Tough Talk

Guest appearances by DMX, Too Short, among others.

Foxy Brown has learned valuable lessons from pals such as multi-platinum

rappers Jay-Z and Puff Daddy. For one, the hard-as-press-on-nails diva

is well-versed in the art of employing a recognizable pop sample. She

also knows the street value of glittery champagne boasts and triple-X

dreams.

But on her long-awaited sophomore album, Chyna Doll, Brown (Inga

Marchand), the 19-year-old MC who, along with Lil' Kim, has cornered the

market on sex-positive rhyming also proves -- in between steamy lyrics

and too many cameos -- that it isn't all bragging, balling, borrowing

and bitches. Her S's swirling like coiled snakes, Brown engages in the time-honored

tradition of lamenting the hip-hop high life in the snapping "My Life."

The song is anchored by a light, romantic acoustic guitar part and

propulsive drum-machine beat. Dropping into a breathy, vulnerable

whisper, she laments, "A black girl's ordeal/ Do you all know what it

feels like?" in between moving lyrics about suicidal thoughts and

back-stabbing girlfriends.

Brown deploys two clever samples to anchor the album's bulls-eye

pop-rap tracks -- a remake of Gwen Guthrie's R&B hit "Ain't Nothin'

Goin' On But The Rent," reworked as "JOB"; and "I Can't," which samples

ex-Wham! member George Michael's "Everything She Wants." With hot young

R&B singer Mya providing backing vocals on the infectious

"JOB," the song bubbles along on the appropriately materialistic, Foxy

chorus/caveat, "no romance without finance."

The Puff Daddy-like first single, "Hot Spot," is gangsta disco for the

'90s, while the hard-core, down-and-dirty girl talk of "Tramp" cements

Brown's reputation as the most bad-ass tease in rap. The Prada-wearing

MC preaches to the converted in the spiteful, bouncing "Chyna White," a

romp in which she chops out boastful lyrics and steely-eyed lines that

equate a "bad bitch" with uncut dope. And just in case you still

haven't gotten the supremacy of the word "bitch" in this singer's

lexicon, Brown tosses "BWA" ("Bitches With Attitude") into the mix.

Unfortunately, Brown's overreliance on cameos partly undercuts such

bitch-centric bravado, as the collective bulk of Mia X, Too Short,

Beanie Siegel and Memphis Bleck threatens to bury the singer in generic

gangsta braggadocio.

Proving that a little would have gone a long way, the most effective

cameo revisits one of the stand-out tracks from Brown's 1996 debut,

Ill Na Na. Featuring a pimpadelic Jay-Z trading life-of-crime

boasts with Brown and a horn-blasting sample of Angela Winbush's disco

hit "Secret Rendezvous," "Bonnie & Clyde Part II" is a surprisingly

moving, his-and-hers outlaw tale of guns and love. Rough-edge rapper DMX

also makes an unforgettable cameo on the grungy pop rap "Dog & Fox."

Growling over a bouncy, new-wavey keyboard loop, DMX trades sex-play

insults with Brown, who more than holds her own alongside DMX's

incessant growling and sampled shouts of "what?"


VMAs 2018