Think back to 20 years ago.
Were you still in middle school? Watching Martin? Falling in love for the first time? Going to see Menace II Society on a first date? Whatever it was, you were probably doing it with the music of So So Def blaring in the background.
With the release of Xscape's Hummin' Comin' at 'Cha in 1993, So So Def quickly established itself as a hip-hop and R&B powerhouse. The music from the four girls from Atlanta's east side was powerful because it was rhythmic over hip-hop beats. A sound that would soon become synonymous with Jermaine Dupri. With "Just Kickin' It," So So Def had a hit record, a hit group, and soon became a hit factory. Jagged Edge, Dem Franchise Boyz, and most notably, Bow Wow-So So Def's biggest selling artist- all became a part of the label's legacy. Kris Kross, hip-hop's first junior act, was actually signed to Ruffhouse but production of their 1992 debut was handled entirely by Dupri. By signing younger artists, So So Def became the sound of a generation by making music specifically for that generation.
So So Def has been instrumental in establishing Atlanta as a powerhouse in urban entertainment, a position the city has yet to relinquish. Known for his community service efforts, signing of Atlanta natives, and outlandish parties; even the Mayor of Atlanta refers to J.D. as "Da Mayor." This weekend, Jermaine Dupri and friends will celebrate the 20th Anniversary of So So Def with a power-packed weekend of events culminating with an anniversary concert at The Fox Theatre.
In 1994, So So Def introduced the world's first platinum-selling female emcee, Da Brat, whose 1994 debut Funkdafied was a phenomenal success and would change the face and look of hip-hop music forever. Brat went on to become an icon for female rappers, her tomboyish style coupled with smoldering sexuality made her a hit with men and women. Brat was not only a great rapper, but she was the pen behind numerous So So Def artists, writing hits for Kris Kross and Bow Wow.
With four albums under her belt, Brat also contributed some amazing features on classics like "Ladies Night (Not Tonight)", Mariah's "Heartbreaker," and Destiny's Child "Jumpin' Jumpin' (Remix)." Brat also acted in several movie projects and participated as a contestant on Celebrity Fit Club. Recent years found Da Brat embroiled in legal battles including her 21-month prison term for aggravated assault of a nightclub hostess. Released in 2010, Brat has slowly but surely returned to the music scene releasing songs on social media where she briefly experienced a mild attack from Nicki Minaj during her highly-publicized dispute with Brat's friend, Mariah Carey, only to quickly earn Minaj's apologies for slighting the legendary spitter.
While some aspects of the music industry have changed in the last 20 years, Da Brat has not, not much at least. She is still a sharp as a tack. Still a lyrical monster. Still representing ATL by way of CHI. Still loyal to So So Def. Brat will be one of the headliners at this weekend's celebration concert and took time to talk to AllHipHop.com about So So Def and why this anniversary is important to all of us.
AllHipHop.com: What was like when J.D. put that call in, like, I'm gon' do this show?
Da Brat: Well, you know we just did the Celebration record? And that's when he told me. He always has a So So Def weekend, but he was like, 'I'm gon' do this show with everybody.' I said, 'Are you gon' be able to get everybody?' He was like, 'Yeah.' I thought it was a great idea. I don't think anybody in the history of music has been able to pull that off 20 years later. [Editors Note: Motown Records did celebrate with a star-studded Motown 25.]
It seems like the excitement and the feedback has been great too. How does it feel to see that?
Well, it feels great. I feel like the people that loved me from the beginning, still love me. If you a Brat fan, you a Brat fan. Same thing with So So Def, if you a So So Def fan, no matter J.D. do or what anybody from So So Def do, you gon' be down with it. That's what's so great about our fans, our following, they stay down no matter what we going through.
That's very true, I have a friend in Virginia and she's driving up for the weekend.
[Laughs] I got people driving in, flying in from Chicago. People are really excited. Major Kris Kross fans that were kids wearing their pants backwards... they get real excited to come see them. You don't get to see that. You probably won't get to see Another Bad Creation come together with Michael Bivins...well, they might do it now that we done did it. We tend to be the first to do stuff, you know what I'm sayin'? I think it's gonna be epic. I think it's gonna be great.
Can you think back to one of your favorite memories? In the early days of So So Def?
That's a hard one. When I first came to Atlanta and J.D. came to pick me up from the first time. He came to pick me up and getting in a convertible all white BMW convertible for the first time, made my mouth drop. Then, we went to his house and his house was like... Neverland. (Laughter) Big movie screens, TV's, big studio, me being from the West side of Chicago, I had never seen nothing like that. Aw, man... It's so many great memories. It's too many to just pinpoint just one. Like the time I did "Give it to You," all those cameos in my video. Them folks didn't know me, they knew So So Def. They knew J.D., he was able to make all those calls, I mean, they knew "Funkdafied," which blew up for me and then everybody wanted to come and participate. It was cool as hell. I had Diddy, I had Biggie, I had T-Boz, I had Mary. Keith Murray. Some of everybody.
That video changed my life.
It was the first video to have that many cameos ever. Then Biggie came with the "One More Chance" video, and I was in that. So, it's just a blessing, man.
I have to take advantage of this opportunity to say, growing up and seeing y'all doing your thing, really inspired me. It inspired me to want to work in this business, and now being able to write for this site, a lot of that comes from being able to grow up and see people that were around my age on TV doing what I wanted to do. So, I thank y'all for that, I thank So So Def for that.
Aw, man. That's so cool. You're welcome and thank you. Thank you for loving it, and listening to it, and being a part of it. For reporting it, and promoting it. I appreciate it, we all do.
Are you working on any music right now?
I'm always working. I'm always in the studio. I'm not signed to a major label right now. But, I'm doing it like everybody else, putting it out on Twitter, songs on YouTube. It might be better not to be signed right now. If I can get 200,000 followers on Twitter, which I'm building up because I haven't been on there that much. If I can get half of them to buy my record on iTunes, that's a $100,000 for my pocket. I'll take that. As you get older and more mature, you see the other side of things. Instead of giving the record company half of that, and then they recouping limos and hotels, you end up with nothing. You live and you learn.
Is it exciting or is it a little intimidating?
I love it. I love the challenge. I love to put in the work. I love it.
The So So Def 20th Anniversary All-Star Concert will take place on Saturday, February 23rd at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta. The show will feature perfomances by Jermaine Dupri, Kris Kross, Da Brat, Jagged Edge, Xscape, Bow Wow, Anthony Hamilton, Lil Jon, Nelly, Ludacris Dem Franchize Boyz, So So Def Bass All Stars, INOJ, Bonecrusher, J-Kwon, Dondria, and Youngbloodz. Ticket prices begin at $46 and are available at www.foxatltix.com. The So So Def 20th Anniversary compilation album will be in stores in June.
Follow Da Brat on Twitter @Only1Brat