Album Of The Week: Foxy Brown's 'Ill Na Na'
In the 90s, the hip hop scene was overwhelmingly male-dominated, but women found ways to cut through – and between 1995 and 1996, Foxy Brown did just that, and she put together one of the more eventful entrances into the rap game.
Her debut album, Ill Na Na, was released in 1996, exactly one week after Lil Kim’s explosive debut, Hardcore. 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. Led by tracks like the Jay Z assisted single "I'll Be" and "Get Me Home" featuring R&B group Blackstreet, the album quickly moved over one million units and was certified platinum within months, making Foxy Brown a bonafide star.
The importance of Brown has grown as time has gone on, 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 and Nicki Minaj. When discussing rappers who changed the game, the conversation must include Foxy Brown.
An album full of gems, 'Ill Na Na' contains more gritty musings than unabashed sexual innuendo with songs like "(Holy Matrimony) Letter to The Firm," in which she pledges her allegiance to the members of the eventual supergroup The Firm. The 90s ushered in a rap era that was all about living lavish, Foxy embraced this wholeheartedly with songs like “Big Bad Mamma” - interpolating Carl Carlton’s “She’s a Bad Mama Jama,” Brown proved her style was untouchable.
She had the Jay Z cosign with songs like “I’ll Be,” an Ill Na Na single that samples René & Angela’s 1985 R&B jam “I’ll Be Good.” 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.
Foxy did not come busting through mainstream rap’s door with her in your face lyrics, rather she led with sultriness on her debut 1996 single “Get Me Home,” which leans more R&B, and Blackstreet feature on the hook of the song.
Foxy Brown's standing as one of the greatest hip-hop artists, male or female, of her time cannot be taken away, and Ill Na Na will forever be the album that marked her rise to fame.
by Tomisin Akins