Manhattan's SIR studio was almost like something out of Superfriend nemesis Bizzaro's world at times on Tuesday night — things were seemingly going in reverse. Arista was holding a showcase for the newest member of So So Def, a 380-pound Atlanta MC named Bone Crusher.
A little after host Jermaine Dupri announced him, Bone was actually encouraging people to call him a "fat muthaf---er" and refused to come onstage before the crowd did so.
Then, as people were filing out of the building following the performance, the music industry's most sought-after producer, Pharell Williams of the Neptunes, was actually selling himself and his latest project as he solicited one of Bone Crusher's labelmates to drop some verses on a song.
"JD, I wanna get your girl to get on this track with Ludacris, but I don't know if she's feeling me," Williams said to Dupri before leaving. The girl in question was Jermaine's longtime compatriot, Da Brat. Maybe Pharell was anxious to acquire the fiery MC's services because we haven't heard much from her in the last few years.
"I've just been working hard," said Da Brat, who dropped her last LP, Unrestricted, in 2000. "Even though you ain't been seeing me, I've been getting money on the low. I have my own little label and I have artists. Me and Mariah [Carey] have a group coming out called Baby Girl, [and] it's two girls. I've been doing a whole lot of stuff."
But Da Brat's main focus these days is knocking out her fourth LP, Limelite, Luv and Niteclubz, with her producer and label CEO, JD.
"When I was writing it, I was thinking, 'What could all the titles on the album sum up to in one word?' " Da Brat said, explaining her album title.
As it turns out, the answer is nothing. She just wanted to come up with a title that reflected her life.
"I'm forever in the 'limelight' being Da Brat, being an entertainer, being a star," she said. "Then 'love' — my love and relationships fall under that category. [For 'nightclubs,'] I'm forever in a nightclub somewhere, just chillin' or [getting into] a fight. There's always an after-party after a concert. You have to go. So that's my life."
To introduce her new project, the Chi-Town heroine chose to talk about relationships first with "In Love Wit Chu," which is produced by the LP's only other producer, L.T. Hutton.
"I was just in the studio with my homeboy L.T. [and] the words [I was rapping] were so silly, I ended up talking about some love stuff," Da Brat recalled. She wrote the song in 2001, a time when she was in love in real life. "Then I start singing, 'Ooh, I'm in love, I'm in love, I'm in love with you.' It's just about fun and being in love with somebody. Love don't always hurt."
Brat said her new record is going to mostly be lighthearted, but she will be kicking some hard lyrics as well.
"It's wartime, but I'm trying to keep it fun," she said. "I ain't trying to kill nobody or hurt nobody. I have a lot to say, and I've had a minute to think about it. I got a song with Cee-Lo called 'Chuch'. That's a saying in Chicago made famous by the pimps and playas. Don Juan, Pretty Kenny, Pretty Tony — they went to school with my mom and my auntie and them. That song is from them and dedicated to them. It's basically saying if you fly, you're sharp, you're smoking, you've got your sh-- together, [then] you 'chuch.'
"I have a song with Mariah called 'Can't Let Go,' " she continued. "It's an automatic hit. It describes how I can't let go of the industry, I can't let go of the game. I'm always gonna be here."
The fast-mouthed MC also believes that as long she's in the game, she'll get the support from her fans, regardless of how long it takes for her to put out new material.
"I never worry about coming out," she said. "I know every time I come out, I'm'a blow n---as out the water. I put my all into whatever project I do."
Da Brat's busy schedule has kept her out her hometown as of late, but she said, like the rest of the country, she was devastated to hear about the tragedy at Windy City club E2 in February (see "Coalition To Throw Benefit Concert For Families Of Chicago Club Tragedy Victims").
"The owner of that club, [Calvin Hollins Jr.,] that's like my godfather," she said somberly. "I used to go to that club all the time. I feel real bad about what happened. I haven't been back to Chicago, but as soon as I go back, I plan on doing whatever I can do. Calvin knows whatever he needs, I got him."
Da Brat goes in front of the camera to film "In Love Wit Chu's" video in two weeks. "They're rushing me," she said. "It'll be two weeks fo' sho'. " Her album is slated to drop July 29.