Foxy Brown is a chickenhead.
Regarding her creator, 19-year-old Inga Marchand, lets reserve judgment, though shes reportedly spit at hotel concierges, engaged in high-speed car chases pursuing hip-hop-magazine editors and swung blows at her fiancé (Tha Dogg Pounds Kurupt) on the set of his own video shoot. Ingas another story, and well take it there one day, but for now, Foxy Brown the Persona is up for discussion. And shes a chickenhead.
But maybe it depends on how you look at it. The universal chickenhead axiom seems to be "coochie for loochie" (to paraphrase Essence contributing writer Joan Morgan, from her upcoming When Chicken heads Come Home To Roost), a sentiment Foxy wholeheartedly supports. "You aint got dough, you cant go with that Fox bitch," she tosses off on "Hot Spot," and she flips this notion about a dozen different ways all over her new album, Chyna Doll: platitudes like "What would you do if a broke nigga came by/Would you fuck him or would you deny/It aint like he dont know what we like/Just a little bit of ice . . ."
Diamonds for ass? Thats chicken, and the definition holds as true for Foxy Brown and Lil Kim as it does for sexual robber baronesses Anna Nicole Smith and Marla Maples. Chickenheads, however, come in many breeds, and the Foxy Brown variety is a very specific strain. Women sidling their way into record-industry parties dressed in spandex, brandishing ample cleavage in lieu of entry laminates thats chicken, but not necessarily Foxy. Liquidacia, president of the Babymother Coalition, was a keynote speaker at the Million Chicken March featured on Redmans latest, Docs da Name, but her concerns dont jibe with Foxy Browns aesthetic any more than the groupie hoochies do.
Foxy Brown the Persona encapsulates a combustible admixture of issues. Critics carp that the sista has nothing to say, what with her meandering, materialistic obsessions, but her very existence could suffice to ignite an all-nighter debate be- tween Pam Grier and feminist scholar bell hooks. Foxys dark-chocolate skin tone alone is revolutionary, given her pop-star status and the racist reservations of the American standard of beauty. Has Foxy mastered the inversion of societys sexist customs to her own end, empowering herself to platinum iconography by publicly reveling in her own sexuality, or is she the unsuspecting patsy of male Svengalis and her lyric ghostwriter Jay-Z? Theres a lot to unpack if one casts a critical eye beyond the cranberry lipstick, beginning with the beats and the rhymes.
L.L. Cool J is becoming somewhat of a has-been, a holdover from an older hip-hop generation. For this reason, Def Jam surrounded its veteran MC with young lions like Method Man, Canibus and DMX on his last albums "4, 3, 2, 1." Two years before that 1997 release, L.L. was hot on the streets with "I Shot Ya (Remix)," mainly owing to the tag team of Keith Murray, Fat Joe, Prodigy and a precocious 15-year-old newcomer named Foxy Brown.
Foxys humble origins lie in guest-MC territory, shining on tracks by Case, Jay-Z and Nas before the release of her late-1996 debut, Ill Na Na. On her more focused follow-up, Chyna Doll, Foxy deals in self-mythologizing. Foxy Brown, in this new-ordered world-view, wasnt born on the "I Shot Ya" round robin, but from the womb of bodacious blaxploitation badass Pam Grier herself who, on "The Birth of Foxy Brown," puts in her own guest appearance.
"You know, Foxy," says Grier, "Mom mas been puttin it down in these streets for many many many years. I done run with the baddest niggas out here, what?! I mean, I own the hookers. I mean, I own the pimps. I mean, the streets is mine. But I got you, china doll. And now the streets is yours. I want you to get out there and make your momma proud. But remember only one person can judge you. So, baby, live your life. And go out there and be like a gangsta."
Besides the impact of such maternal advice on the psyche of Inga Marchand the MC, more revelatory is the resemblance this intro bears to Ready To Die, the first album from the late Notorious B.I.G. Her crank-call-skit intro to "Its Hard Being Wifee" also recalls Biggies death-threat telephone drama preceding Life After Deaths "My Downfall." Foxys attempting to craft herself into an icon of hip-hop culture, lacking the assurance that she already is one. She updates the Salt-N-Pepa staple "Tramp" (as she reworked L.L.s "Rock the Bells" into "Foxys Bells" last time out), and transmogrifies the self-identified gangsta classic "N.W.A" into "BWA," featuring Mia X and Gangsta Boo as the bitches with attitude in question.
Chyna Doll partakes in its share of revisionist history, recasting archetypal hip-hop musical moments with Foxy Brown smack-dab in the middle. Even R&B nostalgia gets drawn into the mix, via teen ingénue Mya, singing the Gwen Guthrie "Aint Nothing Going On but the Rent" hook for Foxys "J.O.B." Inga Marchand, of course, lives with her mother in Brooklyn rent is a non-concern. Its perfectly feasible and apropos, however, for Foxy Brown the Persona to wanna see her money up-front, so to speak.
Foxys debut album beat Lil Kims Hard Core in the race to the 1 million sales mark primarily because of the recognizability and pop appeal of Track Mas tersproduced cuts based on familiar songs. "Get Me Home" was "Gotta Get You Home Tonight" by Eugene Wilde; "Ill Be" was "Ill Be Good" by Rene & Angela. (Lil Kims superior "No Time," on the other hand, was constructed around an obscure James Brown hook.) This time around, Fox Boogie chooses her outside references more strategically, to support the fabrication of her own mythos.
But whats mythos without a bit of pathos? On the deliberately heavy-handed yet telling "My Life," Foxy spits these lines: "Con fused, I aint ask to be born/It was so dumb, shoulda used a condom/Asked Mommy every day, when Dad dy gon come/ But he never show ed up . . . Became de mented then/ Men? Re sent ed them/ Just the scent of em made me hurl . . . All I needed was love, all I wanted was love."
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Nas, Foxy Browns partner in the Firm rap collective, says, "When I met her, Foxy hated writing her rhymes. I didnt think she had enough confidence in the stuff she was writing, but the shit she was writing was pretty good. So I guess thats why she took other writers in on her shit. I think she coulda wrote her whole album if she had the right guidance." Maybe Foxys ideas about having men do for her rather than doing for herself are at root here, but many of Chyna Dolls tracks are lyrically co-credited between Fox, Jay-Z and J. Barrow.
The strongest tunes are those where Foxy pens her own lyrics and passes the microphone. "Baller Bitch" a conversational Southern hip-hop-flavored romp between Fox, Too $hort and her brother Pretty Boy comes hard; musically, its the deepest track. The "BWA" cut is a rowdy party, and "Ride (Down South)" parades Eightball & MJG in top form alongside Foxy and Juvenile, the prince of New Orleans bout-it Cash Money clique.
Chyna Doll rates as one of the best albums by a female MC, ranking alongside Hard Core and Queen Latifahs All Hail the Queen, though clearly nowhere near the brilliance of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Considered on a genderless level hip-hop playing field, Foxy Browns latest ranks about average, with extra points awarded for her mythmaking chicken-head glam. Foxy brings the drama; shes personable.