By Bob McMahon
By Allison Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By Carolina de Busto
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
When Inga Marchand (a.k.a. Foxy Brown) refers to herself as the Angelina Jolie of rap on her latest release, Broken Silence, it's probably the most insightful thing you'll hear on the album. Both women are curvy, marginally talented and obnoxiously crazy, with no qualms about publicly exploiting that craziness. A good portion of Broken Silence has Brown simultaneously lamenting and boasting about her dysfunctional relationships, her beef with fellow nut case Lil' Kim and her alleged suicide attempt using prescription drugs. The album's "Intro" runs down this list of problems in fake-news-report fashion atop cheesy soap-opera strings (a musical theme that doesn't go away, unfortunately). Truly, this is more of a soap opera than a rap album, but it is an intriguing one. The female 'Pac (we'll get to that later) does sound convincingly angry at times, especially when taking aim at ex-mentor Jay-Z and whoever it is dating her ex-fiancé, Kurupt (some R&B singer -- who cares?). But it's difficult to buy into any of it. When Foxy stops midverse to collect herself in "The Letter," a confessional/apology to her mother, brother and hubby, one wonders: How many takes did it require to get that breakdown right? Or, if it's not bullshit, why does she spend half the album spitting the same money/shoes/cars/purses/sex/shoes jargon she's apologizing for? Yeah, yeah: Tupac was a ball of contradictions, and it was compelling, so, like, whatever, right?
Although her attempts at actual emotion, however contrived, are admirable, Inga is a helluva lot more successful when sticking to what she does best: dirty talk. And having the Neptunes hook up a beat or two doesn't hurt, either; the omnipresent production team contribute "Candy," a shamelessly catchy ode to oral sex. Foxy gets a little help from her friends again on "Run Yo S**t," featuring the bizarre thuggery of Noreaga, who gets his Jack Tripper on over a barrage of robotic gangster farts. Other highlights include "7:30," where FB gets extra points for using the phrase "spazzed out in the hook," and, uh, that's it, actually. The vast majority of the beats are of the current New York-Shiny-Metronome variety, and attempts to incorporate dancehall reggae stylings, though noble, fall flat on dem face, bwoy. Of course, lines such as "Don't you know you shouldn't mess with people from Jamaica/ ... We take the cake-a" don't help matters, nor do listless appearances by Mystikal and Ron Isley. The sudden Tupac fixation continues on the title track, which, if done right, could have been an extremely poignant song. Instead, we relive 'Pac's bad idea of sampling Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings," and it's just as cornball as it was when he did it -- or when Mr. Mister did it.
Bottom line, this is an uneven album at best. At the end of the day, does anyone really care about Foxy Brown's fashion-rap melodrama? For Marchand's sake, let's hope that the tabloid fiends in line at the Schnucks hip-hop supermarket do. Otherwise we may see FB driving her Benz full of Prada shoes to the Hip-Hop Consignment Shop. And that would be a shame.