"Aren't you that girl from the movie 8 mile?"
Miz Korona has heard this question more times than the number of traffic lights blown through on a Detroit Slow Roll. She oftentimes has to fight back the urge to sigh and roll her eyes as she answers back as if on cue:
"Yep. That was me."
Her lyrical ability was showcased in the box-office hit movie 8 Mile (2002) as the character Vanessa, a factory worker who rap-battled Xzibit in a scene known as "The Lunch Truck." This was not only one of the pivotal highlights of the film, but it also foreshadowed Korona discovering her own character as an emcee long after the final cut.
"People would always come up to me and ask me to spit my lines from 8 Mile. And I was like 'I actually rap for real.' I'm a struggling artist. But I learned that some people tend to get reality and fiction mixed together," she said recently at a Failure Lab talk at Michigan State.
But seriously, unless you just celebrated turning legal drinking age on your last birthday, you should know that when you talk about emcees who personify the distinct sound of "grittiness" that only comes from Detroit, the conversation isn't complete unless you include Miz Korona.
Her father, a member of '70s R&B group the Floaters, wanted Korona to sing, but she decided to rhyme. Impressed by the rhyming skills that Korona showed at the tender age of 12, a well-known producer in the area decided to take her under his wing and help her sharpen her free-styling, writing, and recording skills. She then began to frequent shows in the area, including Detroit's legendary Hip-Hop Shop, where she would network with some of the rap scene's movers and shakers. With two strikes against her — the first being that she was so young, she had to sneak into the venues to perform, and second, the fact that she's a woman in a male-dominated industry — Korona didn't have a choice but to "go hard" and hit a home run with every opportunity at bat. And she knocks it out the park each time.
"I have a no-holds-barred approach, like, 'You're going to respect me'. They would say, 'Go home, little girl,' but then I would start spittin', and people would begin to listen," she says. "It's about being assertive and letting your voice come out."
Maintaining her voice in an industry that's often criticized for promoting sexism and misogyny has made it an uphill battle for Korona. Because of her "keeping it real" lyrics and "in-your-face" image, it seemed like the bitter taste of disappointment became commonplace, as each opportunity to "expand her brand" or "get out here" would fall short because she just wasn't "feminine" enough.
"After 8 Mile, Em (Eminem) didn't sign me, Tommy Boy didn't sign me, Arista didn't sign me. I kept getting all these letters saying tone down your image, tone down your lyrics, you're out-rapping guys, you need to look more like Lil' Kim," she says. "It's always been a struggle throughout my entire career to be heard and to be recognized and to get my material released."
But her resilience in being true-to-self and always remaining genuine in her craft keeps her rising steadily to the top of her game. After dropping Dope Muzik, a conceptual album of raw, unfinished songs as a primer, and officially debuting The Injection in 2010, and currently working to finish up her latest project, Sealy Posturepedic (The Most Slept On), Miz Korona is a legend-in-the-making. Clutching the mic in hand like a royal scepter, she spits the finest of nouns and verbs, hell-bent on proving she's an elite emcee.
And she's doing it her way.
"I see my music reaching out to the people who truly love and appreciate real lyricism," she says. "And that's worldwide — E.T. will probably be bumpin' my music. Michael Jackson, rest in peace. I want my music to reach places that I couldn't even imagine going to — people who don't even speak a lick of English quoting my lyrics. I see it touching the masses of people who miss real lyricism from women artists. There are very few of us that get that attention, but there are a lot of us that have the talent. I want to continue to make my mark, and leave my stamp before my time is up, so that people will say that Miz Korona was one of the best at doing it."
And her mission continues to gain momentum. To ring in the New Year, she'll be traveling to France as part of a documentary series that will showcase hip-hop artists in the United States, Africa, and other countries. She'll also travel to Norway in April for a three-week tour to bring her music to a larger audience. Looking to also complete and release singles from her third album into next year, Miz Korona asks for the support of people who listen to her music, and who know the struggle it's been for her up to stay true to her vision, to help spread the word about what she is doing.
"I really need people to help spread the word about me," she tells MT. "I mean, if you're feelin' my music and you think I'm dope, then please tell as many people about me as you can — as many people as you think will appreciate the artistry that I bring to the table. "
Ultimately, Korona hopes to gain new friends, listeners, and supporters along the way, as she continues to show the different sides of who she is as an artist and human being through her music. She believes the more transparent she is about her struggles, the more people will be able to identify and conquer the types of obstacles she has.
Through continuing to produce projects that would make any "sneakerhead" or "sock addict" proud, Miz Korona plans to continue personifying Detroit hip-hop at its finest.
And we all know that Detroiters go harder.
JaciCaprice is a writer, producer, vocalist, and hosts the community and artist-focused Internet radio show "The Soul Studieux."