Soapbox: Rapper Da Brat’s Glamorous “Vibe” Confuses Me

Rapper Da Brat shows off a new look in Vibe magazine’s “Summer of Celebs in Swimwear” series. The rapper, whose look usually consists of multiple ponytails or cornrows and sagging pants, has a head full of bouncy curls and wore soft makeup for the shoot. Unlike other celebrities in the series, Brat wears maxi dresses and other casual summer clothing, instead of a skimpy bikini. Vibe wouldn’t go as far as turning Brat into a sex symbol, but her new, post-incarceration look confuses me. Brat came to fame during an era of hip-hop when female rappers weren’t expected to sell their own sex appeal along with dope lyrics. She stayed true to her personal style, wearing baggy jeans, oversized tops, bandanas, and Timberland boots. She often looked more like her male peers than one of the sexy women of R&B, and that’s what I loved about her. Brat was sexually ambiguous, dressing similar to a dude yet rapping about thug loving on “That’s What I’m Looking For.” Brat was the perfect combination of the down-ass, ride-or-die chick and the sexually enlightened woman that’s trying to fulfill her natural needs.

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Her new look fills the mold of the image female rappers are supposed to portray nowadays, instead of breaking it. Now female rappers look as if they’ve spent more time on their hair and clothes than their lyrics and performance. Of course, I realize that image is everything, but Brat’s new look isn’t her image. I prefer the days when female rappers didn’t have to be so cookie-cutter. Take, for instance, “Ladies Night (Not Tonight Remix),” which featured Brat, Lil Kim, Left Eye, and others. These three entertainers represented the broad spectrum of female images that were acceptable in hip-hop in the ’90s. Lil Kim was extremely sexy and often over-exposed, Brat was thugged-out, and Left Eye was somewhere in the middle, cohesively blending her sexy and gangster clothing.

I’m surprised that Vibe, which has a set goal of “redefining hip-hop,” chose to redefine Brat with dresses and curly hair. Maybe it was just a makeover, but by definition, a makeover says your old look sucked and your new one is better. So there’s still a message the magazine is giving about women in hip-hop — be sexy and “beautiful” if you want to get noticed.

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Now, there is the possibility — and this is what I’m hoping for because the other one means less diversity amongst female rappers — that Brat wanted to convey a softer side after being released from prison. She did beat a woman in the face with a bottle, after all …

I don’t think Brat will keep her new look, but I do hope that she’s able to sell music regardless of the image she adopts. Otherwise, mainstream hip-hop will be in an even sadder state than it already is. [Vibe]