Ra SHAWN-DA-PROFESSOR

Ra SHAWN-DA-PROFESSOR

Monday, November 23, 2009

ORIGINAL OAKTOWN BABE AND LEGEND SPEAKS

Twenty years ago, Rap legend MC Hammer burst onto the music scene with his rap and dancing style as well as introduced the world to Oaktown’s 357, his original background dancers, and the original artists signed to his record label Bust-It. The group consisting of Tabitha “Terrible T” Brace, Djuana “Sweet LD” and Little P who left, had scored with their debut album “Wild & Loose” which featured the classics “Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,” “357 Straight At You” and the remix of “Juicy Gotcha Crazy” with label mate B. Angie B. The duo released their follow up “Fully Loaded” and the single “It’s Not Your Money” which was on heavy rotation on BET’s Video Vibrations, Rap City and on the popular cable shows The Box. Sadly due to lack of promotion, the duo was dropped from Capitol, while Hammer continued to score hits, and the duo disbanded on friendly terms. Since You Tube has been in effect, many fans are still watching their classic videos and comments and asking what the famous Oaktown babes have been up to. I had the blessing to interview member Sweet LD, via telephone, and found the mother of three to be very cool, mellow and fun. She’s relocated to Texas, got married and spending time raising her two young sons. We spoke about her career, what happened with the group, the reasons why they didn’t achieve the success they deserved and learning the impact the group had on music culture.

SUPREMEWRITER: WHAT WAS IT LIKE FILMING YOUR FIRST VIDEO?
SWEET LD: It was cool and a lot of fun, but like I said, it was your first time. You have a lot of pressure on you to tape and get it right and they (the director) gets everything. If you off looking in the corner or anything, it’s like that.

SUPREMEWRITER: I REMEMBER SEEING YOU PERFORM ON THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW. WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING ON ARSENIO?
SWEET LD: That was over the top. Can you imagine you’re a person who graduated high school and never got home to figure out what you’re gonna do, and the next day, you’re ending up on Arsenio Hall. Come on now (laughs). I can’t even believe it as I was telling people that was what we’re gonna do. We were nervous. Crazy nervous. Crazy nervous, but we rehearsed like crazy. Decided we was going to go out there and have some fun. I think we did OK. I look at the tape. I look at it all the time on You Tube and I think we did OK (laughs). It was awesome.

SUPREMEWRITER: WHOSE IDEA WAS IT FOR YALL TO BECOME A RAP GROUP?
SWEET LD: It was Hammer’s idea, but at the same time, Little P. was interested in rapping. She actually was, so we all kind of contributed to the songs. Just messing around. He had the idea in his mind to come up with a female group and it kinda rolled into a group and the mixture of her writing, being interested in rap. He had auditioned some other girls and it didn’t seem to work out. Even though P her name was Phyllis and I don’t have contact with her right now, but that was her interest and Tab and I were interested in dancing; didn’t realize we would be able to do anything other than that. It was kind of put together and it came out I think pretty good. Surprisingly I write and Phyllis wrote, so we were able to put those talents together and of course, Hammer writes so he wrote some of the songs as well, so we were able to do the second album and I was able to contribute more lyrically on the second album.

SUPREMEWRITER: I REMEMBER WATCHING THE YEAH, YEAH, YEAH VIDEO AND I THOUGHT YOU WAS A QUARTET AT FIRST.
SWEET LD: Right. We weren’t (laughs). Tabitha and I didn’t have a lot of input per say to say who was gonna be 357. Phyllis decided she no longer didn’t want to be involved. Hammer and his brother had seen the girls doing things and hey had it in their minds they wanted to add someone else, so whatever reason they added two and again, things didn’t work out, so they ended up leavings and we were there like it was always.

SUPREMEWRITER: THERE WAS A STORY THAT LITTLE P LEFT BECAUSE SHE WAS PREGNANT. WAS THAT TRUE?
SWEET LD: No it wasn’t that she was pregnant. There were a lot of things that was going on in the organization that people don’t know about, and part of it was the reason she had left. We had just asked her to come back and they had convinced her things would be different. When she did come back, things weren’t different, and she was done. And top of it we learned she was pregnant.

SUPREMEWRITER: MY FAVORITE SONGS ARE THE “JUICY GOTCHA CRAZY” REMIX WITH B. ANGIE B. AND IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE “IT’S NOT YOUR MONEY?”
SWEET LD: There was a person that I knew and had known for a long time who felt that (because) I was involved with the group. That whatever I had they should be included in that. One day I was returning from the grocery store, I listened to my voicemail for messages and there was a message asking for a certain amount of money for a certain reason to be deposited into their checking account.

SUPREMEWRITER: Wow! I remember those lyrics
SWEET LD: It blew me away. It’s not something that you do generically. I’m thinking to myself as a person, I’m not gonna leave my checking account over the phone because anybody can get that message. So I was blown away that the person who did that; it was like wow. Is it like that? I didn’t realize our relationship had become it’s an expectation; I don’t need to ask you it’s an assumption. I know you have it or I’m assuming you have it, and you’re gonna give it to me for that reason. I didn’t even name no one in the song because I didn’t want to hurt the person’s feelings and I don’t even to this day if that person knows who they are.

SUPREMEWRITER: AFTER YA’LL DROPPED THE SECOND ALBUM A LOT OF FANS HAVE ALWAYS WONDERED WHY YOU AND THE OTHER ARTIST LIKE B. ANGIE B. WASN’T ON THE ROAD WITH HAMMER?
SWEET LD: Well the reality of that came to me later. I thought it was because he was busy and I thought because it was his time and he didn’t want to conflict his tour and us touring. I thought that was the issue, but as the years passed, people have come out and spoken It was because he did not intend to give us that opportunity. He didn’t intend to give us the possibility of coming out and doing something else and that was stated in some of the meetings he had with Capitol Records. So and I’m telling you that because that was told to me, and if he wants to deny that that’s fine. We didn’t understand why we weren’t on tour and when we went on tour, we was told that we weren’t doing well and they took us off the tour and replaced us with TLC. Now that’s the truth. What I learned after the fact that they didn’t intend for to give us an opportunity to give us the opportunity to be larger than we were. And that was deliberate.

SUPREMEWRITER: THAT’S MESSED UP.
SWEET LD: When people ask me, this is what I tell them and they’re like really? There’s been no interviews with anybody else and everybody was like wow this is happening; they kind of left. I know that’s what I did. There was a lot of mess going on and by the time they said ‘we gotta let you guys go, we were like ‘are you serious? We’re the only other group in that entity; You have One Effect One Cause and Special Generation. You had other people coming in, but there wasn’t anybody as recognized as Hammer but 357. So you mean the only group you have that you can utilized to maybe generate some income, you’re gonna let us go? First one there. First group outside of Hammer.

SUPREMEWRITER: WHEN YOU AND TAB DECIDED TO DISBAND, YOU AND TABITHA ENDED ON A FRIENDLY NOTE AM I CORRECT?
SWEET LD: Yeah. We did. I think it’s like you’re dating somebody and that person says I don’t wanna see you anymore, so what’s in your heart and mind is feeling at that time, that’s where we were cause it was like after everything we’ve been through with you guys, this is how you treat us. She and I never had an issue. It was that there was not really that day communicated between the two of us to say what are we gonna do? She got in her car and I got in my car. She drove off. I drove off and that was it. When we say each other it was interesting. She didn’t hate me. I didn’t hate her. We just (really) had to get away from the situation to get ourselves together. But she’s good. She’s married with two boys living in Arizona.

SUPREMEWRITER: I UNDERSTAND YOU HAD WENT TO SCHOOL. WHAT DID YOU MAJOR IN?
SWEET LD: Actually I went to cosmetology school and got my license. I’m still haven’t decided what I want to get my P.H.D. in so I’m working on that.

SUPREMEWRITER: WHAT PROMPTED YOU TO LEAVE OAKLAND AND MOVE TO TEXAS?
SWEET LD: Family concerns. I had a grandmother who was ill and my mom needed to come out here and look after her dad; my step grandmother and my mom’s mom was getting up there in age, so we all just decided to move up here and help them, so when I got here, I met my husband.

SUPREMEWRITER: WHAT WAS IT LIKE GROWING UP IN OAKLAND? I HEAR THAT THE CITY HAS A STRONG CONSCIOUS VIBE.
SWEET LD: For me, it was cool. When I think back on it, it was awesome because I was around music at a young age. Even in Houston Texas, so when we moved to Oakland, none of it changed. We met people in the business. My cousin Patrice was in Grand Central Station, so I was around them a lot. I was going to the studio and we always had people in the house having some type of music playing, but you that feel that they were involved in whatever the current issue was. Whether it was politics or power to the people, whatever was going on. It’s an earthy down to earth place. You have every kind of person there. I’m not talking about the places where you have shoot’em ups. That’s another situation. All places have those issues. I kinda feel like on a different vice because of the code when you have people who have a sense of themselves and their history. I like it still. Oakland was really good for me.

SUPREMEWRITER: DEPSITE THE MISTREATMENT, HOW DO YOU FEEL 357 MADE AN IMPACT ON MUSIC HISTORY?
SWEET LD: Ra Shawn, to be honest, I’m kinda just starting that now and that’s the truth. We were never allowed to experience what effects we had. We were never talked to like that. We were treated like employees on a job and this is what you do. Tabitha and I were capable of handling ourselves well in those situations. Whether it was doing performances and doing interviews. None of that stuff would have gone on, if we didn’t have the capability to do it, but even with that being done, we were never talked to say wow you guys just pushed this. I’m just learning this. My son is in the business and people be coming up to him saying ‘your mother’s a Hip-Hop legend and I’m like are you serious? He’s like yeah! You don’t know? We didn’t have the exposure. So now that I’m getting a clue I think it’s awesome that people recognize us and enjoy us and wanna know where we are and how we’re doing? Those kinds of things make you fee like you wasn’t there because someone told you you don’t have anything, but I’m gonna give you what you need and I want you to perform like this. Now we’re viable and so the make it a whole more worth while. I don’t have to be ashamed anymore.

SUPREMEWRITER: HAVE YOU AND TABITHA EVER TALKED ABOUT DOING SOME REUNION DATES?
SWEET LD: We have discussed it, but we didn’t know how it would be received. You know that I’m saying. And that’s only been recently and that’s because we discussed it recently and I think it’s that’s because I’m getting a better picture of some things we need to work on. I’m interested. She’s interested. We just kinda get our old selves out together (both laugh). I’m not old. Just better. She’s excited about it. We’ll see.

SUPREMEWRITER: THERE WILL BE MANY FANS INTERESTED. I WAS AT ONE OF MY BEST FRIEND’S HOUSE WATCHING SOME OF YOUR VIDEOS AND WE WERE SAYING HOW YOU WAS THE WEST COAST VERSION OF SALT-N-PEPA AND HOW YOU CAME CLOSE TO GIVING THEM A RUN FOR THEIR MONEY.
SWEET LD: That was the other thing. Hammer said he wanted. On one hand, Hammer said he wanted an answer to Salt-N-Pepa. I can’t say that that was his only intentions. You see what I’m saying? We were different. The sound was different. The dancing was different. They way we rapped was different. I think Salt-N-Pepa had more emphasis on their lyrics and that the time they were da bomb. Basically and we (I would say) were new jacks, but still are delivery was very good because we had different exposure to the performing aspect of it as background dancers. There was a difference but we didn’t realize we were probably giving them a run for their money. I’m gonna say I didn’t know.

SUPRMEWRITER: WOW. I’M JUST SO OVERWHELMED AT THIS INTERVIEW AND LEARNING HOW HAMMER DIDN’T GIVE YA’LL THE OPPORTUNITY TO GROW AS ARTISTS.

SWEET LD. This is how it’s gonna be twisted though. It’s gonna be twisted to say I have them the opportunity. I did took them from somewhere to where they wouldn’t have been exposed to Arsenio Hall, or The Apollo. I gave them the opportunity to dance behind me. I gave them this. I gave them that. You see what I’m saying? But somebody told me the other day four months ago I have made a comment ‘I really appreciate what Hammer did for me because I had the opportunity to tour. I had the opportunity to travel. To meet people. I had the opportunity to perform when I didn’t realize I would have loved it as much as I did. I’m so happy he gave me the opportunity and the person turned it around and said ‘yeah, but what about what you did for him? What have you contributed?’ When that person said that it made it think ‘I’m a whole individual in myself.’ Everybody has been blessed with gifts and whether we realize it or not, you have a gift so when somebody puts you in a situation that allows you to

1. Expose the gift
2. Go wow. That’s what it is.
3. And say ‘Oh OK” in this capacity I can do this and take it on all these levels you meet the challenge and you take it on and it’s successful and it’s still received. That’s not just that person who gave you the opportunity. That’s also you. The situation was put in both of your lives to bring you together. That’s God. In that situation, we were both blessed to be able to do what we loved, but in spite of what we were doing, who we were about, he stifled our growth. Period.

SUPREMEWRITER: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEBODY WANTING TO ENTER THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
SWEET LD: I will tell them to know the business. Don’t compromise yourself. You wanna have the cars. You wanna have the outfits. You have to know that contract and know those people you’re working with.

3 comments:

Donald Peebles said...

I am so happy Sweet D finally gave you an opportunity to interview her almost a decade after being a part of the duo Oaktown 3.5.7. I knew she was going to. I truly and truly enjoyed the interview. It was refreshing to read about a former superstar not feeling bitter and evil towards MC Hammer. I am happy she embraces Islam under her new Arabic name of Suhayla Sabir. Good job, Ra Shawn!

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