Singing sensation Mariah Carey fell in love with hip-hop music because it provided a respite from her tough New York upbringing.

When the BUTTERFLIES singer was only aged three she witnessed the relationship between her interracial parents hit the rocks - along with her older siblings Carey was subsequently raised in poverty by her struggling mother.

The 35-year-old escaped from the realities of her life by listening to hip-hop and is proud to have been a fan of the genre before it became mainstream.

She recalls, "I grew up listening to it. Some people came to hip-hop when it developed mass appeal. I started with the SUGAR HILL GANG.

"I know and respect what hip-hop artists do, and they know that."

Carey has since worked with hip-hop stars including Jay-Z, and even persuaded music bosses to allow her to collaborate with late Wu Tang Clan legend OLD DIRTY BASTARD (ODB) on her smash hit FANTASY

Carey tells THE NEW YORK POST, "I was dying to work with ODB on a remix of Fantasy, may he rest in peace.

"I pulled the wool over my record company's eyes, because they had no idea what or who I was talking about when I mentioned ODB. That record was also the first time I worked with PUFFY (SEAN "P DIDDY" COMBS).

"It was a turning point for me because it was an official street record. I'd be walking around New York and hear it blasting out of Jeeps."

11/04/2005 17:39