If Detroit emcee Miz Korona had followed the rigid rules she’s been given since her childhood, she would have never opened up for hip-hop icons like Scarface and Run-DMC, or freestyled alongside Eminem and Xzibit in a blockbuster film that was monumental for the rap genre and her city. Her father—a member of 70s R&B group The Floaters—wanted her to sing, but she decided to rhyme. A cowardly music industry would prefer she either rap about sex or keep her lips sealed, but she spits blistering bars without compromise.
Good thing she doesn’t listen.
“I have a no-holds-barred approach, like, ‘You’re going to respect me,’” Korona insists. “If you stand firm, you make people pay attention. It’s about being assertive and letting your voice come out.”
After gaining confidence by peers’ approval to her morning rhymes on the school bus, a 12-year-old Korona eagerly ran up to an area producer to showcase her skills. Impressed, the producer took Korona under his wing (with her parents’ approval, of course) and helped her sharpen her freestyling, writing and recording skills. She then began to frequent shows and Detroit’s legendary Hip-Hop Shop, where she would showcase her skills and network with the city’s rap movers and shakers. With two strikes against her—she was so young that she had to sneak into venues, and she was a woman in a male-dominated culture—she didn’t have a choice but to hit a home run with every at-bat.
“It was a bumpy road, because a lot of people didn’t take me seriously being a young girl,” Korona remembers. “They would say, ‘Go home, little girl.’ But then I would start spittin’, and people would begin to listen.”
Her lyrics and her grind spoke for themselves. Her formidable delivery and sharp punchlines helped her establish a following, and she nabbed gigs opening for icons like Scarface and Run-DMC. But most moviegoers remember her from her portrayal of “Vanessa” in 8 Mile, the blockbuster film starring hometown hero Eminem. In the scene, she freestyles alongside Eminem and multiplatinum-selling artist Xzibit, each of whom play plant workers on lunch break.
“That was a nerve-wrecking experience, but it was so wonderful. I wrote like three verses before they picked one, and they kept turning mine down,” Korona remembers. “I’m like ‘Damn, I’m not good enough.’ And the lady said ‘No, they’re just too good, so you have to tone it down some. We don’t want you to overshadow anybody that’s already established.’ It made me feel good.’ Some people think I just started rapping once I got in that movie, but no: they discovered me from rapping to be in the movie.”