During the 90s, Brooklyn was an incredible source of rap talent that not only took over the streets but the music industry at large. While it was overwhelmingly male-dominated, women found ways to cut through – and Foxy Brown’s best songs made her one of the key players on the frontline.
Born Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand in Brooklyn’s Park Slope neighborhood, Brown got her start at local talent shows. She soon caught the attention of production team Trackmasters, who later added her as the lone female guest on LL Cool J’s testosterone-heavy “I Shot Ya (Remix)” in 1995. She quickly cemented her place in the industry with her appearances on 1996’s The Nutty Professor soundtrack with “Touch Me, Tease Me” alongside Case and “Ain’t No N—a” with Jay-Z. Brown’s unabashedly carnal lyrics were a shock to many, but that rawness was part of the appeal. At 17 years old, she signed a record deal with Def Jam.
Brown’s debut album, Ill Na Na, was released later in 1996. It helped set a standard for the new class of female rappers as it flawlessly balanced sexual confidence, rugged street references, and a fashionable persona. The importance of Brown has grown as time has gone on. By comfortably owning her provocative nature and embracing her multi-cultural heritage, she arguably paved the way for bigger stars that arrived years later. She’s served as an inspiration for a new generation of female artists, including Rihanna, Megan Thee Stallion, Maliibu Miitch, and Nicki Minaj. When discussing rappers who changed the game, the conversation must include Foxy Brown.
(“Big Bad Mamma,” “Hot Spot,” “Candy”)
The 90s ushered in a rap era that was all about living lavish, and Foxy Brown wholeheartedly embraced it on some of her best songs. She teamed up with R&B group du jour Dru Hill for “Big Bad Mamma” on 1997’s How To Be a Player soundtrack. Interpolating Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” Brown proved her style was untouchable: “I know it well, rock Prada over Chanel, H-Class ho with the H. Bendel / Prom diva footwear: Via Spiga.”
That sass continued with “Hot Spot” from the rapper’s 1998 sophomore album Chyna Doll. It was the album’s lead single, Brown didn’t hold back with the sexual rhymes. (“MC’s wanna eat me but it’s Ramadan.”) As the next decade rolled around, the rapper maintained her explicitness but updated her previously brash production for more streamlined sounds. The Neptunes produced 2001’s “Candy.” Featuring Kelis on the hook, the Broken Silence single combines Brown’s icy flow with poppier, New Wave-inspired melodies.
The Jay-Z Co-Sign
(“Ain’t No N—a,” “I’ll Be”)
Foxy Brown and Jay-Z sparked a friendship in the mid-90s after her Def Jam signing, which led to Jay co-writing some of her earliest songs (“Get Me Home,” “Big Bad Mamma,” “Hot Spot”) and hopping on a handful of singles. One of their most notable collaborations is 1996’s street anthem “Ain’t No N—a,” included on The Nutty Professor soundtrack and Jay-Z’s lauded debut album Reasonable Doubt. It remains one of the most iconic “battle of the sexes” hip-hop tracks of all-time.
The pair reconnected for Brown’s 1997 “I’ll Be,” an Ill Na Na single that samples René & Angela’s 1985 R&B jam “I’ll Be Good.” “I’ll Be” is her highest-charting song to date (it peaked at No.7 on the Billboard Hot 100) and further showcased the musical chemistry between the two stars. Brown was raunchy on the verses, while Jay-Z showed off his ear for catchy radio-ready hooks: “Straight out the gate y’all, we drop hits / Now tell me, how nasty can you get.” When it came to getting nasty, Brown always delivered.
The Slow Jams
(“Get Me Home,” “Touch Me, Tease Me”)
Instead of busting through mainstream rap’s door with in-your-face lyricism, Foxy Brown led with sultriness on her debut 1996 single “Get Me Home.” It leans more R&B, thanks to the sample of Eugene Wilde’s “Gotta Get You Home Tonight” and Blackstreet crooning on the hook.
That same year, Brown teamed with R&B singer Case for “Touch Me, Tease Me,” which also featured Mary J. Blige. The single appeared on The Nutty Professor soundtrack and also fared well on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, peaking at No. 14. (In 2018, it was given new life when King Combs sampled it for “Love You Better.”)
(“Oh Yeah,” “Tables Will Turn,” “Come Fly With Me”)
Foxy Brown has proudly represented her Trinidadian heritage in her music, working with Caribbean artists just as frequently as she does with rappers. Just before hip-hop and dancehall collaborations took over radio in the early 00s, Brown helped kickstart things with 2001’s “Oh Yeah.” Featuring Jamaican icon and then-boyfriend Spragga Benz, the Broken Silence single samples Toots & the Maytals’ 1968 reggae anthem “54-46 That’s My Number.”
Brown continued repping dancehall on Broken Silence, teaming with Baby Cham for the bouncy party-starter “Tables Will Turn.” In 2003, Brown paired with Sizzla – yet another dancehall icon – for “Come Fly With Me” that showcased her knack for seamlessly combining patois and Brooklyn slang.
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