Classic Clash: Hardcore Vs. Ill Na Na
Foxy Brown and Lil Kim circa 2010 evoke thoughts that are rarely tied to their music. Musings about plastic surgery, weight gain, prison time, and lawsuits plague the two Hip Hop divas as they are more likely to be found on TMZ than MTV these days. That was not the case in 1996. In the mid 90’s this pair were the only females in their crews and being held down by Hip Hop royalty. As front and center sex kittens for Biggie and Nas, Kimberly and Inga merged street credibility with overwhelming bedroom sensibilities to take femcee filthiness to new levels and brought those images to a boil with their debut albums, Hard Core and Il Na Na.
Plenty of female rappers take shots for having a hands-off role in the creation of their own music, but we have seen that even the men these days are given leeway on that, so whether you believe these ladies deserve props for their own albums or not, both Hard Core and Ill Na Na generated mass followings for the them as well as a slew of children (ahem Ms. Minaj) who wanted to get on the sexually empowered female gangsta bandwagon. But which of these albums tickled your nasty as you want to be fancies more?
After a few key features and an introduction to the rap world through Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s Conspiracy, Lil Kim with Puff and B.I.G. in tow crafted what is unanimously thought of as her best album. Hard Core was full of chunky beats cut with lush soul samples thanks to a diverse production staff including Stretch Armstrong, Jermaine Dupri and several of Bad Boy’s in-house team, The Hitmen. However, the production, at a time when NY beat masters were killing everything in sight, wasn’t what made the album special. The Queen B’s ability to slip and slide through the beats like they were satin sheets while expressing her no-holds-barred gangster whore ideologies without one ounce of remorse catapulted this release into the empowerment cosmos.
I’m not suggesting that all of us chicks should cock back the nina and hold it to the head of whoever is lucky enough to catch us with our panties down just to hold him hostage until he breaks us off properly. (Even if you REALLY want to) However, there’s nothing wrong with that play-play alter ego allowing us a moment of men-aren’t-good-for-anything-unless-they-are-buried-face-first-in-the-bushes Zen. As raunchy and distasteful as some, okay most, of those lyrics were; Hard Core established Lil Kim as Hip-Hop’s resident female super hero.
She was uptown enough to know the difference between princess and emerald cut, but downtown enough to know how to load a .45 and the diamond cluster hustler rocked nothing but Prada (well when she wasn’t in Gabana). What woman wouldn’t want to spend a day in those Jimmy Choos? Even after the more thoughtful feminist types got a hold of the album and denounced Kim’s less-than-PC material I’m sure even they had to acknowledge the fantasy that the persona Kim presented was a bit kick ass.
Lil Kim is not the best rapper in the world, but she held her own against some of the day’s best emcees including Jay-Z and Notorious BIG and produced quite the moral bending experience. Right on her heels though, was The Firm’s contribution to the sexpot rapper contingent and to the table she brought a sexy, seductive voice, plenty of her own lurid sex tales and a very very Ill Na Na.
Foxy Brown, just like the femme fatale character she borrowed her name from, presented the ultimate in sexy and deadly as the lone chica in her fantasy mafia crew, The Firm. Book ended by AZ and Nas, she found herself in serious company but still managed to snatch the spotlight for a moment with the release of her debut album Ill Na Na. Produced solely by the TrackMasters, the album had an astute mixture of Hip-Hop and R&B, ferocious thump and verdant instrumentation borrowed from soul classics of yesteryear. Slickly spread across the 13 track drop was Foxy’s husky, confident voice extolling street virtues, proper brand placement and the mattress back way. However, like Lil Kim, Foxy’s sex tales kicked submission to the curb and the Firm’s princess let the fellas know in no uncertain terms if she says bye to her mans for you, you better be ready for the plans she has for you.
The album was tight in its lyrical constructs. Foxy was not about your bullshit. She didn’t have time to cuddle afterwards because The Firm put a ring on it and she was responsible for the dough and the guns. She left cab fare on the nightstand for her nightly exploits and sipped on nothing but the best. Foxy unabashedly made it cool to be a good fella type of lady and she did so suited in Channel and flossing the clearest of ice. The critics scrunched their faces, suggested she put some clothes on and wash her potty mouth out with soap, but in hot bitch fantasy land, her narratives were totally acceptable.
However, one of these brown bombshells has to rule the roost. Is it Notorious Kim or Foxy Brown. You make the choice.
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