As the self-appointed Freddie Foxxx historian of RapReviews.com, it behooves me to quote from 2003’s review of “Konexion” to explain the significance of this new Foxxx album.
“Foxxx’s debut album Freddie Foxxx is Here on MCA Records in 1989 was both a musical and commercial failure. Most rappers who bomb that hard on their debut slip into a musical black hole, but Foxxx escaped the gravitational pull by quietly making cameo after dope cameo on albums by Kool G. Rap, Boogie Down Productions, and Queen Latifah’s own Flavor Unit. Crazy Like a Foxxx was expected to complete his triumphant return, but for reasons unknown [the label] shelved the album entirely. Like KMD’s sophomore effort this album’s reputation only grew by it’s dissapearance.”
With the 2008 release of “Crazy Like a Foxxx” one of the longest running unwritten stories in hip-hop can finally be told. Those who aren’t familiar with Foxxx may not understand how exciting the prospect of this album was back in the day OR today. When it comes to hard New York rappers, they don’t come much harder than the Foxxx. Long before DMX was barking on records, the Foxxx was howling with anger. His gruff and gravelly tones always seem to be cranked up WAY past ten, yet miraculously this never makes his vocals annoying nor causes him to lose breath control. Freddie Foxxx is like a one-man version of Onyx with better punchlines and the righteous indignation of Dead Prez. Foxxx’s FUCK ALL YOU WHACK EMCEES attitude and his willingness to name names make him a breath of fresh air in rap even as it makes him enemies in all the wrong places, which is why he had to release 2000’s “Industry Shakedown” independently. The one-sheet accompanying “Crazy Like a Foxxx” praises him for moving over 200,000 units of that album on his own even as it notes that his legendary temper may have been the reason his original sophomore album got put on ice until now.
Readers should be aware that the promotional version of “Crazy Like a Foxxx” that I received is only one disc of a planned two-disc set. That doesn’t mean that Foxxx was crazy ahead of his time and planning a double album before Biggie or ‘Pac (more on the latter in a minute), but what it DOES mean is that there are two different versions of “Crazy Like a Foxx” that have been gathering dust for the last 15 years. One is the “main” album, the final version all but ready to be pressed and shrinkwrapped for delivery to retail. The other is the “demo” album, a 1993 version of “Crazy Like a Foxx” produced entirely by the Diggin’ In The Crates crew (Buckwild, Lord Finesse and Showbiz). I’m a bit disappointed I only have the “main” album to review, because I have the feeling that D.I.T.C. version of “Crazy Like a Foxxx” is absolutely bananas. There are plenty of unexpected and pleasant surprises on the disc I’ve got though, including the late great Tupac Shakur sharing beats and mics with Foxxx on “Killa”:
Shakur: “Sick, thicker than most of these tricks
I got my mind on makin money but you stuck on these fake, bitches
I stay blunted and never fronted and I doubt if I do
Cause if I did then I’d get beat up by my fuckin crew
A real nigga; since you figure that you ready to box
You catchin knots from my nigga Freddie Foxxx!
Ha! You really don’t want none from ‘Pac
Cause I’ll be strapped with a glock and throw thangs like I’m born to rock”
It’s tragic to listen to the magic of this duo sharing studio time to rhyme knowing how overhyped and absurd the beef between East and West coast got. Speaking of magic, hearing both Kool G. Rap and Foxxx together on the rudely titled “Cook a Niggaz Ass” goes down as one of the greatest moments in New York rap history. The loquacious G. Rap and the pugilistic Foxx are a brilliant yin and yang tandem in rapping. It’s rare that the Kool one is outshined on a beat especially back in the era which this album came from, but at the very least on this song it’s a tie.
Foxxx: “Now I’ma lay this lyric down quick like I planned
A real smooth style from the militant mack man
For rappers that feel they got hot enough to flow with me
Put your mic down punk, you can’t go with me
Cause I can take ’em better than the best
And hogtie you motherfuckers, and blow holes in your chest
So understand that I come rough and rugged and wicked and tough
Until you motherfuckers had enough”
Guest appearances are actually quite minimal on “Crazy Like a Foxxx,” with the only other one of note being Public Enemy’s own Chuck D on the funky plucked bass of “Step.” It’s a one man show for Foxxx over almost 18 rugged tracks. There’s an upside and a downside to those tracks though. On the one hand the production and construction of songs seems very dated by 2008 standards, as you wouldn’t hear a track like “Can’t Break Away” these days, particularly with a whole crew of ruffnecks shouting the catchphrase of the song over and over again in the chorus. On the other hand it’s that very dated style of presentation and beats that makes this album fun to listen to. Listening to the title track of “Crazy Like a Foxxx” you can picture Heavy D or Big Daddy Kane spitting to the exact same beat and it wouldn’t be out of place. At any moment I expect Pudgee Tha Phat Bastard to show up on “So Tough.” It’s that early 1990’s Trackmasters style of East coast hip-hop production matched up with Foxxx’s over-the-top hyped up vocals that make “Crazy Like a Foxxx” a fun album.
“Crazy Like a Foxxx” is not a PERFECT album though. Foxxx was as hard as they come even back then but he actually developed into a much stronger lyricist by the time “Industry Shakedown” was released. On this 15 years too late album Foxx is a verbal pugilist and a great storyteller, but not yet as witty as he’d get or as brutal in his attacks on sucker MC’s. There’s very little to complain about though considering an album which might never have seen the light of day is coming out to hip-hop heads today. The only question is how many people from 1993 still remember “the lost Foxxx” album or even care enough to buy something in 2008 just for the nostalgia and historical value. I know I for one will though just to hear that second disc with the alternate takes by D.I.T.C. and as a supporter of this album finally being released. I have a feeling if it HAD been released back in the day we’d remember it fondly now as a hip-hop classic.