“Yo Na Na so Ill, first week out
Shipped a half a mil, niggaz freaked out
She’s all about sex, pard-on, check your facts
and the track record, I’m all about plaques
Shakin my ass half naked, lovin this life
Waitin for Kim album to drop, knowin it’s tight”
Today marks the twentieth anniversary for the debut of Foxy Brown’s Ill Na Na and I couldn’t call this a hip hop feminist blog if I didn’t give any shine to Foxy Brown for this historic album.
Ill Na Na dropped a week after Lil Kim’s Hardcore and it sold 100,000 copies in the first week which was more than Hardcore’s 78,000 copies the previous week. I’m not here to talk who’s better between the two, but instead to celebrate a fellow woman of color who changed up the conversation for women of color in hip hop.
Ill Na Na refers to a woman’s reproductive organs and in an interview on The Combat Jack Show Foxy Brown said, “[It all happened] when I realized I had that power—when I got that nickname, ‘the ill na na,’ and when I started to rap. I said, ‘That’s the name I want to incorporate with [me], publicly, in front of millions of people.’”
Foxy Brown was sixteen when she first made reference to the term “Ill Na Na” in Case’s Touch Me, Tease Me. That was a very young age to rap about “racy” topics such as Foxy was doing. She was seventeen when the “Ill Na Na” album debuted and this shook up the hip hop world for women rappers. Her image and music were hyper sexual, dealt with drugs, violence, and it was the first time the hip hop community was hearing these not so “lady-like” lyrics come from a teenage girl who was not legal to vote yet.
The debut of albums from two female rappers who had similar messages in their music was something that shifted the narrative as we know it for women of color in hip hop music. Foxy Brown opened a space to discuss and celebrate our black sexuality as women of color. This did come at a cost, which was black young girls who didn’t understand their bodies mimicking these hyper sexual lyrics.
Foxy Brown has been in number of research studies about women of color in hip hop. Foxy Brown like Lil Kim created alternatives and with against traditional scripts for women of color in hip hop music.
We all have our reserves about sexuality in the black community, but black women have never been allowed to fully express our sexuality. We’re constantly told inside and outside our black community what is too much when it comes to expressing our sexuality. The craziest part is when our culture is appropriated and all of a sudden the same ways we’ve been ridiculed for celebrating our sexuality is acceptable when another culture does.
Foxy Brown said the things that women of color were thinking but maybe felt ashamed to say. Foxy celebrated her sexuality and you should; we all should.