20 Years of Foxy Brown’s “Broken Silence”

Foxy Brown wearing the iconic Christian Dior denim bikini for the “Broken Silence” album cover

Since the establishment of Hip Hop, the amount of female rappers that have been able to thrive in the mainstream music industry, have been relatively little in comparison to their male counterparts. Women such as Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, Lil Kim, Queen Latifah, Eve, Trina, Salt-N-Pepa, Monie Love, Da Brat are all recognized and heralded as the earliest pioneers in female rap. Each woman named brought talent, skill level, creativity, and groundbreaking archetypes that resonated with Hip Hop lovers. One particular woman became a household name with her striking looks, designer fashions, sultry deep voice, distinctive flow, delivery, and sharp Mafioso-influenced lyricism drenched in sexuality.

Inga DeCarlo Fung Marchand was born in Brooklyn, New York on September 6, 1978. Marchand was only 17-years-old when she became known to the world as Foxy Brown, as a feature on LL Cool J’s “I Shot Ya” Remix alongside Fat Joe, Prodigy and Keith Murray in 1995. The following year, Foxy Brown signed to Def Jam and delivered verses on two classic albums: Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt on “Ain’t No Nigga,” and Nas’ It Was Written on “Affirmative Action,’ arguably her most critically-acclaimed verse. In the same year, Brown released her critically-acclaimed debut album, “Ill Na Na.” “Ill Na Na” featured Method Man, Havoc, Kid Capri, and Jay-Z with his feature on “I’ll Be,” her debut single. Foxy Brown flaunted her sexuality and her cut-throat lyricism on her debut album. In just a year, Foxy Brown proved that she could hang with Hip Hop’s male heavyweights at the tender age of 18.

 In 1997, she would build upon her short yet impressive resume by joining The Firm, a group composed of Nas, AZ, and Cormega (later replaced by Nature.) The Firm’s only release was their debut album titled “The Album.” On “The Album,” Foxy continued to exhibit her ability to rap with her male peers. In 1999, Foxy Brown followed up with her sophomore album, “Chyna Doll.” “Chyna Doll” built on similar themes of her debut, but showcased her versatility with numerous East Coast, Southern and West Coast rap features such as Gangsta Boo, Mia X, Tha Dogg Pound, 8 Ball & MJG, DMX, Juvenile, Too Short, Jay-Z, Memphis Bleek, and Beanie Sigel. In just four years, Foxy made her unforgettable mark on the Hip-Hop industry.

By the turn of the millennium, Foxy Brown began working on her third album “Broken Silence.” The album would mark a period of transformation in her artistry, and a side of Foxy Brown listeners had not been exposed to. Foxy Brown’s Trinidadian heritage would become one of the most paramount influences of her third album, as well as a street-oriented approach that would differ greatly from her first two efforts.

The first leading single, “Oh Yeah,” featuring Spragga Benz was released on May 4, 2001. The song was produced by Eddie Scoresazy and sampled the reggae classic, “54-46 That’s My Number,” by Toots And The Maytals. Foxy Brown floated on the dancehall production and spit some of her most iconic bars, “Dark skinned Christian Dior poster girl,” and “You a industry bitch, I’m a ‘in the streets’ bitch.” “Oh Yeah” was the perfect introduction to what would become Foxy’s most influential album, as she easily floated on the dancehall production with street-oriented lyrics. The video for “Oh Yeah,” was also shot in Jamaica.

Foxy Brown released “BK Anthem,” as her second single and the B-Side to “Oh Yeah.” “BK Anthem” was produced by Robert “Shim” Kirkland and featured vocals from Foxy’s younger brother, Young Gavin. All three verses detailed the lifestyle and activities that residents of some of the roughest neighborhoods in Brooklyn were engaged in:

BK, the home of Biggie and Jay
Where niggas got Will Smith chips, get jiggy all day
Bitches that boost in the city all day
Heckle’ and Koch, crack spots, federal watch
I grew up here, sipped Mo’, threw up here
Yo, the feds snatched two up here in BK”

“BK Anthem” is amongst several songs released by Brooklyn lyricists that celebrate the borough, and is arguably one of the best made.

“Broken Silence” was released on July 17, 2001, with production from The Neptunes, Nokio, DJ Clue, Young Gavin, Dave Kelly, Robert Kirkland, and others.

“Broken Silence” album cover

The intro to “Broken Silence,”  starts with clips from news reports about several plights that Foxy Brown dealt with throughout her career prior to the release of the album.Over EZ Elpee production,  Foxy foreshadows her introspection throughout the album as she rapped: “Everybody wanna know my side of the story. Well here it is, the whole truth, plain and simple. This’ll finally explain all the pain I’ve been through.”

On “Fallin,” produced by Young Gavin, Foxy boasts about her luxurious lifestyle, aims at her haters and boasts about her skills over a sample of “Kol De Esh3at” by Samira Said. Over the street track, Foxy spits:

If I was to die, it be too many cowards alive

Fox Brown, Bonnie minus the Clyde
And today I’ma make this one promise to God
Even if I go wood, I’ma keep it so hood
And I got chills when I signed my deal
And I shed tears when Biggie and Pac got killed
It’s only one other broad that really got skills
She’s alright, but she’s not real.”

Ron Isley lends his vocals on “The Letter,” as Foxy addresses her mother and two brothers, Gavin and Anton. In the introspective track produced by Ski, Foxy addresses personal situations between her mother and two brothers, as all three verses are directed to each one individually. Aimed at her mother, Foxy raps: “And when the media said Foxy’s ill. You was there when this fame almost got me killed. When I was in the hospital, could not be still. Only you knew the reasons why I popped these pills.”

Foxy Brown acknowledges her reputation of being short-tempered on “730.” “730” is street-slang for someone who is crazy. On the track produced by Lofey, Foxy talks greasy to rivals:

I’m never ducking dames
Y’all know just where to find me
I would’ve killed her but it just wouldn’t be fair to mommie
Imagine me doing time, Foxy behind bars
Not me the crime star
Y’all bitches ain’t worth it.

The Neptunes produced song “Candy,” is the third single released from the album. The song featured Kelis on the hook. “Candy” is the only song on “Broken Silence” that is solely about sex, which contrasts from the introspective content on the rest of the album. The song is about a man desiring to perform oral sex on the rapper. On the song, Foxy also boasts about how her sex appeal and looks entice many male admirers, as she affirms her confidence:

You should see me in them jeans
It’s hard to describe and
Being cocky is just a part of the vibe
I might stop and holla and pop my collar
Maybe a little conceited but that’s always needed
Love attention when I’m passin’ by
See I show a little cleavage then I catch his eye

“Tables Will Turn” featuring Baby Cham was Foxy’s choice for a third single, although the label pushed for “Candy.” Produced by Dave Kelly, this song would go on to become a Hip Hop/dancehall classic alongside “Oh Yeah.” On the first verse, Foxy coins the term for dancehall/Hip Hop clashes as “Yard Hip Hop:” Me and Cham do that Yard-Hip Hop and,

Y’all can’t fuck with us, We keep niggas boppin’.” On the second verse, Foxy switches between her Brooklyn accent to Jamaican patois to end it out.

On “Hood Scriptures,” Foxy lays down hard verses for a real New York aura. Produced by Livin Proof and Young Gavin, Foxy is able to add on another track to her caliber for the streets.

Foxy Brown and Baby Cham link up for another dancehall smash on “Run Dem,” produced by Dave Kelly. Foxy Brown effortlessly switches between her signature Brooklyn accent to speaking Jamaican patois in each verse. She also accuses other female rappers of stealing her style of fusing Jamaican patois into their verses:

Who the fuck told bitches they could do what I do
And all of a sudden all y’all bitches got accents too
Bad gyal, bitches can’t do the shit that I do
Sometime a gal fi get kuff (hoo hoo hoo hoo)
Whoa, I tell a motherfucker this
Some niggas nowadays move worse than a bitch
And as for this chick, me love bum flick on bad man dick so
Got the pussy I got the lie fo’
I’m a grown ass bitch with my own ass shit
Now hear dis, una wan’ chat? Me a go bust una secret
Ya a big battyman, ya love look man bottom
Pussy watchman, you a trace gyal pattern
Fuck who, niggas wish they could fuck me
Like they never seen a hot gal act like we
Big bumboclaat star, push hot car
Big hood, me love back way all day”

Cham’s additions with the hook make for another “Yard Hip Hop” classic.

Alongside Mystikal, Foxy makes another song for her Southern audience. “Bout My Paper” is full of Foxy spitting about her ambition to get money and avoiding anything that’s not about it.

Foxy enlists Capone-N-Noreaga for a stick-up anthem properly titled “Run Yo Shit,” produced by Nokio. Foxy holds no punches with gritty bars: “We want that straight raw, ante up my nigga. Snatch ya ye, steal your base like Derek Jeter.”

“Nana Be Like” is a return to the Yard Hip Hop subgenre on the album. Foxy Brown makes another effortless switch to Jamaican patois on the hook and in between verses.  Foxy comes out swinging with very braggadocious, tough bars:

E’rybody wan’ chop 6 rock ’bout wrist, woah
I’ve done this, spit hotness
Na Na tote big fifth, fuck’s my name? Na Na, woah
And my pussy niggas wan’ lick
And my big tits una wan’ come kiss
And me, una see, when them want truthness
And you, una ‘ear come spit bullshit, woah
I might care, but I won’t go there
I might rock this, but I wan’ come stick, woah.

On “Gangsta Boogie,” the Neptunes produce a track that is in stark contrast with “Candy,” also produced by the duo. Pharrell and Chad help to arouse the street aura Foxy carries throughout the album, which shines truly on this song: Nigga, it’s not a game on the mic I’m insane. Snatch back my lane I’m a Vince Carter this. Brown pimp the game and still reign. Since the days of Kane numb ’em like cocaine.”

Foxy Brown and Kori both express their “don’t give a fuck” mentality on “I Don’t Care,” produced by Live Wire and Young Gavin.

Foxy Brown returns to her dancehall roots and patois, with the help of her brother Young Gavin on the hook. She exudes confidence on each verse as she details why men are so enticed by her and women want to be her.

Original don gargon bitch. I’m the reason bitches ride dick
I’m the reason why dem like cock stiff
Fox is the only reason
Why them bitch wan’ run gwan’ buy fake tits like
Who the fuck is y’all aimin’ for?
If it’s Fox, fuck you ain’t name me for?

On the second to last track, Foxy remakes her own version of the dancehall classic, “Saddest Day,” originally sung by Wayne Wonder. Wayne Wonder joins her on the song to deliver the hooks. On “Saddest Day,” Foxy expresses contempt for a lover that betrayed her trust, by stepping out with another woman. She talks about distrust of men and heartbreak she faced from the situation. “How would you feel if I fucked another nigga. And told you that that motherfucker made me cum quicker? You’d probably grab the gat and put two in my back. One in my face, nigga but it’s one in my waist.”

The album’s title track ends the album perfectly with Foxy’s introspective lyrics and passionate voice. She speaks about her feelings towards all of the struggles she’s faced while in the industry, personal and professional:

Feel like I’ve got this black cloud hangin’ over me
It’s like this pain is takin’ control of me
Every move I make, determines my fate
Feel like I’m dying slow, and that’s the shit I hate
The constant pressure, the bullshit rumors
The outcast, I’m the one they love to badge
When the records stop sellin’
And the crowds stop yellin’
All I have is me

The legacy of Foxy Brown’s “Broken Silence” is understated. Not only was Foxy able to create a body of work staunchly different from her first two solo efforts, she was able to synthesize a subgenre of Hip Hop that exploded in the mainstream of the 2000s. Prior to “Broken Silence,” we saw several rappers of Caribbean descent dip into dancehall effortlessly such as Shyne, Notorious BIG, Busta Rhymes and KRS-One, but none of them were able to produce a body of work that continuously based itself around the dancehall genre. “Broken Silence” pushed the bounds that helped usher in a new dancehall andHip Hop renaissance that saw a crossover of dancehall artists into mainstream. Sean Paul and Elephant Man soared through the 2000s and joined Busta Rhymes, Lil Jon, Young Bloodz, Twista, and others to create anthems. 

Foxy positioned herself as a raw street MC and a versatile artist. With her being able to spit with West Coast and Southern lyricists on “Chyna Doll,” Foxy pushed the doors open when she showed her ability to keep it street and be able to run the dancehall.

“Broken Silence” was named as the best female Hip Hop album ever created by Lupe Fiasco, back in December 2020. Such a compliment from one of the most prolific lyricists cannot be understated:

Foxy Brown’s “Broken Silence” also paved the way for the woman that has ran Hip Hop since she got her foot in the door: Nicki Minaj. Nicki Minaj has shown herself as an advanced lyricist with a wide array of deliveries and flows; as well as the ability to outrap men and hang with Hip Hop’s heavy hitters. Nicki Minaj has since knocked down the doors for women in the game by revolutionizing the “female rapper.” Nicki Minaj’s emergence has allowed women in rap to stand alone without being pushed by a male rapper.

Since Nicki Minaj’s emergence in the underground to mainstream superstardom, she always stated Foxy Brown as one of the reasons she began, with “Broken Silence” as the album that heavily influenced her. With Minaj and Brown both being of Trinidadian descent, it’s not hard to imagine the magnitude of said influence.  During a show in 2012, Nicki sang her praises:

Broken Silence changed my fuckin’ life,” Nicki told the crowd. “I always loved Foxy but when she put out Broken Silence I knew she was an innovator, an intelligent, beautiful, feisty, crazy sometimes, but ahead of your time. Foxy, I want to thank you for being one of my biggest influences in the game. And a lot of times we don’t really [thank] you like we should. There isn’t a female rapper that opened more doors for me than you. You and Lauryn, thank you.

While Foxy may not receive the praises she ultimately deserves, Foxy Brown’s influence remains apparent.