While still a teenager, Foxy won a talent
contest in Brooklyn, and was invited to freestyle on stage. At
that time, production team Trackmasters were working on LL Cool
J's Mr. Smith album, and they decided to let her rap over "I
Shot Ya." The single became a hit, prompting Brown's work with
Total, Toni Braxton, and Case, as well as her induction into the
Firm posse (led by Nas and also including AZ and Cormega).
Before Foxy Brown had released any material at all, Foxy Brown appeared on several 1995-1996 platinum singles, including her first credit, LL Cool J's "I Shot Ya," as well as Total's "No One Else" remix, Jay-Z's "Ain't No Nigga", Toni Braxton's "You're Makin' Me High" remix, and Case's "Touch Me, Tease Me" along with Mary J. Blige. The success led to a major-label bidding war at the beginning of 1996, and by March Brown had signed with the Def Jam label.
In 1996 Foxy released her debut album Ill Na Na to mixed reviews but strong sales. The album was produced by Trackmasters, and featured appearances from Blackstreet, Method Man, and Kid Capri. It hit number seven its first week on the U.S. album chart. Despite some positive reviews, Ill Na Na was heavily criticized for its explicit lyrics, particularly because Brown was only sixteen years old at the time of the recording. The album went on to go platinum and launched two hit singles. Fellow raunchy female rapper and Brooklyn native, Lil' Kim, also appeared on the music scene around the same time and the media immediately created a rivalry between once friends Brown and Kim.
The Firm never lived up to its excessive hype and instead became a brief footnote in the careers of its main participants. Including Foxy the foursome included three other New York rappers — (Nas, AZ and Nature — but was actually the pet project of its producers: Nas Escobar (as he referred to himself at the time), Steve "Commissioner" Stoute, Dr. Dre, and the Trackmasters.
An early form of the Firm appeared on "Affirmative Action," a standout song from Nas' second album, It Was Written. Brown, AZ and Cormega joined Nas for the song — each taking a verse — and it became an album highlight as well as a much-talked-about song on the streets. The Firm's only album sold poorly but charted well upon its relase. Although debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 the album quickly fell off the charts.
Foxy went on to release a single "Big Bad Mama" featuring Dru Hill from Def Jam's How to Be a Player soundtrack. It became a minor hit and set Brown up to launch another album.
In 1999 Brown released her second album Chyna Doll which made chart history when it became the first album by a female rap artist to enter the Billboard 200 at number one, even though its first single "Hot Spot" failed to reach the U.S. top fifty. Chyna Doll was certified platinum by the RIAA (shipping over one million copies), but it did not live up to the expectations of her record label.
Later that year, Foxy was a spokes model for Calvin Klein Jeans. At the end of 1999, Brown and her fiancé Kurupt ended their five year relationship. By the year 2000, several of Foxy's friendships in the industry, such as those with Jay-Z and Nas, became strained. Brown suffered from depression and entered rehab for an addiction to prescription painkillers. Also in 1999 Foxy appeared on the cover of Essense magazine's August issue. The article was titled "Dignity or Dollars". In it Brown stated she wanted to clean up her image, even appearing clothed a lot more than she had previously and it countered the negative press she received for her Vibe magazine cover shot in which she posed wearing a silver bikini and suggestively holding her crotch.
Foxy Brown's personal problems continued to escalate. On March 6, 2000, Brown crashed her Range Rover in Flatbush, Brooklyn. Foxy Brown's injuries were minor but police arrested her for driving while her license had been suspended for not paying two parking tickets.
In 2001, Foxy released the critically acclaimed Broken Silence album. The first single "BK Anthem" was gritty and more underground than any of Brown's previous singles. It gave "props" to her hometown, Brooklyn, and other famous rappers such as The Notorious B.I.G. and Jay-Z. The song's music video had a similarly urban and home-grown feel, and was made to look like it was cheaply recorded from a home video camcorder. The second single from the album "Oh Yeah", which featured her then boyfriend Jamaican reggae artist Spragga Benz, marked Brown's debut in the reggae/dancehall genre of music. Brown's record label Def Jam didn't put forth the same promotion as they had with her two previous albums, although music critics hailed Broken Silence as Brown's most personal and introspective work to date. The album became Foxy's lowest selling album to date. The album sold over 800,000 copies and went gold without huge promotion.
In 2002, Foxy Brown received her first Grammy nomination for Best Female Rap Solo Performance for her single "Na Na Be Like" from the Broken Silence album.
In 2003, Foxy returned to the music scene briefly on a DJ Kay Slay single called "Too Much For Me". In April Brown appeared on popular New York radio jock Wendy Williams' radio show, and revealed the details of her relationship with Def Jam President at the time, Lyor Cohen and Sean P. Diddy Combs. Brown accused both of illegally trading her recording masters. Foxy Brown also announced that Cohen shelved her long awaited fourth album Ill Na Na 2: The Fever because of her refusal to accept new contractual terms. Brown tearfully revealed that the overwhelming stress from Def Jam resulted in her having a miscarriage (she was expecting her first child with boyfriend Spragga Benz). Less than 24 hours after the interview was broadcast, Ill Na Na 2: The Fever mysteriously surfaced online for downloading and bootlegging. A few months later Brown appeared on the cover of the popular hip-hop magazine XXL, and shared her desire to leave Def Jam. In late 2003 Brown was released from the label.
In 2004, Foxy reunited with her childhood friend Jay-Z, when he became the president of Def Jam and signed her to his subsidiary, Roc-A-Fella Records. Later that year, Brown joined Jay-Z and a slew of other hot hip-hop acts on his "Jay-Z and Friends" tour. Foxy Brown also began recording her fourth solo album, Black Roses. Later that year, Foxy Brown was allegedly involved in a physical altercation with two manicurists over a payment dispute.
In April 2005, female rapper Jacki-O alleged that she and Foxy got into a physical altercation at a recording studio in Miami, Florida. Jacki said that Foxy came in the studio during her session and expected her to "bow down" to her. She said that Brown constantly belittled her, and a heated argument ensued. Jacki alleged that verbal altercation eventually escalated into fist fight. While Brown did admit that there was definitely a verbal disagreement, she denied that it ever turned physical. Brown said that Jacki was "disrespectful" and that she exaggerated the incident to gain publicity for her upcoming project.
On December 5, 2005, her attorney Joseph Tacopina said that Foxy Brown is almost totally deaf and that he cannot communicate with her verbally any more. Foxy told reporters on December 15 that she was diagnosed with sudden hearing loss in May while she was recording her upcoming album.
Shortly after Tacopina spoke to the public about her hearing condition, news spread that Foxy had fired him. According to reports, Tacopina was never given permission by Brown or her agent to discuss her medical condition to reporters.
On December 15, 2005, Brown held an emotional press conference in New York City, where Foxy Brown revealed that she is now 100% deaf due to sensorineural hearing loss. Foxy Brown also revealed that she had not heard another person's voice since May 2005. Brown underwent surgery in early 2006 in hopes of restoring her hearing. Post recovery, Brown said that she plans to finish working on her fourth solo album, Black Roses, for a 2006 release. At the conference, Brown was surrounded by many supporters, including her friend supermodel Tyson Beckford, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, Kimora Lee Simmons and rapper Doug E. Fresh.
Foxy Brown successfully had surgery that got her hearing back 100%, after a year of deafness. In interviews she stated that she went straight from the operating room to the studio in order to complete her album due out in December 2006.
Legal run-ins for Foxy Brown
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