A ground-breaking female rapper
Mia Kristin Young, professionally known by the stage names Mia X or Mama Mia, is a rapper, chef, author, and actress from New Orleans. The first female emcee signed to Master P’s No Limit Records label during the 1990s, Young broke down gender barriers in rap music and established a reputation for her no-holds-barred lyrics and powerful stage performances. Young is also a noted chef. She operated a restaurant from 2009 to 2010 in New Orleans’s Seventh Ward called True Friends, and penned a cookbook/memoir, Things My Grandma Told Me, Things My Grandma Showed Me.
Young was born on January 9, 1970, in the Seventh Ward. Young’s Creole family ran a catering company, sparking her lifelong interest in cooking. She began writing poetry at an early age. In 1984, at age fourteen, Young joined fellow Seventh Ward native and friend Byron Thomas (Mannie Fresh), New York transplant Denny D, and Denny D’s New Orleans cousin, DJ Wop, to form a pioneering New Orleans rap group called New York Incorporated. Performing under the stage name Polo B, Young performed with the group at school dances and parties. During this time Young also worked with owner Shirani Rea at Peaches record store, a central meeting spot for the city’s rappers, DJs, and producers.
In 1992 Young released the single, “Ask Them N*ggas,” off her classic EP, Da Payback. The recording made her locally popular, and soon Master P signed her to No Limit Records. Young’s first release was 1995’s Good Girl Gone Bad. The first track on the album introduced yet another of her monikers, “Ghetto Sarah Lee,” and featured “Payback II,” a follow-up to the success of “Da Payback.” Young’s second record with No Limit, Unlady Like (1997), became gold certified. Features on the album were contributed by C-Murder, Silkk the Shocker, Mystikal, Fiend, Foxy Brown, and others. The first track, “You Don’t Wanna Go 2 War,” is a staple of New Orleans–style rap music.
Young released her final record with No Limit in 1998. Titled Mama Drama, the album was by far her most successful, ranking at 9 on the Billboard 200. Featuring a bevy of No Limit talent, as well as rap artists Fat Joe and Snoop Dogg, the record was hard-hitting from the first track, “Bring It On,” to its biggest hit, “What’cha Wanna Do.” The majority of Young’s output for No Limit was produced by the label’s in-house production team, Beats by the Pound, led by KLC.
In 1999, while Young was still riding high from these successes, both of her parents died within months of one another. Suddenly finding herself the sole provider for her two children and her sister’s medical school costs, Young retired from the spotlight to focus on rebuilding her family’s life after the tragedy.
Over the years, Young has reemerged. She has continued to appear on others’ records and has embraced her talents as a traditional Louisiana chef. In 2016, she headlined a sold-out show at Preservation Hall, marking the first show headlined by a female New Orleans rap artist in that venue’s history. She continues to live and work in New Orleans.