Born Shawntae Harris, the native Joliet, Illinois, rapper-actress began her, now, storied career in rhyme way back in the early nineties, 1991 to be exact. Long story short, after being crowned victor of a local contest sponsored by Yo! MTV Raps, and as part of the competition’s prize pack, Harris was soon introduced to teen duo Kriss Kross, who later brought the, then, young ingénue to their label owner/producer, Jermaine Dupri. Shortly thereafter, JD, who christened the budding femcee his “female Snoop Doggy Dogg,” offered Shawntae, now known as Da Brat, a coveted spot on the roster of his, then, fledgling So So Def imprint. The, now, legendary artist would eventually go on to unleash her debut solo album, Funkdafied, in the summer of ’94, which ultimately sold over one million copies, making her the first female solo rap act to receive a platinum certification, and the second overall female rap act (solo or group) after Salt-N-Pepa. Da Brat has since received two Grammy Award nominations…
Now, it’s been well over thirteen long years since your last studio collection, ‘Limelite, Luv & Niteclubz,’ and more than five removed from your incarceration stay — With that being said, where have you been? And, what exactly have you been up to, both personally and professionally speaking, during this lengthy musical hiatus?
I’ve been very busy working; particularly over these past 3 years. I am working radio, TV and still doing my music.
However, you did manage to land a co-hosting gig for the Rickey Smiley Morning show back in July 2015 — How did this venture even come about?
The station had been calling on me to sit in for one or more of the regular personalities whenever they were out. Apparently, they liked the way I carried myself on the show and felt that I could bring that same refreshing energy everyday. In April of 2015, I was offered a permanent position.
Why then did you opt to take so much time off between music projects?
Never took any time off. I have continued to write for different artists, and work with Jermaine Dupri whenever he needed me.
Thankfully, you’re back to making music again, this time alongside your mentor/producer Jermaine Dupri — What actually prompted your decision to record a joint opus versus another solo album?
JD is a musical genius, so I follow his lead on the business.
You titled this forthcoming collaborative mix-tape, ‘Business As Usual’ — Although pretty self-explanatory, still tell me, conceptually, what does that name represent both to and for you?
Quite simply, “music is what I do…”
You all already dropped a succession of tracks; i.e. “Big Brother x Lil Sister,” “Alessandro Michele,” “F U Pay Me” and the title track featuring Jadakiss — So when will we, the masses, get the full project?
We have a total of 7 joints right now, and the rest will come soon. Again, I follow JD’s lead on my recording projects.
How does Business As Usual either differ and/or compare to previous Da Brat efforts?
I have a lot more of life’s experiences to reflect on and talk about in my music.
Longevity, what do you attribute yours to?
Always staying fresh and not dating myself. Just making sure I stay “relevant.”
With that being said, how has not only the industry itself, but even more-so you, either changed and/or evolved since your whole inception into music?
I always keep it 100…so I don’t feel that I’ve changed.
On a more serious note, are you happy with the current state of Hip Hop? And, even more specifically, women in rap, or the lack thereof?
I definitely think the females could be represented a lot better.
Do you have any other outside/additional aspirations, maybe even completely away from music?
I will always be inspired by music.
I know acting was once of great interest to you, so is the small/big screen still on your radar?
Absolutely! I’m not turning any opportunities down.
What has been your greatest achievement(s) so far?
First female rapper to go platinum.
If you could collaborate with any one artist, living or dead, who would it be and why?
Michael Jackson…he’s my alter-ego.
If you could play any venue in the world, which one would you choose and why?
No particular one that I haven’t played comes to mind.
One track of yours that you think defines you and why?
Too many to narrow my hits down to one.
Is there anything I left out, or just plain forgot to mention?
Any “parting” words?
Follow me on Instagram and Twitter: @sosobrat…