Da Brat Biography
Last updated: 05/24/2011 12:00:00 PM
You probably remember her as the one they called the "tart-tongued rapper." With her in-your-face lyrical style and Funkdafied flow, the Chicago-bred Da Brat took the hip-hop world by storm two years ago with her debut album. In the man's man's world of rap, Da Brat became a true record-breaker money-maker: the first female solo rapper to strike platinum and the biggest-selling female solo rapper to-date. What's more, she won fame and fortune without ever shaking a rump, batting an eyelash, or employing any of the other cheap sex ploys that have become de rigueur for so many young females trying to make it in hip-hop's testosterone-filled world.
With her oversized gear and hair in kiddy braids, Da Brat was something new: A young woman with a signature style strong enough to match a personality overflowing with charisma. Brat was playful and business-like, youthful, yet self-possessed. She was something we had never seen before and now she's back and badder than ever with a more grown-up image and ANUTHATANTRUM, her phenomenal new album on So So Def/Columbia Records. No longer affecting the same childlike vibe, Miss Brat (22-year-old Shawntae Harris) is now all grown-up. Although she still flaunts the same impish attitude, this year Da Brat has emerged as a self-assured young woman. She knows what she wants and has every intention of getting it.
Flexing her muscle as the super-skilled writer of every track on her album, Da Brat is declaring herself as a hip-hop force to be reckoned with. She's a rhymer, a writer, an up-and-coming actor, and a shrewd business woman. And as if that wasn't enough, under all that Triple X denim, Brat is also a stunning beauty. Hey all y'all, meet Da new Brat.
Ask her a question about how she's changed and first she'll tell you a joke: "I'm the same ol' spoiled-rotten-ass Brat," she says and pauses. "But with an upgrade on the jewels." But then she gets serious. "When a person matures, you see it. There is a change in my attitude and the way I feel about things. It's sort of like going from a freshman to a senior. I've made it past all these levels. I've been through more things. I've learned a lot about the industry. Now, I'm trying to take niggas to a whole new level. On this album, I gave my all making sure the lyrics really had high standards. I didn't want to be saying the same things that niggas are constantly saying."
ANUTHATANTRUM is named after Da Brat's legendary episodes ("I throw shit, I break shit, and people are always asking when am I going to 'throw another tantrum,'" Brat giggles) and produced by the master of southern-fried funk, Jermaine Dupri. The album is filled with tracks which not only reflect Brat's maturing musical style but also her more demanding life. Success, fame and dealing with pressure (i.e. getting lifted) undercut every track on the album. "It's material that comes from my heart, soul and mind," says Brat. "I got shit for everybody." One track destined to blow up like a match to gasoline is the consummately funky "Sittin' On Top of the World," ANUTHATANTRUM's first single. With a loop courtesy of Rick James, and featuring Manuel Seal (who sang on Brat's 1994 single "Funkdafied") on supporting vocals, Brat sees "Sittin' On Top of the World" as the perfect "return record." "It's me bragging about myself and my success," Brat says and drops into rhyme:
Niggas 'round town talk this and that
Said I sound like the Pound and my shit was wack
Dropped the album, Funkdafied
And they thought it was bold
Thirty days later, the LP went gold
Another key rap, "My Beliefs," is a slickly produced, mid-tempo jam dripping in caramel-coated synths and assorted soulful slither. The track is introduced by Brat's slow vibing intro:
Some mothafuckas believe that I shouldn't smoke weed 'n' shit, that I shouldn't
cuss 'n' shit,' that I shouldn't do the shit I want to do. But I don't give a fuck
about what these niggas saying.
That's they beliefs, here go mine....
"My Beliefs," explains Brat, "Is about keeping focused, keeping it simple and never taking a step backward."
ANUTHATANTRUM also features some fine guest performances: Krayziebones from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony joins the funkbandit, delivering his one-of-a-kind melodic flow on "Let's All Get High." Brat laughs again, "I don't care what people say. I love to get high. I love to smoke and I love to kick it with my homies. I have to do what makes me happy and not try to please everybody else all the time."
Hip-hop genius Jermaine Dupri shows up for a duet on "Keepin' It Live." TLC's T-Boz makes a special appearance on the flavorful "Ghetto Love," and the supremely talented Trey Lorenz backs up on "Just a Little Bit More." Lorenz so impressed Brat that she has to spell out his musical skills. "He can sang, that's S-A-A-A-A-N-G!" she says.
Not one to forget where she comes from, ANUTHATANTRUM is complete with a salute to the "West Side." Don't be confused, that's Chicago's West Side Brat is talking about. "Cadillacs and Malibus, niggas on each corner selling dope, pitching pennies, shooting dice. It's the city, but niggas hang out like it's the country," Brat says, describing her hometown.
Although Brat is responsible for the lyrical content of ANUTHATANTRUM she gives full props to Dupri for delivering the smooth honey-tracks which back up her mack-mommie chat. "I don't know what be on Jermaine's mind to come up with the things he do. He's just the baddest muthafucka in production. Each day he comes with a fatter track."
Never one to sit still, while working on her album, Brat also found time to venture into the world of film. She makes her acting debut this year in Full Court Press, as Kameesha, the loyal girlfriend of the basketball playing star. Explaining her departure from rap, Brat says, "I felt like 'hey, this right here might let people see what I can do; let them see me be someone other that Da Brat.' When opportunity knocks, I'm not going to turn the other cheek."
And there's more. Da Brat also has business plans. Following in the footsteps of her "big brother" Dupri, Brat is jump starting her own production company, Thowin' Tantrums, based in Chicago and featuring Chicago acts. "That's my home town, that's my city. I want to blow Chicago up."
Da Brat started her musical career in the same place many young black artists do, under the steeple of the black church. Only Brat wasn't lost in a sea of faces belting it out in the choir.... she was keeping up the downbeat playing drums. "That's where I get my rhythm from," she explains. From there her story becomes a classic hip-hop fairy tale. In 1992, Brat got her big shot at fame by winning a local MC contest. The contest, hosted by Ed Lover of "Yo MTV Raps," featured an opportunity to meet Kris Kross in person. "At that time Kris Kross were like BAM! The shit! And I was like 'what if I can be down with them niggas for real?' and I just kinda went for it," says Brat.
Brat made two trips to Atlanta. And with the help of the two Chris-es, Brat got a chance to kick it for the man responsible for single-handedly opening up the Atlanta branch of hip-hop, Jermaine Dupri. Dupri was so impressed with Da Brat's skills that he signed her immediately. Soon after, Da Brat was making her wax debut rapping along side Mac Daddy and Daddy Mac on the title track of their highly-acclaimed sophomore LP Da Bomb. Then it was Brat's turn to shine. Side by side in the studio with Dupri, Brat turned out Funkdafied, one of the most acclaimed albums of '94.
Funkdafied blew up. The album entered the Billboard Rap Album Chart at #1, and sold more than 62,000 copies its first week in stores. Funkdafied hit the Billboard R&B chart at #2, quickly moved to #1 and debuted in the Top 200 at #14. Then, in a breakthrough no one could have predicted, "Funkdafied," the single, went platinum, making Da Brat the first female solo rap artist ever to deliver a million selling single off a debut album. On top of that, "Funkdafied" broke another record by holding down the #1 position on the Billboard Hot Rap singles chart for 11 weeks. At that point, Da Brat became the biggest-selling female solo rapper ever!
Auspicious beginnings for a star so young, but Da Brat isn't phased by the expectations people may have of her and her second release. With the same confidence that permeates every track of ANUTHATANTRUM Brat says, "if you liked the first album, you are definitely going to go crazy over this."