It didn't take the rapper MIMS long to come up with the title for his debut album. Both of his parents died by the time he was 13, and it was his love for and dedication to music that kept him focused on success and out of trouble. That's why the Washington Heights, New York, rapper named his first album Music Is My Savior. The title carries additional weight, too. "If you think of Music Is My Savior as an acronym, it stands for my last name, which is Mims," says the rapper, born Shawn Mims. "I wanted to be a little clever about it."
Clever also describes MIMS' smash single "This Is Why I'm Hot." It makes a certain amount of sense that the cut -- a skeletal, braggadocio club track that gives nods to classic New York rap, Midwest Hip-Hop, the Southern rap scene and the hyphy movement -- has become so popular in clubs and on the radio. The song's producers, the up-and-coming The Blackout Movement, double as DJs. "They understand what the mentality of a DJ is and that's where we broke the record, the mixshows," MIMS explains. "The DJs broke the record, and when a DJ creates a record and another DJ listens to it, they have a connection. I think that's why a lot of DJs appreciated it."
Fans have made "This Is Why I'm Hot" one of the biggest songs this century, too. Part of the song's appeal comes from MIMS' willingness to embrace and acknowledge rap from regions outside of New York. "For so long, I think that New York has had this arrogant approach to hip-hop and it's always been, 'We're from New York. We are hip-hop,'" he says. "A lot of times, we don't necessarily pay homage to those outside our market. We have every right to be proud because of hip-hop being created and started in New York, but we do have to pay homage that some of these areas are making great music, like Chi-town, the Dirty South, the West Coast."
MIMS will keep the clubs rocking with the equally potent "Like This." With heavy bass, a tempo ideal for dancing and a catchy chorus, the song is a perfect soundtrack for dancefloors. "I wanted to take a club approach and make a dance record," he says. "I wanted to keep the lyrics semi-simplistic. I'm not lyrically overstepping myself. I'm keeping myself in a pocket to where I feel people are going to recite the words and be able to feel it."
Despite the good-natured vibe he gives off in his music and as a person, MIMS didn't feel that his positivity was being reciprocated. Even though he was hustling his music and working hard at breaking through on a national scale, he wasn't being successful. That friction led to the confident, brassy "It's Alright." The song is a confident declaration of his resolve to succeed. "I don't care what nobody says about me," MIMS reveals. "I'm going to do what I've got to do and keep it moving. Hence, the title 'It's Alright.' You might not know anything about me, but at the end of the day, I'm doing my thing and I'm not worried about the hatred."
Becoming a star rapper was a minor accomplishment given the personal setbacks MIMS has had to overcome. MIMS discusses the lessons he learned from his mother, who gave MIMS the DJing equipment that served as the foundation to his musical aspirations, on the moving "Don't Cry." But rather than lash out at the world because of his loss of his parents, MIMS used the experience as a learning tool. "I lost both of my parents when I was younger, and people think that automatically I'm supposed to be this bitter person, this dude that runs around being mean to everybody," he says. "The song shows you that I can make positive situations out of negative situations. It's a very emotional record."
MIMS also puts his emotions on full display on the clever "Doctor Doctor." Here, he talks to a psychiatrist about the stress of being an MC. "I'm spilling my guts to him, telling him what I like and don't like about entertaining and the music business," MIMS explains. "I convince myself that it's a blessing to be in the situation I am in, and I basically work out my own problems. I turn to the doctor and I realize that I'm working out my own problems -- and he's getting a check for it."
With the stellar production on Music Is My Savior, MIMS can expect a steady stream of checks himself. Much of the project was handled by the North Miami-based The Blackout Movement. By working extensively with them on his album, MIMS feels that his material benefited. "I wanted to create a project," he says. "Back in the day when Dr. Dre did The Chronic, he would get locked in a room with a bunch of dudes and make music. With The Blackout Movement, I went down there, chilled out in their studio and really vibed out. Music was coming in there constantly, so it was the perfect atmosphere for me to create."
Thanks to his mother's support of his interest in music, MIMS had the confidence to pursue his dreams. In fact, MIMS learned a number of valuable lessons from his mother: to learn from his mistakes and to be mindful of others and your surroundings.
These characteristics helped MIMS as he launched his DJ career at age 13. He wanted to follow in the footsteps of his father, who had a DJ set at his house. Once he started playing songs, MIMS became more interested in the creation of music, and his interests turned to engineering and producing. By the end of high school, though, MIMS became focused on MCing after his friends encouraged him to continue developing his lyrical skills.
MIMS' background as a DJ, engineer and producer helped him tremendously as he made the transition to rapper. He knew something many MCs know little about: how to make records. Furthermore, as a producer, he had a platinum release in Canada with the Baby Blue Soundcrew. That international exposure and experience gave MIMS the incentive to keep pushing for his own success as an artist.
In 2003, MIMS got his first big break when his song "I Did You Wrong" (also produced by The Blackout Movement) became a regional hit. The song's success enabled him to tour as an opening act for Method Man and to develop several key business relationships. In 2006, MIMS launched his own American King Music and released his smash "This Is Why I'm Hot" single.
Today, as his buzz continues growing and MIMS prepares for the release of Music Is My Savior, he constantly impresses people because of his positive outlook on life despite the personal struggles he has endured.
"People are like, 'Damn, you've been through so much in life. But every time I see you, you're smiling, you're happy and feeling good,'" MIMS reveals. "That's what Music Is My Savior is about. It's about feeling good, showing you everything I've been through and that I've built no excuses for myself."
And that's why he's hot.