Penelope: Skip To My Lou

Hailing straight from the “Lou,” Penelope has lived the true meaning of the word “grind.” As a teen, she scored her first record demo with “The Crew from the Lou.” While coming up during the legendary, “St. Louis Grind- Time,” she was known as being one of the deadliest female rappers. Her onstage persona was so memorable that it got her signed to the St. Lunatic’s, Fo’ Reel Entertainment. During that same year, Penelope began recording her solo album as well as appearing in the video, “Jang-a-lang,” with home-town homies, Nelly and the St. Lunatics.

Before her star could rise any higher she was indicted by the FBI on charges of conspiracy to commit drug trafficking.

Her brother was also murdered. After doing 48 months, Penelope lived in a half-way house and worked at Gold’s Gym.

Timing is an odd thing. Penelope now has a new record deal and is about to drop her new album featuring the single, “Louie, Louie.” The Kingsmen sampled phrase, has now become an ode to the Gateway of the West. spoke to Penelope about her early days during the “St. Louis Grind,” her indictment and how she is dealing with her new success. You were in “The Crew from the Lou” and a few other group while growing up. Now you’re still stay solo. Do you feel that you work better with others or on your own?

Penelope: Yeah, I was in a few groups when I was younger. I think that I work better solo. I like working with people. I like to work with someone that is creative and always coming with new ideas. It doesn’t matter if they’re male or female. I like working with people that are positive and about work. In your career, you’ve already opened for big name rappers, like Tupac and Ice Cube. What types of things have you learned from them?

Penelope: I learned to rock a crowd. I learned how to get them going and keep up the intensity. I like the studio, but I’m a stage person. Everyone was memorized be Tupac, especially while on stage. What rappers did you look to for inspiration when you were younger?

Penelope: I listened to all kinds of cats. My cousins and uncles introduced me to Run DMC and MC Lyte. I’m an “old school head.” That’s when Hip-Hop was at its best. You came up with Nelly and the St. Lunatics during the St. Louis, “Grind-Time.”

Penelope: In St. Louis, everything is local. Someone that we all know would open for a performer coming to town. It’s a big hustle. There are a lot of groups. Other than me and Chocolate Thai, we were really the only females that could get down with the guys in battles. When Nelly got his big break, he really opened doors for a lot of St. Louis rappers. You were signed the St. Lunatics’ Fo’ Reel Entertainment before going to prison. Do you and the St. Lunatics have a relationship that extends past rapping?

Penelope: When I was in prison, Murphy Lee kept in touch with my family. We look out for each other. You’ve been through a lot. When your career was about to take off; you served time in a federal prison for the conspiracy of drug trafficking and your brother was also murdered. When during that time did you decide to take you rap career seriously and make it happen?

Penelope: I was rapping before prison, but I thought that it was all over when I got indicted. Back then I didn’t have the desire that I do now. God put me in a situation where I was able to perform while in prison. I’m always doing stuff with music. No matter what, my brother was the one that kept pushing me. We set up a studio after his death. I was worried for a minute that I wasn’t going to be able to record the album. Then, I got a call from Shawn “Tubby” Holiday. The next thing that I knew, I was on the phone with 50 Cent and Lloyd Banks. I dropped some bars and they loved it. I’ve been working on tapes since. I’ve definetly been given a second chance. I work for a non-profit organization, Hip-Stee. It’s my opportunity to take the best things and my life and be grateful for them. I give back. When record companies were fighting over your contract, did you feel that you had finally made it?

Penelope: I got with Tubby when I got out of prison. He was letting record companies hear my demo. He set up a meeting with L.A. Reid. That’s when the bidding war started. I was originally going to sign with Atlantic, but I as really feeling the people at Universal more. The Lunatics are on Universal, so we keep it at home in STL. I can get help when I need it. I’ve changed though. I got my first deal when I was 13. I wouldn’t have done things right. At those times, you don’t think about longevity. You think about buying stuff. Now that I’m older I think differently. I reach out. I work with an organization that helps people that are incarcerated with children. Often at times they don’t know where they are. Getting this record deal couldn’t have come at a better time. A lot of people feel that there are a handful of memberable female rappers. Do you feel competition from other female rappers?

Penelope: I’m not trying to go up against them. We all have different styles and stories. I’m from St. Louis and have been in prison. I’m talking about what I’ve been through. We all have different struggles. What’s gonna’ make people listen to the album is different experiences. I am the way I am because it was how was raised. Everything that I saw coming up was street. I’m a little harder than a lot of female rappers out. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not wearing Timberlands, but it’s still hard. I believe that what ever you go through, you should write about. I was raised around pimps and drug dealers. It made me a hustler at anything that I do. I’m hungry for it. Some female rappers, such as Lil’ Kim, Trina and Jackie-O, are accused of only sending, “be sexy messages” to younger females. What kinds of messages do you want you female audience to get from you music?

Penelope: To think for their-selves and to do what they believe in. Stand strong; women are running more and more business and industries everyday. Why not a female president? We need to stand for what we believe. I’m going to stand for what I believe.

I have positive massages on my album. I like party music, but I still have that “Keep your head” up vibe. I’m going to be a role model whether I want to be or not. But if I do the opposite of what I say, what does that say about me? Do what you believe and do what you do. What kinds of things do you see happening in 2006 for you?

Penelope: I’m taking baby steps. I’m growing and developing. I ‘m looking forward to the future as a whole. I want to learn the business side of the industry. I’m humble, so it helps me too be able to touch a lot of people. I’ve started a production company [M.O.N.Y.]. My manager and I are partners. We’re going to get things rolling.