The last time we heard from Da Brat was earlier in ‘96 with a few token appearances on MC Lyte’s first SoSo Def release, Bad As I Wanna Be. Prior to that she was making history as the first solo female rapper to earn a platinum plaque with her 1994 debut album, Funkdafied, thanks largely to the Midas touch of Jermaine Dupri. 1996 would find the Chicago/Atlanta connection returning with Da Brat’s sophomore effort, Anuthatantrum.
Jermaine Dupri would be responsible for the sonics of Tantrum (with Carl So-Lowe receiving co-credits on about half of the album), which would produce two gold selling singles and the album itself would earn Da Brat a gold plaque, keeping her hot streak alive. Along with the commercial success, Tantrum received mostly favorable reviews from the critics.
Like Funkdafied, I remember the singles from Tantrum, but I never got around to thoroughly checking out the album until now…nearly three decades after its release. But now is better than never, right?
Anuthatantrum – Da Brat greets the listener with the sound of whistling wind, which I’m not sure what purpose it serves (maybe a subliminal to remind folks she’s from the windy city?). Ominous chords creep in, along with slight drums, and Da Brat gets off an overly wordy refrain and a quick but decent verse to begin the evening.
My Beliefs – JD maintains the tense mood from the previous track with more doomy instrumentation that Da Brat uses to share her beliefs, mainly that on the microphone she’s the “baddest around.” My belief is that JD provided the instrumental and let Da Brat come up with the song’s concept and write this one (and the previous song) all by herself, with decent results.
Sittin’ On Top Of The World – This was the lead single off Tantrum. JD borrows a slice of Rick James’ classic and often sampled, “Mary Jane,” flipping it into a cool head nodder, as Da Brat proceeds to talk her shit and sounds convincing doing so. This one has JD’s fingerprints all over it and has aged very well.
Let’s All Get High – Da Brat is joined by Krayzie Bone on this weed celebration joint (no pun intended) that she not only uses to get high on, but also verbally assault emcees. JD backs up the duo’s rhymes with a polished interpolation of Zapp’s “Be Alright” to create the cute backdrop that was clearly designed for commercial consumption. I’m shocked they didn’t release this as a single.
West Side Interlude – Da Brat extends the celebration from the previous track for another twelve seconds or so on this short interlude.
Just A Little Bit More – JD loops up a smooth Dionne Warwick sample to form this chilled melodic instrumental that Da Brat bombards with more boastful bars. Trey Lorenz (remember him?) stops by to sprinkle his vocals on the hook, giving the track a strong R&B feel, which I didn’t necessarily need, but it probably works better than a superficial overly wordy hook from Da Brat would have. And after several listens, I still don’t know what “a little bit more” Da Brat is in search of.
Keepin’ It Live – JD jumps from behind the boards to the mic as he and Da Brat try to recapture the magic they conjured up on “Funkdafied.” They both sound decent on the mic (it sounds like Jay-Z may have written, or at least helped pen this one; listen to Da Brat bend words like “occasion” and “liaison” during her opening verse, and later, JD’s “jig” reference, and tell me it doesn’t smell like Jigga’s pen…oh yeah, I forgot, he doesn’t write rhymes…Jigga’s mouth? Would that make him a ghost sayer?), but the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” flip for the backdrop was semi-cheesy.
Ghetto Love – This was the second single released from Tantrum. JD interpolates DeBarge’s “All This Love” to create the dark mood that T-Boz decorates by rehashing some of El’s lines from the same record with her signature raspy deadpan vocal tone. All this (no pun intended) is to set the stage for Da Brat to rap about her incarcerated boyfriend that she promises to wait for until he’s freed from the belly of the beast. Even in ‘96, years before the Da Brat came out the closet, l wasn’t buying this story of her having a love affair with a man.
Lyrical Molestation – JD builds this uncharacteristically grimy canvas around an ill loop with mystical vibes and a nasty guitar lick that Da Brat jumps all over and probably sounds the best she’s sounded all night to this point. The cherry on top of this musical treat is the presence of George Clinton, who discretely (they do give “G. Clinton” a credit in the liner notes, but unlike the rest of the guests on Tantrum, there’s no “featuring” credit for the Godfather of P-Funk, which I found odd…maybe it was a label/contractual thing.) blesses the brilliant instrumental with a dope opening and closing spoken word poem/rap, damn near stealing the show from his hostess. This is easily the best song on the album and worth the four dollars I paid for admission.
Live It Up – JD jacks Akinyele’s “Put It In Your Mouth” beat with Da Brat fully acknowledging the robbery during the song’s intro, before getting borderline disrespectful and demanding (Ak? The listener?) “Put this shit in your muthafuckin’ mouth.” Da Brat sounds decent enough, but if you’re going to rap over a jacked beat, you should probably make the bars sound spectacular.
Make It Happen – The final song of the night finds JD using the same David Snell “Crab Apple Jam” loop that Premo used for the “Nyte Time” remix for Showbiz & A.G.’s “Next Level.” JD puts juiced up drums behind it, along with a little Zapp talkbox action and an uncredited male vocalist crooning on the hook, as Da Brat shares her credentials and talks that shit once last time. This was a nice way to wrap up the album.
On “Sittin’ On Top Of The World,” Da Brat addresses the critics that said she sounded like Tha Dogg Pound on the Funkdafied album (she actually sounded like Snoop, but you get her drift), and even the mention of that comparison is a clue that it must have bothered the Chicago emcee. On Anuthatantrum, Da Brat was clearly looking to separate herself from that stigma.
Tantrum feels like there are two different objectives at work. Half of the album sounds like Jermaine Dupri was looking to build on the commercial success of Funkdafied, constructing the instrumentals around polished obvious samples to back the Da Brat’s semi-hardcore rhymes with a touch of R&B flavor on the hooks, making the music easily digestible for mass consumption. The other half sounds like JD loosened the reins, giving Da Brat the freedom to cook her own concepts, write her own rhymes and find her true voice over more traditional hip-hop beats, and the “meet in the middle” approach works fairly well. Technically, Da Brat is a quality emcee with a dope rap voice and swagger in her flow that falls somewhere in between smooth and brash. Lyrically, she gets busy on a few of the album’s tracks, but on a large chunk of Tantrum, Da Brat’s rhymes ring hollow and start to feel like Charlie Brown’s teacher’s on the mic. But when Da Brat’s bars start to lose your attention, JD does a solid job of keeping you tuned in with his production, only missing a few times during the eleven-track count.
Anuthatantrum doesn’t have any real meat on its bones but is still a moderately entertaining listen. But in a year stacked with so many great albums, Da Brat needed to throw a bigger fit to make the album more memorable.