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Sex sells and rhyme pays so Foxy Brown wants to know

Smith, D. (1998/1999, December/January). "Sex sells and rhyme pays so Foxy Brown wants to know: ‘What’s wrong with being strong?’" (Inside title: She got game: Foxy brown is the illest). VIBE, (6)10, 112.


In this cover story, illustrated with a sexy, exposed, suggestive body shot, Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim prove themselves to be two very bright, attractive, and talented rap artists. They are also blatantly sexy and obscene stars of rap. Much of what they sing, and even their explanation of what they sing about, is unprintable, even with deletions. Of these two rappers, a cover story of The Source asked: "Harlots or Heroines?" Another female writer headed a story: "Black Girl Lost," which infuriated Foxy.

Inga grew up in Brooklyn with her mother Judy (an elementary school teacher) and two brothers, Anton and Gavin. In her junior high years, Inga Marchand (Foxy) was a good friend of senior high Kimberly Jones (Lil’ Kim). In late night (and all night) phone conversations they plotted their way to the top—and how they would use their stuff to get there. They decided to use every sexually stimulating aspect of their bodies to attract, to shock, and to gain. The goal still seems to be consumption: the independence and freedom to buy what pleases and furthers their attraction.

Foxy and Kim pledged to help and protect one another, but the pressures of the business have torn them apart:

Kim went with Big, and I went with Jay. She paid her dues...when you have two women who once were friends, who now have bitter feelings toward each other and are getting fed bull from every angle...the conversation (about producing a "Thelma & Louise" song) was useless.

Still, there are positive feelings underneath for one another.

Imagine a five-year old listening to the big current hit of Madonna’s "The Material Girl." And two years later Janet Jackson is teaching her with songs like, "Control" and "What Have You Done for Me Lately." According to the author of this article:

No wonder she’s got such arrogance. No wonder she’s so consumed with consuming. Foxy’s the kind of girl who believes that financial independence (and the constant display thereof) might just bring about emotional independence—but grown as she is, she hasn’t hit the big wall yet. The one that’s tagged It Isn’t So.

What she does know (and what is true) is attitude is nine tenths of the law, and shock wins, that profanity is the new norm, that as long as you can pretend to yourself that being a girl with a guy’s macho mentality is possible, you can play—and it’s fun—but then you f--- around and like a guy. You hear something massive and embracing in his voice, feel all the things you never felt as a baby girl in his arms, and then you are—not lost—but mad at him for being stupid and sexist and human. A victim himself of genes and environment and these war, changing sexual times.

Mostly you’re mad at your life or whatever it is about life in general that makes you need anything from anyone at any time. So you dis dependence. Claim (sex) as power. Go all the places bad girls go....

Foxy herself puts that female, personal dilemma in angry, poignant terms:

I’m talking about love. Love. Love. Everybody wanna talk about why Foxy doesn’t show up at a video shoot, why I’m late to my show, why I won’t take my sunglasses off in an interview. ‘Cause everything ain’t always all right with me. Okay? Until you’ve been in love with a n-----, until you’ve been standing on the edge of a building ready to give it all up for a n-----…I ride for my n-----…until you’ve done all that s---, don’t talk to me. I tell a m-----f---, look: Grow (a female characteristic), get a (another physical female member), get your heart broke before you talk to me about how I’m acting.... Do that before you talk to me about s---.

The way of the world is hard; it’s not easy to be a business woman in such a macho culture. In response to her interviewer’s question as to why she is not dealing with social justice issues or matters of world peace, Foxy says her issues, and those of her audience are respect and equality. If someone tell her to f--- off, she replies with the same. Furthermore,

you have rappers that stand up more for African-American culture. You have people that are just into party music, you have rappers who are street. I’m just Foxy.

At this point Foxy is engaged to Ricardo "Kurupt" Brown, a star who owns his own label and is a friend of Snoop Dogg. Still, she’s talking of dating, running and affairs. It is part of the lifestyle of this kind of rap. The writer of this article summarizes:

Be Nasty. Be classy. Be extravagant. Be everybody’s fantasy...Stare down the old rules. Run with the big dogs. Be superstrong, supersexy, supertalented, supersatisfied. Be supergirl.

Not all rap or hip-hop is like this. To be fair many different kinds of rap music should be considered: Christian rap, positive cultural rap (Arrested Development, Fishbone, Jazzmatazz, The Last Poets, P.M. Dawn, etc.), gangsta rap, street rap, and sexy rap included.


  1. If you are a teenagers and love rap music in general and Foxy Brown in particular, you are probably quite mad and disgusted with this article. Help us out on this: How can we have a fair discussion about rap, about things that hurt some people in our adult world and in the pop world of young people?
  2. What was your response to this article? Is it fair? Why or why not? Is it appropriate for a Youthworker’s Encyclopedia? Does this kind of rap music need to be examined?
  3. Were you disappointed that there were no song lyrics here? Should anyone care about the lyrics? When you pay for an expensive CD, do you think you ought to get the lyrics written out as well as promo? How can you get a hold of rap lyrics?
  4. What most impressed you with this article? What from it needs most discussion from it—and on this subject? How can we hold that discussion when there is so much disagreement and such high emotions? Do the fans or defenders of this music and those who object to it still need to talk?
  5. What do you see as the significance of the Wall on which is tagged: "It Isn’t So?"
  6. Are "attitude," shock, and profanity really the norms now?
  7. How do you see the tension and ambivalence between a macho, sexy strut and submission to love? What do you hear in Foxy’s repetition of the word "Love" three times? What hurt and anger does she feel toward men?
  8. Imagine you were alone or on a plane with Foxy with an hour to talk. What would you be saying to her, and how would you like the conversation to go?


    • Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim are up there on their charts, on magazine covers, and out there is urban and suburban homes. Rap music continue to be big in white, black, and other youth cultures.
    • Music and sex continue to be used and abused in advertising, entertainment, and personal lives. They are huge issues among young people. Adults (and adult institutions: schools, youth organizations, churches) continue to be afraid of these issues or unable to confront and discuss them profitably.
    • The manifold and confusing aspects of media and culture need to be processed. The incredible flow of sound (and visual) bytes must be slowed down and talked about. Young people need to be empowered to critique the pop culture that adults are pushing upon them.

Dean Borgman cCYS