What Millennials Should Know About… Foxy Brown ‘Ill Na Na’

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By: / June 24, 2014

To celebrate Black Music Month, VIBE spotlights some of music’s most essential timepieces for Gen Y to get hip to

FOXY BROWN
Ill Na Na (1996)

Most Slept On: It’s strange that the title track to Foxy’s landmark album would also be the song most slept-on. Ill Na Na was never released as an official single and although Method Man appears on the song, there was no video for the track.

The level of sex-fueled braggadocio on “Ill Na Na” is dizzying, (and just a bit disconcerting, considering Foxy was barely seventeen when she recorded it). Thematically, she’s all over the place on her verses, shutting down fellow rappers who think they can compete and then putting her boo in his place if he thinks she’s coming straight home from the club.

(She actually talks about leaving for a ladies’ night out while her man is standing by the microwave cooking. She kisses the baby goodnight and then says she might be coming home later. She was seventeen! When I was seventeen I was still wondering if I should make an emergency breakthrough on Darnell’s phone because I was getting a busy signal. Wait. Y’all millennials don’t know about emergency breakthroughs do you?! Ah well. It was a Thing. Trust me. )

Think of the song “Ill Na Na” this way. There’s a verse in the late Maya Angelou’s classic poem, “Still I Rise,” in which she says:

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Foxy Brown’s “Ill Na Na” track is essentially that Maya Angelou verse, except with a foul mouth, a ‘90s spin and a sample of The Commodores “Brickhouse.”

The message, hammered home by Method Man in the chorus, is simple: My vagina is better than any other vagina in the whole wide world and it is so special that it will intoxicate you and make you buy me nice things. The end.

It wasn’t the first time a female rapper raised eyebrows by spitting about the diamond at the meeting of her thighs. But her brusque and gruff delivery and true ability to spit as well as her male contemporaries gave the song sit-up-and-take-notice status.

Lines Best For Status Updates:
-“She’s all about sex?/Pardon, check your facts/and the track record/I’m all about plaques” (“Ill Na Na”)
– “Leave my boo by the microwave/kiss the baby goodnight/it’s my time to shine/it’s playtime tonight” (“Ill Na Na”)
– “I push the V/Not the backseat girl” (“I’ll Be”)
– “To the tilt/that’s just the way I‘m built/Nasty/But classy still” (“I’ll Be”)
-“I realized you was misleading me/I should have known/You left the last chick to be with me” (“If I”)
-“Ladies take this oath from Fox/repeat this/love thy self put no one above thee/cause ain’t nobody gon’ love me like me” (“I’ll Be”)
-“Marry who? Daddy please/I’m taking it all from the stash to the keys” (“Get You Home”)
-“If I could take this back I would/If I could rewind the time to when it was all good/I would” (“If I”)
-“While I’m getting dressed/This ain’t yo pad/I left some money on the dresser/find you a cab” (“Ill Na Na”)

Bet You Didn’t Know: Although Foxy’s beef with fellow sexpot rapper Lil Kim has been well documented, the two started out as friends. In fact, on the song Ill Na Na, Foxy name-checks her future frenemy: Loving this life/waiting for Kim album to drop/knowing it’s tight.

Bet You (Also) Didn’t Know: Foxy recorded that line before Kim’s album was released but Lil Kim’s debut Hard Core actually ended up dropping exactly one week before Ill Na Na. The competing release dates and in fighting from their camps is often cited as the reason for their initial riff.

Synopsis: Imagine a 16 year-old girl free-styling in a talent show and catching the ear of a few producers. And now imagine those producers put her on a posse-track with the hottest rappers out right now, maybe Kendrick, J. Cole, Drake and Jay Z. And imagine she rips it. To the point that no one is talking about anything but her and her deep-throated growl. That’s what happened in 1995 when Foxy Brown appeared out of the clear blue sky on LL Cool J’s remix to “I Shot Ya.” The song was stacked with vets like Prodigy and Fat Joe but all anyone could talk about was the girl who rapped hard enough to hold her own. (Fourteen years later, Nicki Minaj would replay this exact feat, when she introduced herself to the world by going toe-to-toe with (and outshining) Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Kanye West on “Monster“.)

After the success of “I Shot Ya,” Foxy quickly racked up hits with Toni Braxton, Case, Jay Z and BlackStreet, becoming a hip-hop household name before she even had a deal.

Ill Na Na as a whole doesn’t quite stack up to the flurry of buzzy singles Foxy dropped before she started recording her debut album. But taken at face value, Ill Na Na remains a tour-de-force. Foxy was by no means the first female rapper to get respect from her male counterparts. Latifah, MC Lyte and Roxanne Shante were all able to stake their claim as purely dope rappers, not just dope female rappers. But Foxy was one of the first to garner respect (and lust) in and out of the booth.—Aliya S. King

Aliya S. King’s is the author of two novels and three non-fiction books, including the New York Times Bestseller, Keep The Faith, with recording artist Faith Evans. She had written for VIBE since 1998. Find her at aliyasking.com and @aliyasking.