In 1997, Lil' Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliot, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes and Angie Martinez recorded “Not Tonight (Ladies Night Remix),” which became a platinum hit. The video was the epitome of unity and camaraderie between women in hip-hop and R&B. What makes it even more special is that 17 years later, a strong bond between the women still exists. During the 2014 Soul Train Awards, Lil' Kim, Da Brat, Missy Elliott and Total reunited on stage to perform the track, which had became a “ladies” anthem. We spoke with Da Brat and Missy Elliott about the exciting performance, recording the track, working with Lopes and being in the music industry for over two decades.
EBONY: What was it like reuniting on stage for the performance at the 2014 Soul Train Music Awards?
Da Brat: It was amazing. I hadn’t performed that song with them since the MTV Awards. It was just a great feeling. It was great to be reunited with them. They’re legends, along with myself. So I appreciated the opportunity to be back on stage. The crowd went crazy. It was everything.
Missy Elliot: It was a beautiful moment performing with my sisters Kim and Brat because it took me back to the time we did the video and we had so much fun!
EBONY: The other person missing from the performance besides Left Eye is Angie Martinez. Do you know why she wasn't involved?
DB: No, I’m not sure why she wasn’t a part of the performance. I just knew when I spoke to Missy, she told me that they want me, you and Kim to do Soul Train and do you want to do it. I said yes. I didn’t know anything about Angie not doing it, but when I found out she wasn’t, I didn’t question anybody. I just figured they probably had their own reason. But I love Angie.
ME: I don't know why Angie couldn't make it, but of course we missed her being there too.
EBONY: What was it like in the studio while recording the track?
DB: When we recorded the track we weren’t all together. [Lance] Un Rivera , the president of the label Undeas. It was his idea, I believe and he called everybody up. He had a relationship with Left Eye and I. We all started calling each other. I believe Missy called Mary [Mary J. Blige] and I called Total. Everybody just started calling their friends. It became a great song and a great video. As far as the video, that’s when we all got together. We actually recorded it in separate studios. I recorded mine in Atlanta. Missy recorded hers in Virginia, I believe and Kim recorded her part in New York. Left Eye recorded hers in Atlanta as well.
ME: When Undeas, who was Kim’s manager asked me to do a hook on the record I was like,” Okay.” I went in the studio and said instead of doing a rap hook, I'm going to flip it and sing the hook and flip the original Kool & the Gang hook. I was scared because I said, “I can't hit notes like Patti Labelle. So when they hear it, they may clown me.” But they loved it. Then the track was so hot that I said I'm gonna sneak in a verse at the end. Maybe they won't notice but they kept it. It was fun!
EBONY: The video had cameos from everyone such as Queen Latifah, Mary. J. Blige, Xscape, Blaque and more. What was it like on that set?
DB: When we did the video. It was like a big reunion. It was so much unity. We had a ball. It lasted almost all day and all night, but it was amazing. You don’t get that these days. It’s sad because we don’t have Left Eye and Natina from Blaque anymore. Maia Campbell was in the video and she’s been through her own struggles. So it’s amazing to be reunited with some of those people and to see that they’re okay. And rest in peace to Left Eye because she was part of the reason that this video and song did as well as it did.
EBONY: What was it like working with Left Eye?
DB: I didn’t actually get to work with her on a one on one basis, but I knew her and she was a great person. She was fun. T-Boz and I are super close, closer than Left Eye and I were, but I always looked up to her. When TLC came out with “Ain’t 2 Proud To Beg,” I wasn’t signed yet and I wanted to be like TLC so bad. It was a coincidence that I ended up signing with Jermaine Dupri. TLC was his group at first. I’m just very honored to even have been able to be around her.
ME: Left Eye is a a rare gem. She brought a new energy to the track because we always heard her kill it on TLC records. After she laid her verse, I said,”Dang. She kilt that! She held it down solo!”
EBONY: Outside of music, you all are friends. What does it feel like to create legendary and influential records together?
DB: It’s great. I’ve always been cool with Kim and Missy. The fact that “Ladies Night” became such a huge success, it’s nothing but amazing. We can call each other and say, “Yo, let’s go do this record or we’re doing MTV. Who are you going to have styling you?” It’s cool to be friends with people and not just collaborating with strangers. It’s better when you’re friends because then you can bounce ideas off each other and be creative and constructive. Nobody’s offended because they already know how you are.
ME: True friendship is very important to me and I cherish these women because I'm a fan of both of them. We are more like family. Through all of these years we have kept in touch with each other and been there for one another. That's hard to come by in this business. The love between us is genuine. It means so much for us to have a classic record that has been around for over 16 years and very strong women coming together on one track is epic. Even all these years later, we can perform it with just as much energy as we had when we first recorded over a decade ago.
EBONY: What does Soul Train and Don Cornelius’ legacy mean to you?
DB: Aww man! Don Cornelius was the reason that America and the world got to see what soul was. He was cool as a fan, real laid back, calm and suave. Every time I would talk to him, he would say, “Brat, you’re staying out of trouble right?” I grew up in Chicago. So that was the main thing that was on in my house. I remember being little and my mom and them would sit around and wait for Soul Train to come on. I was honored to be on that show, when I got older. I was on there with Kris Kross for the first time. We did the song “Da Bomb.” That was the song that I debuted myself to the world with. I did my own songs on there a couple times and it was great. Without Don Cornelius’ vision for Soul Train, there would be no other rap video outlet because he paved the way. You have to give tribute to those who paved the way for you. I will always pay homage to him for all the things that he has done for the world and music.
ME: Soul Train means so much to me. I still go on YouTube and watch the old performances and the Soul Train lines. I'm still amazed by how much soul and funk the music and dancers had. Don Cornelius was a genius. He created a show where he was breaking artists’ songs. If you were on his show, he made the consumer want to go out and purchase your music. He will be greatly missed. If they ever try to recreate what he did, it has to been done right, authentic and real with soul! That's what Don displayed.
EBONY: You two also collaborated on other tracks together such as “Sock It 2 Me” and “Stickin’ Chicken” with Aaliyah. What is your chemistry like?
DB: Missy’s chemistry is crazy. She and I are like the best of friends. I was just at her house the other day and we recorded some new stuff together. She’s a genius in my eyes. She’s amazing. Her thought process is far beyond what people could even imagine. I love being around her. She’s a great person and a great spirit. I love being around people that you can learn from and bounce creative ideas off of. That’s very important when you’re trying to create a hit.
ME: Da Brat and I’s chemistry has always been fun. First we get in the studio and joke for about two hours and if I play a record she immediately grabs a pen and pad. After 20 minutes, she’s like, “I'm going in the booth!” Then she done and it's fire!
EBONY: You both have been in the game for over two decades. How have you evolved personally and artistically?
DB: Personally, I’m more mature. You go through things in life. You live and you learn and try not to make the same mistakes. Musically, my ears are more sharp. I know what I like and what I don’t like. I’ve never been one to bite my tongue. I know the business more and more about the world, how people are and how you have to go into many different situations. I’m a 100 times better than the person I was before. You just have a better way of understanding things when you’re more mature.
ME: After being in the game over 20 years, of course things changed. I'm still the same crazy and fun Missy but I'm more conscious of what I say now because I'm wiser and more mature. Artistically, things changed too because I find myself being more critical of my work because I know the expectations are high but musically I'm testing different sounds.
EBONY: What’s your key to longevity?
DB: The key to having longevity is to pay attention to what’s going on in music today and what’s going on in the world. Be open to constructive criticism because times change and things change. And change is good.
ME: The key to my longevity has been to just be me. To be like no one. To be original and authentic.Create timeless music, not just music for the moment but music that will out last me.
Glennisha Morgan is a multimedia journalist, writer, photographer and filmmaker. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan or at www.GlennishaMorgan.com.