R U Down Wit' Granny Rapp?

When Shirley got older, she sure got bolder. The hip-hop nation must be aging.

The two rappers found they had a lot in common. They share a birthday -- July 25 -- a fact later used in the creation of the group's formal name: Granny Rapp & 725. And although Granny lists Tupac Shakur, Queen Latifah, and LL Cool J as her main influences, she and Kalonji found that they could offer something a little bit different to rap music -- beyond the obvious -- in the form of rap lyrics with a social conscience.

One song, which Granny rapped at Denny's -- her finger wagging in that maternal way that inspires unearned guilt -- warns against discrimination: "Not the essence or the tissue or the color of your skin/But the person to the person that's the person who's within."

In 1994 a doctor found one more issue for Granny Rapp & 725 to rap about -- a small lump in Granny's breast that would have been undetectable had she not seen her doctor for an annual mammogram. Doctors removed the malignancy and put Granny into chemotherapy. As she recovered she wrote a song about the experience and included a lesson: "Jam, jam, jam/Get your mammogram."

Granny Rapp & 725 performed the song last October, on the last day of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, on Rosie's TV show. Last week the duo performed it again at Max's Beach Place in Fort Lauderdale for "Friends of Gilda," the charitable arm of "Gilda's Club," a South Florida support group for cancer patients and survivors.

Granny, Kalonji, and Simba were dressed in army camouflage for the performance, and before the show sweet-voiced Granny chatted and greeted acquaintances like the guest of honor at a country club social. An elderly woman, a long-time friend of Pearlman, approached her with a big smile and squealed, "Oh, Shiiiirley! I can't believe you're doing this."

Granny laughed, and a moment later she grabbed the mic and started rapping. Her soft voice, now amplified, suddenly took on an edge. And despite technical gaffes with the sound equipment, the crowd took notice of the new, albeit older, face of rap music.

"It was good as far as rap is concerned," concluded 28-year-old Jennifer St. Thomas. "But you can't compare it to other raps because the message is so different."

Four years ago, when the group performed for the Florida Marlins at Don Shula's Golf Club, Granny rapped about safe sex and tossed condoms into the crowd. The athletes started laughing, but Granny was dead serious.

"I went over to Gary Sheffield," she says, "and I said, 'Don't be a wise ass, Gary. Use it.' He just picked me up and hugged me and kissed me.

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