Foxy Brown :: Brooklyn's Don Diva :: Black Roses/Koch Records
as reviewed by Steve 'Flash' Juon

[Brooklyn's Don Diva] "The fly bitch, still ghetto, still gully
See my long hair hangin out of my skully
Got my Timbs on baby, I'm out here, it's ugly
With rings on my toes I bought out of this country
Can't buy this bag right here, I doubt it honey
Tryin keep up with me you'll run out of money
The whole hood fuckin with Fox cause niggaz love me
20 million sold bitch, I'm old money
Mo' paper, mo' money, mo' haters
I'm worldwide, how can I get mo' famous
I bought more lawyers cause I caught more cases
I paid all of them niggaz in small faces"

It's a bit stunning to consider that it's been SEVEN YEARS since Foxy Brown released her last album, 2001's "Broken Silence." Considering the amount of legal problems she had between 1997 and 2007 though, it might be a minor miracle that she ever had another album at all. No one other than those who know Inga Marchand personally or grew up with her can say what type of person she really is, but one could argue that while Trina calls herself the "Da Baddest Bitch" as a gimmick Foxy Brown actually tries to live it. Her rap sheet is ridiculous - she spits on hotel employees, smacks her neighbors with cell phones, attacks manicurists, gets into fights with police officers, and actually has an outstanding warrant to be arrested should she ever return to Jamaica again. In fact Ms. Marchand only got released from confinement in a Rikers Island Correctional facility a month before this album was released. It's no surprise that on the self-titled opening track of "Brooklyn's Don Diva" she brags about buying more lawyers - she needs a full-time legal time to follow her around and get her out of the shit that she starts.

Clearly the more pressing issue for rap fans is not whether or not she can keep her nose clean (after all legal problems and hip-hop success seem to go hand in hand for artists like Lil' Kim, T.I. and Lil Wayne) but whether or not she can (A.) still flow after a seven year long hiatus and (B.) still be musically relevant in 2008. To further compound what has to already be a difficult comeback for Foxy Brown, the rapper was reported to have suffered acute hearing loss in 2005. It would be hard to argue this has completely impeded her artistically given she may have recorded up to two full albums since 2001 that never got released due to record label disputes, and she's made cameo appearances on remixes and compilation albums during that time as well. That being said it's hard to imagine keeping pace lyrically if you can't hear a beat, or even being able to judge if your flow is on point when you can't hear youself speak. I can only imagine she got some sort of cochlear implant to take the place of her hearing loss or it would be very hard to function as an MC or recording artist of any kind.

Foxy doesn't take chances with going unheard on "Brooklyn's Don Diva," bringing in an all-star range of producers and guest artists to join her on the tracks. Popular reggae artist Mavado joins Foxy on a Bob Perry beat entitled "We're On Fire," where Brown brags that "I ain't changed, I been the same bitch before rap; only thing that changed, is my ass got more fat." Fizzy Womack (M.O.P.'s own Lil' Fame) shows he has a crossover side producing Foxy Brown's "Never Heard This Before" featuring crooner Dwele, which is sure to chart if they clean up the profanity and drug references. Brown even links up with her former Firm cohort AZ on the Statik Selektah produced "Too Real." Conspicuously absent are people like her "mentor" Jay-Z or anybody associated with Sean 'Diddy' Combs. That's not to say she's severed all ties with her past though, as her one-time boyfriend Spragga Benz can be heard on the mellow Jamaican groove of "We Set the Pace" along with Morgan Heritage. One of the album's strongest songs is "Star Cry," with a piano melody hammering the dark keys on the left side of the keyboard, matched by an equally dark and heavy bassline. Foxy Brown openly discusses the fact that her life is filled with so much drama:

"Everybody wanna know 'bout Fox
Cause I'm the most controversial young rap bitch in hip-hop
And please don't shed me no tears, I need y'all prayers
The feds on my back, tryin to give me five years
And my P.O., stay tryin to violate me
That's why I make sure my piss is clean, my wrists is gleam
And my whip is sick, my six is mean
Paparazzi take flicks and see how the bitch lean
Uhhh, I'm every black girl's dream
Controversy sells, I was taught at sixteen
I spaz if you tempt me
Only black bitch to get press like the white bitches, Paris and Lindsay"

Foxy's ability to be honest about her trials and tribulations is refreshing, and the album is mostly successful regardless of her extra-long absence from store shelves. There are a few major missteps here and there though - "Why" sounds like a bad attempt at a Kanye West or Sheek Louch track with R&B hooks, and she relies a little too much on affecting her Trinidadian accent on songs like "The Quan" featuring Lady Saw. In fact Foxy has often seemed downright obsessed with coming across as a patois speaking reggae artist in her rap songs, when quite honestly she should just stick to being a Brooklyn bitch. It's good to hear Foxy Brown back on the scene though with an album that manages to overcome any doubts about her ability to still spit or her long hiatus from this shit. "Brooklyn's Don Diva" will please any hardcore fans who never gave up on her even though she was gone for so long.

Music Vibes: 7.5 of 10 Lyric Vibes: 7 of 10 TOTAL Vibes: 7 of 10

Originally posted: May 13, 2008