LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya” Remix on Rap City. A growling Aphrodite emerges from a sea of Timberlands and baggy denim. She is dressed in shiny leather. Her bravado penetrates the grainy black and white scene. One minute she’s all rap hands; the next she’s grabbing her tits, pushing hair behind her ear, pointing to her ass. Over a thudding baseline and menacing piano keys, she petitions the female listener: “Bitches, grab ya ta-tas / Get them niggas for they chedda / Fuck it, Gucci sweaters and Armani leathers.” Wait. Did she say “I’m sexin’ raw dog without protection, disease infested”? Before my twelve-year-old mind can process the lyric she fades out, daring LL to reclaim his track. I am speechless.
She was the teenaged Inga Marchand b.k.a. Foxy Brown. A fandom was born.
Twenty years before #BlackGirlMagic Foxy embodied it, conjuring the spirit of Pam Grier with a 90s hip-hop twist. On the mic she was ferocious, clever, arrogant, sexy; equally comfortable adding high-heeled grit to an R&B record or playing alpha female in a rap wolf pack. In 1996, she introduced me to my favorite rapper with her scene-stealing verse on Jay-Z’s “Ain’t No Nigga.” She did that often–steal songs from her male counterparts. Just ask Nas, Cormega, and AZ about “Affirmative Action.” And yes, some of her wit can be attributed to co-writers, but her delivery? That seamless marriage of BK grit and fly girl sparkle? All Inga.
Like her friend-turned-rival Lil’ Kim, Foxy ushered in an era of female sexual gravitas. Their agency wasn’t new (we saw Salt-N-Pepa claim their sexuality years prior) but Foxy and Kim weaponized sex, wielding it sword-like in rap’s gender battles. Suitors had to perform (“No more sexin’ me all night, thinkin’ it’s all right / While I’m lookin’ over ya shoulder, watchin’ the hall light”) and provide proper incentive to even start the conversation (“Wanna see me where ya bed is / Playboy, ya’ll got to gimme five letters / Like Prada, Jacob, Fendi boots / C. Dior, Chloe suits / Range Rover, Gucci shoes…”). While she and Kim subscribed to similar sexual ethos, Foxy’s brand (“Nasty, but classy, still”) valued slickness over shock. For instance, Foxy wouldn’t kick off an album with “I used to be scared of the dick, now I throw lips to the shit” (one of the best opening lines of all time, by the way). Instead, she slipped in “let alone, the skills I possess” after “My sex drive all night like a trucker” and let you infer what “skills” meant.
The height of Foxy’s career (1995 – 2002) paralleled my teens. The only thing I knew about my “na na” was “don’t get pregnant.” Still, Foxy taught me valuable lessons. At thirteen, I taped the following lyrics (from the title track “Ill Na Na“) to my wall:
“Ladies take this oath with Fox, repeat this:
‘Love thyself with no one above thee
Cuz ain’t nobody gon’ love me like me'”
From 1999’s “I Can’t,” this warning about financially-draining men still rings true:
“I ain’t tryna trick on no dick
I ain’t tryna have no cat laid up in my shit
Have the next chick laid up in my 6
Gigglin’, dizzy and shit
Is he sick?”
These lessons, along with her swagger and overall niceness on the mic are why Fox Boogie is on my Mt. Rushmore of Female Rappers. For her birthday, I’ve compiled this handy playlist to remind you just how dope she was. #skinnyblackjams: Foxy Taught Me
Happy Birthday, Foxy.