It's worked better than expected. Katie still seems surprised that a few songs made in her cousin's bedroom have generated such positive attention.

"I thought it was a prank," she said, referring to King L and Lawless reaching out to remix her song and further work with her. She's now preparing for the August release of her mixtape with noted mixtape DJs Trap-A-Holics, who have released mixtapes for artists such as Gucci Mane and Young Jeezy, but, if anything, the success music has brought so far has renewed her focus elsewhere.

She has wrapped up a semester of pre-med and biology classes at Truman College, and, although the unpredictability of her music career complicates things, she plans to continue with online classes in the fall to pursue her goal of becoming an anesthesiologist.

"I've always got to keep a backup plan," she said.

So far, though, rapping is working out pretty well.


Katie Got Bandz

Full name: Kiara Johnson

Age: 19

Neighborhood: Bronzeville

"I Need a Hitta" was the first time you'd ever been in the studio rapping? "I'm not a shy person, but when I recorded it—you see how 'I Need a Hitta' sounds, and then how my other tracks [sound]. I was real shy ... I wasn't [turned] up in the booth at all."

So now when you record it's more high energy? "Yeah. Give me an energy drink, and I'm gone."

Mixtape: "Bands and Hittas," out in August

Key videos: "I Need a Hitta," "Ridin' Around and Drillin'"

Chin Chilla Meek

Full name: Chimekay Powell

Home: Harvey

Age: 23

How did you start rapping? "[My boyfriend] was writing and reciting raps, and I'm like, 'Dude, I can rap better than you.' I literally told him, 'I can rap better than you.' But they always thought that I was just kidding. I went and wrote a verse and surprised them."

Mixtape: "It Feels Good to be Great"