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Foxy Brown…

Owning her destiny?

Foxy Brown? An ambassador for youth in Trinidad and Tobago?

Don't look so surprised, the Platinum-selling female American rapper indicated during a recent exclusive interview with Express Woman that she is angling for the post of US youth ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago. She said this is a dream that she has been nurturing for the past few years.

"Who else but me?" she asked with a laugh. "I am a staunch supporter of American-Caribbean relations and my music targets the exact same demographic and genre of young people I want to stand up for."

Now anyone who is familiar with Foxy Brown will know that she has a controversial record — both in her personal life and the music industry. So what advantages can she bring to the position? If you ask her, the list is extensive but just for starters, she said, "I've forged many political alliances and I'm well-versed, articulate and educated. Beyond just having a vast amount of music industry experience, I am a staunch believer in being the voice for our young Trinidadian people."

With over a decade of hits, Foxy Brown has secured her spot among the upper echelon of American female rappers. Over the years, she has continued to hold her own as a hip hop artiste though she has been embroiled in much conflict and controversy, a curse which she says comes with the territory once you attain stardom.

And though she claims to have adopted a new philosophy when it comes to approaching situations where there can be conflict, the controversy has not ended for Foxy Brown. Far from it.

Today, even as she prepares to release yet another album and is engaged in a number of other projects, Brown is again waging war with fellow hip hop artistes. This time she is bringing the battle to Trinidad.

On September 6th, Brown celebrated her 31st birthday. She used the opportunity to chat about her career and disclosed plans to release a hit soca tune on her new album Black Roses, which is to be released on Christmas Eve. She also spoke of her plans to release of her autobiography, launch The Black Roses Foundation for underprivileged teenagers, appear in possible movies and a reality show, launch her own fashion clothing line and cosmetic line and participate in a number of endorsement deals.

So let's start from the top.

Foxy Brown was born Inga DeCarlo Marchand in Brooklyn, New York, the second of three children to Trinidadian welder Keith Stahler and elementary school teacher Judith Marchand. She was four years old when her parents divorced because of her father's addiction to crack cocaine. The divorce left a void in the children's lives, one which continues to affect Brown today, though she declares that her father has long won his battle with crack addiction and her parents are now close friends.

"Just remembering the hole I felt in my heart when my parents divorced makes me emotional," she stated during her interview with Express Woman. "I adored yet resented my father for destroying our family... I applaud her (my mom's) decision to leave now, but as a young girl I was lost without my father."

Growing up in New York, Brown was heavily influenced by rap music. She started rapping at the age of 14. In 1994, her career shot off when she entered and won a local talent competition and was given an opportunity to freestyle on stage, where she caught the attention of hip-hop producers Trackmasters.

At that time, Trackmasters were producing rapper LL Cool J's Mr. Smith LP and Brown was given the opportunity to perform on LL Cool J's "I Shot Ya," a B-side single from that album. It was her first commercial credit. The song was an instant hit and led to several others, so that before she even released any material of her own, Brown had performed on a number of 1995-1996 platinum and gold singles, collaborating with Case, Jay-Z, Total and Toni Braxton. This impressive string of hits sparked a recording company bidding war in early 1996, which ended in March 1996 when Foxy Brown signed with premier hip-hop label Def Jam Records.

Her first solo album, Ill Na Na was released in1996, just after Brown's seventeenth birthday. The album debuted at number seven on the Billboard 200 sales chart and went on to sell more than two million copies, earning platinum certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). Her second album, Chyna Doll, was released in 1999 and also earned platinum certification.

In June 2001, she released her third full length studio album Broken Silence. It featured compilations with Jamaican artistes Spragga Benz ("Oh Yeah") and Baby Cham ("Tables Will Turn").

She described this album as a personal triumph.

"When I merged hip-hop and dancehall tunes into #1 Billboard hits, I knew I had created something incredible!" she recalled fondly. "I had to literally fight like hell to get (recording label) Def Jam to release and support this new style of music I created from my heart. My label execs felt Caribbean music wouldn't appeal to mainstream audiences or sell the millions of records we were accustomed to selling. Boy, did I prove them wrong! The songs and videos both went #1 and were huge world-wide hits."

The world has since enjoyed a number of other successful collaborations flavoured with Caribbean music, but Brown believes that her efforts paved the way.

And though she did not speak directly about fellow female rapper Nicki Minaj, who also has Trini roots, Brown said, "It's flattering yet comical to hear any rap chic trying to copy Foxy's Trini girl style and patois rap on dancehall tunes! My Trini flag I hold up loud and proud!!! Fox is the only Trini chick that could spit yard s---!"

For Brown, there was always a 'Trini' connection. Members of her family continue to live in Couva, Trinidad and she has identified the surnames Marchand, Cumberbatch, Fung and Nathaniel as those of her relatives. She always returns to Trinidad during the Carnival season and disclosed that she has been playing mas since the age of five.

To prove her versatility in music, Brown has not limited her performance to hip hop and dancehall and promises to release a massive hit soca tune on her new double cd Black Roses, scheduled to be released on Christmas Eve. She has already recorded one soca/ rap tune with soca artiste Alison Hinds and is in Trinidad this month to record more music.

"I've had a phenomenal career since I was fifteen years old and I have sold millions of records worldwide. I'm deeply humbled by that," she said. "At this stage, I know that God is the only one who can end my journey. My new cd is amazing and I'm blessed to know that despite the few setbacks I've endured (hearing loss, miscarriage, legal issues, relationships) the world is anticipating my new album. I give God all the glory. My journey has just begun."

As for Brown's legal woes, she dismissed many of the allegations against her as contrived, "Because I am the most controversial female rapper, my name is always fodder for the press," she said. "These false accusations were definitely a hardship my family and I had to endure, but I proclaimed my innocence from the very beginning. What upsets me is that all the GOOD, philanthropic work I've done hardly ever gets mentioned because it doesn't sell papers! If I donate 300 computers to underprivileged kids and the next day I crash my Bentley leaving an event, which story do you think will make headlines and front page news!"

In those instances where she accepted that she was in the wrong, Brown said, "I will always take full responsibility for my actions and try not to live with regrets. My personal issue has been my response; the way I've handled being disrespected or provoked, because my approach is always friendly and respectful initially. I believe that the situations I've found myself in could have been avoided if I didn't allow someone else's jealousy or provocation to affect me. "

Brown claims that she has adopted a new philosophy.

"As a celebrity, you are a constant target. It's the gift and the curse! I believe that hard trials are necessary for TRUTH to be established, and when a woman finds her TRUTH she becomes the difference," she said. "Now instead of allowing (other people's) actions to have power over my reactions, I've learned to own my destiny. In embracing my maturation, I've realised I have everything to lose. Never again will I let anyone cause me to jeopardise what I've worked so hard all my life for."

In the meantime, she has shared her views on the local music and extended advice to upcoming musicians.

"Our soca artistes should tour and promote their music not just in the Caribbean, but internationally," she said. "My advice to any up and coming soca musician is to think bigger than one genre of music. Today, we have modern technology like the internet, which affords new artistes the platform to spread their music globally. Utilise your resources and always follow your intuition.

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