Once one of the leading rappers on Master P's No Limit record label, Mystikal quickly evolved beyond the label's clichéd thug trappings and found himself one of the Dirty South's most recognized rappers, alongside the likes of Juvenile and Ludacris. Like No Limit itself, Mystikal is a New Orleans native. He released an eponymous debut on the independent label Big Boy in June 1995. It earned the attention of Jive Records, who signed him later that year. His official major-label debut, Mind of Mystikal, was released in October 1996 and became a major hit in the rap underground, falling just short of going gold.
The MC then hooked up with Master P and No Limit, along with the label's Beats by the Pound production team. This union produced Unpredictable, which was released in November 1997 and helped the rapper build a substantial following. It peaked at number one on Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, reached number three on the Billboard 200, and eventually went platinum. Ghetto Fabulous, also driven by Beats by the Pound, followed in December 1998; it topped the R&B/Hip Hop Chart as well and debuted at number five on the Billboard 200. Despite a move to the Jive label, Mystikal wasted no time in issuing a follow-up. Let's Get Ready appeared in September 2000 and went double platinum. Driven by the James Brown-like Neptunes production "Shake Ya Ass" as a lead single — an MTV staple before the album even hit the streets — the album featured a vast range of productions from Earthtone III, Bink!, and the Medicine Men (a newer incarnation of Beats by the Pound). Let's Get Ready demonstrated the wide-reaching ambitions that had only been hinted at in previous releases. Mystikal made his unique rhyme delivery accessible enough to reach a significantly wider audience.
Mystikal released his sixth album, Tarantula, in December 2001. "Bouncin' Back (Bumpin' Me Against the Wall)," another funky Neptunes collaboration, was one of 2002's hottest singles. The following year, Mystikal garnered Grammy nominations in the categories of Best Male Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Album. Tarantuala eventually reached gold status but didn't come close to eclipsing his most popular output. From January 2004 through January 2010, the rapper served a prison term for sexual battery. Shortly after he regained his freedom, he collaborated with one-time No Limit labelmate Fiend, as well as R&B singer Lloyd, and performed at the 2011 Gathering of the Juggalos festival. Plans for a seventh album were derailed by more issues with the law. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine & Andy Kellman