As a kid, she trained hard in tap-dancing and ballet. At 16, she graduated from high school more than a year early. She writes and produces most of her songs, and she's already been hit on by Warren Beatty. Nubile, petite and impossibly lean, Mya is an earthy, Wheat Thin waif earning her soul-sister keep in a Ritz Cracker world.

Still a mere 18 years of age, the Washington, D.C., native has already done enough in her short life to make most young adults curse their own laziness (present company included). In stores now, the artist's self-titled debut CD includes production work by Babyface, Diane Warren and, of course, Mya herself. She's cracked the Top 10 in the Billboard R&B and pop charts with her dance-funk exercise in female domination "It's All About Me." Though the singer claims the song is merely about taking control of a relationship, it suggests the ballsy, center-of-my-own-universe narcissism exhibited by many a one-named R&B phenomenon before her.

Elsewhere, Mya recently joined forces with Pras Michel and Ol' Dirty Bastard for the single "Ghetto Supastar," from the Bulworth soundtrack. It was while working on the tune's video shoot that elusive charmer Warren Beatty gave Mya some superbly superficial words of advice: "Just stay pretty." That shouldn't be a problem.

-- Craig Lindsey

Mya performs Friday, June 12, with L.L. Cool J, Mase, the Lox, Jagged Edge and Eightball as part of The Box Summer Jam '98 at Compaq Center, 10 Greenway Plaza. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $22.50. For info, call 629-3700.

A.J. Croce -- Chances are, the late Jim Croce would've been proud of his piano-pounding son, not only because he's followed in his father's footsteps, but for the way he's done it. Overcoming considerable childhood adversity (his dad's tragic death, a brain tumor that left him blind in one eye), the San Diego-based musician has taken what he's needed from the Croce genes -- that punchy narrative style, an openness to a host of genres and an instinct for rarely overstepping the limits of his talent -- and gradually worked out his own bluesy bar-rock formula. Truth is, A.J.'s voice -- approaching the ragged soulfulness of early Joe Cocker, one moment; spiked with a Randy Newmanesque irony, the next -- is more striking than his pop's. And Croce's keyboard runs can be as giddy as they are breathtaking. As for his material, the new Fit to Serve CD is a convincing testimony that this former whiz kid's waltzing confidently into adulthood. At 9 p.m. Friday, June 12, at Billy Blues, 6025 Richmond Avenue. Tickets $15. 266-9294. (Hobart Rowland)

Darden Smith -- When Darden Smith made his major-label debut in 1988, stardom appeared inevitable. So much for sure things. The Austin singer/songwriter's three major-label efforts all failed to connect with the masses despite unanimous critical praise, and the artist dropped out of sight. Released last fall, the independent release Deep Fantastic Blue marks an overdue return. As you might expect, it's about bouncing back after a low spell, and if anything, it proves that it's going to take more than a little adversity to put a damper on Smith's honest, easy-to-digest lyrics and deft melding of country, rock and folk. At 8:30 p.m. Thursday, June 11, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. Tickets $10. 528-5999. (Alan Sculley)

Rocket From the Crypt -- San Diego's Rocket From the Crypt have been playing an average of 200 shows a year for the last decade, so you know the band knows what to do on a stage. Even today, their matching outfits and vintage gear motivate them to carry on in a truly showmanlike fashion, while their bruising horn section and succinct Phil Spector-meets-the-Stooges sound continues to inspire fans to tattoo their bodies with the group's distinctive rocket-ship logo. By the way, that tattoo gets you into any Crypt show free of charge. On Friday, June 12, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak. Doors 8:30 p.m. Tickets $12. 862-7530. (David Simutis)

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey
Hobart Rowland
Alan Sculley
David Simutis