A guest spot on the 1996 Jay-Z track "Ain't No Nigga" introduced Foxy Brown—the scourge of sub-par nail-salon and hotel employees everywhere—as a jailbait, off-brand Lil' Kim, from the gratuitous dropping of designer names to the Biggie-meets-Mae West swagger. Twelve years on, Brown's sexual-outlaw shtick still feels second-hand and second-rate. On her underwhelming would-be comeback album Brooklyn's Don Diva, Brown seems confused about whether her tabloid infamy is a source of pride or shame. When Brown raps about being "the only black bitch that gets press like the white bitches Paris and Lindsay" on the self-pitying, tellingly named "Star Cry," it falls somewhere between a boast and a complaint.
But it isn't all brand-name dropping, rote gangsta posturing, and defensive bragging about long-ago triumphs: "When The Lights Go Out" rides a chilly, infectious electro-pop groove to dance-floor heaven, and the hip-hop mix of "The Quan" smartly borrows the loping, elegant beat of Gang Starr's "JFK 2 LAX." Brown made her name being the young, new, sexy upstart, so it's perhaps inevitable that she seems threatened throughout by the crop of younger, newer, sexier artists out to take her place. A distinct note of desperation has crept into Brown's music: The more she professes to be important and relevant, the less important or relevant she seems.