Into the Mystic

After more than a decade of struggles, is Mystic ready for mainstream hip hop success?

Because of her own crossover potential, Mystic anticipated signing a hefty deal with a major label.

"Everyone [expected] I'd get a huge deal," she says. "Even when I signed with Goodvibe, a lot of people were like, "I don't know why you're signing with them, I'm not sure it's the right place, they aren't talking about no money.' But [Goodvibe] saw my vision. At this point, after 11 years of trying to put out an album, if somebody can see my vision and support me in executing that, that's the right place for me. What I always wanted with a major -- and it shows how ignorant I am -- is for somebody to hear the music and get it, and not want to change it and allow me my freedom. And that's what Goodvibe did, so they could have offered 50 dollars."

After inking her deal in 1999 she exercised her hard-won creative control to the fullest, souping up old songs with better beats and writing new ones that spanned a broad and varied emotional terrain. "Neptune's Jewels" is a wistful, self-described "b-girl ballad" dedicated to an estranged lover, while "Once a Week" tweaks gender politics, as Mystic outlines the ground rules for a "no strings attached" tryst with a prospective partner. "Ghetto Birds" and "D Boy" examine street life nonjudgmentally, and the lackadaisical "W" extols the merits of the "barbecue and weed smoke" West Coast lifestyle. But she extends furthest beyond the usual hip hop topics on "Fatherless Child," a combination of coming-of-age story and elegy for her father, who died of a heroin overdose two years ago. Declared by one reviewer to be possibly "the most naked song in hip hop," the tune is a sobering counterpoint to the recent spate of "baby's momma" tales told from the perspective of carefree deadbeat dads. Over a pensive instrumental Mystic wonders, "How different would I be if you had raised me?," then relates how, "The day my deal was done/ You died/ With the needle in your arm/ And the angels by your side."

Mystic: A little luck, a lot of freedom.
Patrick Hoelck
Mystic: A little luck, a lot of freedom.

Details

Tuesday, July 31, at 5 p.m.

Admission is free

831-1200

She also plays the same night at 7 p.m. at the Maritime Hall, 450 Harrison (at First Street), S.F. Slum Village, Phife Dawg & Jerobi, Dwele, and Fat Cat also play. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door; call 512-7838.

Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight (at Stanyan), S.F.

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She says of the song, "When I recorded it I told my mother how vulnerable it made me feel, and she told me I didn't have to put it out. But I really did need to share it. I feel like my responsibility as an artist is to be honest with myself and honest with the people that are listening to my music. And honesty does not necessarily mean it's comfortable for me, and I'm willing to be a little uncomfortable to tell my story."

In other words, Mystic's reality rap is based on lived experience and not hyperbolic embellishment. She sums up the album's overall tone as very personal and hopeful, but not necessarily optimistic. "I hope that when I'm 80 years old everything's gonna be chill, and there's nothing that needs to be fixed," she says. "But you know what? That's a fantasy. The fact of the matter is there are people that are never going to get out of the ghetto, who will continue to not father their children, and there will always be people who will die over bullshit. There are people who will never find any happiness in their lives no matter what. So all I really hope is that people get a little peace from this album. I don't care what your racial background is, what you do for a living, how much money you have in your pocket, whether you live legal or illegal -- at the end of the album, I hope you can get five minutes of peace."

For Mystic, five minutes of peace is worth more than 15 minutes of fame -- or three and a half on BET.

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