Da Brat, So So Def’s next official act after Xscape, was a rambunctious female MC from Chicago whose Funkdafied debut adapted Snoop Dogg’s swagger with a Southern twist to make her the first platinum selling female rapper.
Da Brat: In October of 1992, Kris Kross had a concert in Chicago and they had a part in their show where they asked if anybody could rap or sing to come on stage and win $50. My seat was kinda in the back and I was with my godsister Dawn from Atlanta. I ran on stage. I had dookie braids like Janet [Jackson] in Poetic Justice. I had them pulled up and they hung down in a little ponytail. Honey, I was ready.
So I went on stage and I rapped. I actually did this song written by R. Kelly – my first couple of songs were written by R. Kelly, so I did a rap written by him – and when I started rapping, they just went crazy. Kris Kross heard all the hoopla. And I went backstage and met Kris Kross and we exchanged numbers. They both were trying to holler at me; they were trying to see who I was going to talk to, I guess. [Laughs] They told me they were going to tell Jermaine Dupri about me, [and] they were coming back to Chicago to do the “Oprah Winfrey Show.”
Dupri: Kris Kross called me to tell me about Da Brat. Her approach to rap was different than any other female artist I had seen at that point. I was really nervous about female rappers, so there had to be something that would stick out for me. She had a thing about her that felt different from anyone who had come before.
Da Brat: I’ve always been a different kind of character. In high school, I used to wear my hair crazy; I used to wear ponytails up real high and put like 20 ponytail holders on them so it would stand real high and the hair would hang down like a fountain. I was wearing my pants backward before I knew who Kris Kross was.
Kelly: The backward clothes was something that we came up with later as a group, because we wanted to do something different. I’ve been wearing my pants backward for 20 years now. It’s something that I’ll probably do forever. I believe in sticking to your word, and if I say I’m going to do something, then I stick to it. I hate to compare it to a gang, but if you’re in a gang, once you start, you never stop. That’s the only thing I can compare it to.
Da Brat: We kept in touch and [Kris Kross] kept their word. And when I went to the “Oprah Winfrey Show,” I saw J.D. and he was like, “Yeah, Chris and Chris told me about you. Come to Atlanta.” So I’m looking at him like, I ain’t got no money to be coming to Atlanta. But I had a few friends here that had a hookup, so my same godsister Dawn worked for TWA and she got me a buddy pass and we flew down to Atlanta. She had a buddy that worked at the Marriott Marquis and I got a room down there. I called Skeeter Rock. I called him to death and Dawn called him to death as well. She was acting as my manager. Just when we were getting discouraged, he finally called back. And long story short, J.D. came to the hotel, scooped us up in this white BMW convertible.
Dupri: She figured out some way to get into my car and put a tape in there. When I got in the car I started listening to it and it was her, she had made up some rap about her being part of So So Def. It was kinda clever, like, “Damn, she went that far?” It was a whole spiel, and she’d planted it so that I had to hear it.
Da Brat: We went to his house, hung out there, played video games. It was the prettiest house I had ever seen, especially on the inside. The whole downstairs was like a huge game room. I was like, “Oh yeah, I could live like this.” He had a huge screen across the wall, movie-theater chairs, big ping-pong games and pool tables and the arcade-size video games. So, you know, I rapped for him and he liked it.
Coming from Chicago, to me, Atlanta was the music mecca even back then. I was so hungry that whatever he told me to do or whatever the topic was, I was on it so fast and we would just go back and forth. We wrote a couple of songs before we came up with “Funkdafied.” But then one day he was in the studio and he was like, “Brat, come in here.” I think I was playing NBA Live. He was sampling the Isley Brothers beat [“Between the Sheets”], and he started rapping. We had Manuel Seal, one of the producers of “Funkdafied,” he started singing – he’s from Chicago, too – and he got that old funk soul. So he started singing, [Brat hums the hook] “Oh oh oooh, oh oh oooh.” And it was kinda jammin’ and groovin’. Then J.D. started singing “so Funkdafied,” and I was like, “Heyyy!”
Then it just went from there. He started throwing out lines; I started throwing out lines. He was like, “We gon’ go back and forth.” I was like, “OK.” He would say one thing; I would say one thing. If we both agreed that it was dope, we’d keep it. And we just kept doing that till the song was finished.
Mauldin: At 19 years old, Jermaine was basically a millionaire, which is amazing, right? And I know a lot of people say, “Well, your dad was in the music business.” Really, it wasn’t that. I was a great guide for him. It definitely helped. But at the same time, I could not do it if he did not really have the talent.
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