Hip-hop is largely a man's world. But in the Dallas scene, a woman with a fresh take on the genre and a strong stage presence has been capturing the attention of artists and fans alike. Instead of putting out a music video and buying thousands of fake views to create a phony hype, Madame Mims is working on interesting projects and collaborating with notable talents. And between rapping, producing and DJing, Mims is as versatile as they come.
Madame Mims performed with Foley's enormous band at Crown & Harp in January. It was one of the best recent live shows, exhilarating from start to finish. Towards the end of the set, Foley invited Headkrack and Tru Def to the stage to freestyle. Foley surprised everyone by freestyling himself, but Mims also turned a lot of heads when she stepped up from the back of the stage to have her turn at the mic. She more than held her own with the guys.
Mims does not care for small talk and she loves to laugh more than anything. Her infectious personality compels even a socially awkward stoic to smile, laugh, and engage in meaningful conversation. Every other person seems to have a different idea of what the terms "hip-hop" and "rap" mean and she has hers. "I would say hip-hop is the good shit and rap is the bullshit," she says, and laughs. "I certainly wouldn't refer to some of these mainstream artists as MCs," she continues. "But rap's cool."
But Mims isn't afraid to admit to enjoying what some would dismiss as "girlie" tendencies: "There's a nice amount of females who love them some Disney movies," Mims says, grinning. "They know the songs and shit, you know what I'm saying? I'm one of those females." She believes her music has an element of that and it is decidedly not anything to be embarrassed about. Her song would be the one that plays at the end of the movie, the soundtrack song, maybe even played on the radio.
Before moving to Dallas three years ago, Mims released her first album out of Tallahassee. While she was still there, she recalls meeting funk legend George Clinton at a Dillard's in 2008. "He's a cool dude," she says. Clinton invited her to his studio in Tallahassee, which looked like a warehouse because it was storing things like the P-Funk Mothership, which Madame Mims helped reassemble. The famous stage prop is now at the Smithsonian. She eventually started working on music with Clinton, collaborating on some tracks and also appearing with him in an upcoming music video.
Since moving to Dallas, she has been known mainly for DJing at Bryan Street Tavern and a few other venues. But last month she dropped a great hip-hop single, "Pull'N Stringz Of Sheep," and this week she dropped "Can't I Wake Up?" from her upcoming EP, Parasomnias. The new song is pop as much as it is hip-hop; it also demonstrates how strong she is as a singer.
Just to underline her unique independence, Mims mostly does her own production. "To me there really is no good or bad music," she says. "Until you add the words. From there it can go south." She also has a different take on collaboration. "I usually tell people to give me the beat they like least," she laughs. More often than not, this insight has helped her find something she wants to work with. Her reasoning is that many people don't like some of their best work.
Her music has taken many turns. But although she sings and has a pop sensibility, it's ultimately another way to get to hip-hop. Sometimes she takes a jazz approach; but she also gets there with an operatic or classical sound or with several forms of electronic music. She has released great mix tapes and even recorded music for children. After glancing at her body of work, one has to wonder if she will focus on one sound or continue to have several.
She loves watching freestyle battles, but they are not for her. She just participated once and it seemed to ruin her positive vibe. "I'm really nice," she laughs. The fiercely competitive nature and the distinct possibility of having to criticize your opponent scared her off. Beat battles haven't worked for her either. "My shit's different," she says. She acknowledges that beat battles are interesting and important because they focus on production, but feels like she may have to alter her sound to successfully compete.
Still, at the end of the day, making music is all about holding her own.
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"It's a man's genre," Mims says of hip-hop. Not that she would ever compromise her own tastes for the sake of playing favorites: "I don't get excited when I hear a female artist that is average," she admits. Fortunately, there's very little about Mims that could be called average.
Madame Mims performs with Shoose McGee at 9 P.M., Monday, March 30, at The Boiler Room, 2723 Elm St., Free show.
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