ALBANY, N.Y. - It's hard enough for an artist to get one hit with his or her first record, but 17-year-old Foxy Brown managed to score four times on the charts before her album even made its debut.
Foxy Brown, whose real name is Inga Marchand, became a rap sensation in 1996 with her sizzling cameos on some of the year's biggest hits, such as Case's Touch Me, Tease Me, and Toni Braxton's remix of You're Makin' Me High.
Her deep voice, coupled with her female-mack rhymes made her an instant hit on the radio, and her sexy looks and designer-only threads made her a pinup favorite in rap fanzines.
So it probably took no one in the industry by surprise when this sultry young woman managed to crack Billboard's Top 10 when her first album, Ill NaNa, debuted this fall.
No one, except for Foxy Brown.
"I'm blessed, thankful; this doesn't seem real so far," the Brooklyn native said in a recent interview.
Her rise is even more noteworthy considering her raps were mainly heard by her high-school friends just last year. Foxy Brown's rap experience had consisted of school lunchroom performances when a family friend remixing LL Cool J's hit, I Shot Ya, asked her to put her voice to the song.
"I did all the average things that a teen-ager did, as far as cutting school, running away from home, I did everything. Rapping was never one of my main subjects in life," she said.
Things changed quickly once people started noticing her performance and producers realized they could have rap's next big star on their hands.
"After I Shot Ya, we sat down in a round table and we decided ... how are we going to be perceived in this industry, how are we going to come out and have a different approach than every other female rapper out there," Foxy Brown said.
What resulted was a persona that typifies beauty and style but talks frankly - and sometimes explicitly - about sex, relationships and the gangsta life.
And yes, Foxy Brown's stage name was inspired by the queen of blaxploitation movies, Pam Grier, in the 1970s flick Foxy Brown.
"I was in love with Pam Grier," she said. "I keep that in my video compartment in my house."
At times, the life Foxy Brown depicts seems as action-packed as any movie. On Ill NaNa, she talks about drug deals, sexual trysts, and professes herself ready to die for "The Firm," a clique consisting of herself, rappers Nas, AZ and Cormega.
While some may doubt whether a teen-ager really could experience such drama at such a young age, Foxy Brown insists she knows what she's talking about - even if she hasn't experienced all of it.
"Basically, I can't speak from anybody else's standpoint but mine, and what I talk about is probably not what you've lived or anybody else has lived, but there are people who can identify with what I've been through," she said.
As far as her sexually explicit lyrics, Foxy Brown makes no apologies, despite her tender age.
"It's not like back in the days when 16- or 17-year-old girls wore long dresses and were in before 6 o'clock," she said. "It's a totally different generation - as far as being more mature, being grown or fast or whatever you want to call it."
And Foxy Brown says her mother doesn't mind it, either.
"She's more like a sister. So she'll sit down with me where other parents won't talk to their children. That's why I can say what I talk about and be proud of it, and not have any regrets or hide anything or hide my sexuality, because I've been educated on it," she said.
Ill NaNa has so far produced the hit song Get Me Home, a collaboration with Blackstreet. Since the album's release, Foxy Brown has been on tour with various acts and has become a staple on MTV and BET.
But Foxy Brown is still taken aback by how far she's risen in such a short period of time.
"When I'm in industry parties, everybody from Salt 'n Pepa ... to Mary J. Blige to (Queen) Latifah treats me like I've been around for 10 years. I walk into a party and people say, `What's up Foxy! We saved a seat for you.'
"I still go in my room and I have pictures, posters of them on my wall, still."
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