New York (AP) — After spending more than four years under the “bad dream” of rape and kidnapping charges that were recently dismissed, rapper Mystikal says he wants to shed the sexually-charged songs of his past, and now has a higher audience in mind.
“When I look back and listen to the music, man — I was a nasty lil’ rapper!” he said with a hint of embarrassment in an interview with The Associated Press. “A lot of my music now, I imagine myself rapping it to God and if I can rap it, I’m proud.”
The Louisiana hip-hop legend spoke to The Associated Press in one of his first interviews after first-degree rape and second-degree kidnapping charges stemming from a 2016 allegation were dismissed in December. The rapper, who pleaded guilty in 2003 to sexual battery and served six years in prison, initially denied involvement with the woman and spent 18 months in jail before being released on a $3 million bond. Louisiana’s Caddo Parish District Attorney closed the investigation after new evidence was presented to a second grand jury that declined to bring an indictment. The district attorney then filed to dismiss the charges.
The long ordeal “was like a reoccurring bad dream,” he said. “I didn’t know how it was going to work out.”
Now he wants to make changes to his career — and life — as he tries to find harmony beyond a troubled past. Though Mystical says he “can’t go to God” with lines like the dirty opening verse of his hit “Shake Ya A(asterisk)(asterisk),” don’t expect him to start appearing on the gospel charts.
Within days of the case’s dismissal, a blitz of film trailers for Eddie Murphy’s highly anticipated “Coming 2 America” began airing, featuring “Feel Right,” Mystikal’s 2015 smash with Mark Ronson. The New Orleans product said he had no idea the song would be used, but he doesn’t believe in coincidences.
“It felt like God was winking his eye at me,” he said with a smile. “That’s what strengthens my spirituality right now, things like that.”
Maintaining his innocence throughout, the rapper had been free on a $3 million bond since February 2019 after being jailed in August 2017, but work was quiet due to the uncertainty of the case and seriousness of the charges. But bookings for live performances are picking back up, and his life story will be featured on the upcoming season of TV One’s popular music docuseries “Unsung.”
“I didn’t get a Donald Trump pardon,” he said, proclaiming his innocence.
But prosecutors say the term “innocent” may still be up for debate.
Mystikal’s most recent trouble began in October 2016 after his performance at a “Legends of Southern Hip-Hop” concert stop in Shreveport, Louisiana, a bill that also advertised other Southern rap icons like Juvenile, Bun B and Trick Daddy. According to police records obtained by the AP, Mystikal and a few members of his entourage, including hopeful rapper Averweone “Lil Hood” Holman, met up with Holman’s female friend and her boyfriend.
After hanging out at Sam’s Town Hotel and Casino with the group, the victim, who told police they continuously gave her drinks, became separated from her boyfriend for a few hours, the records said. When they reconnected, the boyfriend said she seemed disoriented. Police were called.
According to the reports, Holman stated he and the victim were both intoxicated and admitted to having intercourse. He told investigators they were the only ones in the room.
Police noted that while the victim said she didn’t remember certain parts of the night, she did recall waking up on a bed with her panties down and Holman’s penis out. She also had another memory of her buttocks hurting with Mystikal standing behind her, according to the police report.
Mystikal told police he wasn’t in the room during the incident and he “did not hear anything.” But after forensic tests came back eight months later, DNA showed Mystikal had an intimate physical encounter with the victim. A toxicology report found cocaine and another substance in the victim’s system; she told investigators she did not consume illegal drugs.
An arrest warrant was issued for Mystikal, Holman, and a woman who later pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice. Holman pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of simple kidnapping in June 2019 and was sentenced to time served, court records show.
Mystikal hesitantly admitted to the AP that a sexual encounter did happen. He described it as consensual, believing the victim stated she was raped rather than admit the indiscretion to her boyfriend.
“There was additional information that surfaced that the original grand jury did not have an opportunity to consider at the time that the charges were brought forward,” said Britney Green, who oversaw the case for the Caddo Parish District Attorney’s Office. “We then decided that the case needed to stop there because the (second) grand jury did not return an indictment after the review of the additional evidence.”
The woman or a representative for her could not be reached for an interview.
The AP was unable to obtain the secret grand jury documents that were the basis for the dismissal as they remain sealed. Prosecutors do not plan to recharge Mystikal, and will not charge the victim, believing she had no improper motives.
“We never want to be a part of any process that has an innocent person tied up in the criminal justice process,” said Green. “I just want to say that there is a distinction between not guilty and innocent, and that also because the case is dismissed or a case is resolved in a fashion other than at trial, that it doesn’t necessarily mean that an incident did not happen.”
The Southern rapper burst onto the music scene in the mid-90s with the regional smash “Here I Go” before joining Master P’s No Limit Records juggernaut. His unique style shined on massive songs like “Make ’Em Say Uhh” and “It Aint My Fault 2” while also finding solo success with “The Man Right Chea.”
A hip-hop hybrid with the tongue-twisting speed of Twista combined with Busta Rhymes-like theatrics, Mystikal crafted crossover hits like “Danger (Been So Long)” and the Neptunes-produced “Shake Ya A(asterisk)(asterisk)” featuring Pharrell Williams, earning him a 2001 Grammy nomination. (The radio version is titled “Shake It Fast.”)
But his ride at the top of the charts — and in life — came to a screeching halt in 2002 when he was charged with aggravated rape and extortion when his then-hairstylist — who he referred to as a “loved one” during this interview — said he forced her to perform sex acts on him and two bodyguards in retaliation for allegedly cashing $80,000 worth of unauthorized checks from his account.
The acts were filmed and the video would seal his fate. Hoping to dodge the potential life sentence a rape charge can carry in Louisiana, Mystikal pleaded guilty in 2003 to sexual battery and served six years in prison.
So how could he find himself in a similar predicament years later?
“I learned from the first situation,” said Mystikal, a registered sex offender.
“That crap is on my license,” he said. “I’m in a horrible fraternity!”
Mystikal, whose birth name is Michael Lawrence Tyler, says his faith sustained him during his 18 months in a cell in the most recent case. He understands the public may not be forgiving.
“I can’t do nothing about that, but I try to understand where they’re coming from,” said the 50-year-old of his critics. “At this point in age, I’m just grateful to still be able to participate. At my concerts, man, I still (have a) packed house after all this time. It’s amazing.”
With much of his prime sacrificed due to legal issues, Mystikal, who plans to start work on a live instrumentation project, says he’s learned from past mistakes and the lessons extend beyond music.
He has received suggestions to have women he’s involved with sign non-disclosure agreements, but says he’d rather mature in his decision-making.
He said he’s got to “stay out the water because it’s sharks in that water … in other words, don’t put yourself in situations where things like this can happen. I’m too old for that,” he explained. “I don’t do the groupies on the road (anymore). I don’t perform at the show and get the ladies (excited) and get her all goo-goo eyed and take advantage (of being a celebrity) ... That was a young Mystikal.”
Follow Associated Press entertainment journalist Gary Gerard Hamilton at twitter.com/garyghamilton