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(Soundbite of music)

FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

I'm Farai Chideya and this is NEWS & NOTES.

In the early '90s, you could hardly turn on the radio without hearing Da Brat. Remember that hot, cocky style that few women could step to at the time.

(Soundbite of song, "Fa All Y'all")

DA BRAT aka SHAWNTAE HARRIS (Rapper): (Rapping) As I sling my funk like a voodoo moose move through hood. All fa y'all because everything is good. Now, lay back listen to the phattest.

CHIDEYA: In 1992, Shawntae Harris walked on stage, just another battle rapper in just another amateur contest. But she did more than walk off the first place, she impressed record producer Jermaine Dupri. He liked the teenager's style and signed her to his label, So So Def. From there, Shawntae aka Da Brat, launched her first album, "Funkdafied." The title track topped the rap charts for months.

DA BRAT: Jermaine Dupri told me, you know, don't expect to go platinum. Girls don't really, you know, go that far. But if you go gold, be very happy.

CHIDEYA: Da Brat was the first female rapper to ever go platinum. But no matter how cocky she may have been, success took her by surprise.

DA BRAT: When I went platinum, you know, I had no idea that it was going to go platinum and I would have been happy if it went double glass.

(Soundbite of laughter)

DA BRAT: I was just happy to be doing music.

CHIDEYA: In those days, you'd see Da Brat in baggy jeans and oversized T-shirts and baseball caps - a gangsta image that was about covering up her body. But she gradually began incorporating sexuality into her self-expression. In 2000, her album "Unrestricted" featured a buxom brat, almost popping out of a skintight cat suit. That album, by the way, also went platinum.

But in recent years, her body has garnered attention for a different reason. She's parlayed a tough weight problem into a spot on VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club" with trainer Sergeant Harvey Walden. Living up to her reputation, she's still setting records even if they're not the most flattering.

(Soundbite of VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club")

Unidentified Man #1: And even though she claimed not to care what Harvey thought, Brat took pains to impress him. And those pains took their toll.

(Soundbite of coughing)

Unidentified Woman: Brat, are you going to throw up?

Sergeant HARVEY WALDEN (Host, "Celebrity Fit Club"): Da Brat, you have a little malfunction over there?

Unidentified Man #2: No one has ever puked on "Fit Club" before.

Unidentified Man #3: That's the first.

CHIDEYA: I talked to Da Brat about eating issues, image issues and what she's been doing lately on the other side of the mic.

DA BRAT: I just describe music as my point of view with a little edge to it. As you can see from watching any of the reality shows that I've done, I'm not one to bite my tongue so.

CHIDEYA: Well, you did mention - you know, on this show, you call - you have called out everybody including your own manager.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Do you ever say to yourself, you know what, I'm going to turn over a new leaf. I'm not going to be challenging to anyone today. I'm just going to find my inner peace and we'll just, you know, we'll all play nicely in the sandbox or not.

(Soundbite of VH1's "Celebrity Fit Club")

DA BRAT: (Bleep) you are, (bleep) you are fit can. (bleep) you don't get me (bleep). What if (bleep).

Unidentified Man#4: We're out of here.

DA BRAT: Well, I think if somebody says something that I don't agree with, I don't think that I should bite my tongue. I don't think anyone should bite their tongue. And if I have said over and over I don't like something and it's constantly being done or I'm being disrespected, then you've got hell to pay.

CHIDEYA: How did you feel about the whole man versus woman angle of "Celebrity Fit Club"? Did that encourage you? Did it not matter to you like that this was a gender-based competition?

DA BRAT: Well, it didn't matter to me because I knew that they will keep it fair. Like when we did the kayak thing, we had, like, a head start and that made it fair because the men have more strength. So a lot of things that we did - that's why this time on the show it was by percentages instead of body weight because it was men versus women.

CHIDEYA: So what about being a black woman from Chicago and dealing with food? Now, Chicago was the place on "Saturday Night Live." The old "Saturday Night Live" is like hamburger, hamburger - or was it cheeseburger, cheeseburger, cheeseburger. It was like that sketch with John Belushi.

DA BRAT: Right.

CHIDEYA: And there's all theses sausages and then that place that sells the cheese popcorn and the caramel corn mixed with the…

DA BRAT: Garretts. Garretts.

CHIDEYA: Right. So what about the culture of food, and do you think that you can change when you're going to be surrounded by people who are going to be eating stuff you want but you can't have?

DA BRAT: Well, you know, you have to discipline yourself. It's very hard because I grew up around all of those good foods. You know, you just got to try to discipline yourself and not overdo it and eat so much of the wrong thing so…

CHIDEYA: Also, what about partying? You know, you are in the entertainment industry and…

DA BRAT: Oh, yes.

CHIDEYA: …you're out at the club and someone passes you whatever you like to drink, and so - say I'm your - I'm throwing an event and I'm like, hey, Brat, it's so good to meet you. What can I get you? Can I get you some champagne? Can I get you - would you say, no, no, I just would like a glass of water, no ice, or would you just be like, sure, I'm going to drink?

DA BRAT: Oh, well, it depends. If I've been drinking that day, I probably won't drink at the club. If I'm at the club and I want to drink, I will have one drink. And if I'm in the club for more than two or three hours, of course, you know, one drink will wear off. So I get seltzer water with a little splash of lime to make me feel like I'm drinking as well.

CHIDEYA: What do you drink though?

DA BRAT: I drink Patron.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: Yup. That's…

DA BRAT: I drink Patron. And instead, like when I go to the clubs, and you know, I still get two bottles of Patron because I would usually roll with like 10 or 20 people to make sure everybody else has a drink. And I'll dilute mine with water to make it stretch so I still have the taste, like I'm drinking, but it's more diluted with just water.

CHIDEYA: You know what? I got to tell you, the Atkins people say that you can drink hard liquor, but most other people who have any kind of diet plan, they're like, no.

DA BRAT: Right. Right.

CHIDEYA: They're like, no. Anyway - but like I said, I do feel your pain on the whole struggle.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CHIDEYA: How much money do you make per episode for doing these shows?

DA BRAT: I think, "Surreal Life," it was $75,000.

CHIDEYA: Oh my Lord, you need to buy me a car.

DA BRAT: Yeah, and "Fit Club" is even better.

(Soundbite of show, "Celebrity Fit Club")

ANT (Host, "Celebrity Fit Club"): And while baggy clothes are part of her image, they may also have made it easier for her to neglect her weight. Oh, I said it.

DA BRAT: You're going to see (bleep). I ain't going to do nothing (bleep) feel me to do.

CHIDEYA: Do you take it seriously that the weight that you're carrying could endanger your life, if not today, down the road?

DA BRAT: Oh, yeah. I think it's very serious that if you don't take care of yourself, and you know, try to live and eat healthy, it will catch you down the line and sit you down or put you in a hospital. So I think it's good to learn good habits, and you know, learn the good things to eat to make you actually feel better. And that's what "Fit Club" has done for me.

CHIDEYA: What do you got coming up next…

DA BRAT: Well…

CHIDEYA: …whether it's a TV show or whether it's music? What are you doing?

DA BRAT: I'm actually writing a script for a movie.

CHIDEYA: Wow.

DA BRAT: I write a lot of films for people but, you know, it's not good to expose people. But, you know, a few songs that you hear on the radio, I've written those. So I'm doing very good as far as constantly, like, getting checks, and you know, making sure that the world still loves and appreciates my sound.

So even if you don't see me going on television show, you still feel me because you're singing my songs. And I'm trying to get a deal for my own label, which is called Rare Breed, R-A-R-E-B-R-E-E-D, because I feel like everybody that deal I with were a rare breed. There's only one special type of that person.

So - and I feel like, you know, I'm great at artist development because I've learned all the ropes. So I'm trying to help people like Jermaine Dupri helped me. So I kind of have my hands full. I'm also working on trying to get my own television show because a lot of people are, like, you should have your own show. You should have your own show.

CHIDEYA: Well, Da Brat, thanks so much.

DA BRAT: Well, thank you so much and I hope you have a good day. And try to stick to that diet.

CHIDEYA: You know, I'm back on the wagon.

DA BRAT: (Unintelligible)

CHIDEYA: I had - I just had a salad for lunch.

DA BRAT: Well, that's good.

CHIDEYA: You know, and I didn't eat the croutons.

DA BRAT: (Unintelligible) you get some cardio in.

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