a track featured on Ronson’s brand new compilation LP “Uptown Special.” The song’s soulful funk production gives it the landscape of a modern James Brown tune, a lane in which Mystikal has ventured before. Now 45 the embattled emcee’s future remains unclear. I can attest to the fact that his core audience STILL exists and can’t wait to see his next move.
Ten Essential Mystikal Jams:
-Jermaine Raetone Johnson
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