As the first solo female MC to go platinum, Da Brat opened the door for the next generation of female rappers. Born Shawntae Harris, she was raised on the West Side of Chicago, Illinois by her city worker mother and grandmother. She shared the same father with actress LisaRaye McCoy. Da Brat found her love for music early through singing in her grandmother’s church choir. She began rapping in her teens. While she continued her love for music, the up-and-coming rapper participated in track and basketball in high school. She graduated from the Academy of Scholastic Achievement in 1992.
Following high school, Da Brat scored her big break by winning a contest sponsored by Yo! MTV Raps. Her unique style and flow captured the attention of then-up-and-coming producer Jermain Dupri. She eventually signed to his label So So Def Recordings. Her debut album, Funkdafied, was released in 1994 to immense success with its title track becoming a Too 10 Billboard hit and getting certified platinum. Her sophomore album, Anuthatantrum, followed up the first album’s success by going platinum with the hit single “Ghetto Love.”
Following the success of her first two albums, Da Brat collaborated with notable stars in pop, hip-hop, and R&B, including Mariah Carey, Missy Elliott, and Lil Kim. At the same time, the platinum-selling artist started branching into acting by appearing in the Shaquille O’Neal-led film Kazam.
After taking time from her solo career, Da Brat returned with her third album Unrestricted in 2021, which spawned the hits “That’s What I’m Looking For” and “What’chu Like.” Within the same year, she co-starred with Mariah Carey in the infamous film Glitter. The rapper appeared in the cult classic Civil Brand in 2002. She released her fourth album Limelight, Luv, and Nightclubz in 2003.
Da Brat continued making music by appearing on albums by Mariah Carey and Kelly Rowland. She appeared on the reality shows Celebrity Fit Club and Surreal Life during the same period. Her success was interrupted as she was sentenced to three years in prison for assault after striking a hostess with a bottle in a nightclub. She served 21 months in prison. In recent years, she’s appeared regularly on television on shows like Dish Nation, The Rap Game, and Growing Up Hip Hop. The rap icon even branched off into radio broadcasting by becoming a co-host on the nationally syndicated show Rickey Smiley Morning Show.
Da Brat has inspired young women to follow their dreams as a trailblazer in hip-hop music. Her legacy and influence can be heard in the rhymes of today’s hottest female rappers. Although her contributions as a trailblazer may be undermined, I will say, “Da Brat, we appreciate you for changing the rap game in major ways for future women in hip-hop.”
If you want something, you really got to go after it.