On its surface — as glossy and hard as Foxy Brown’s exquisitely manicured nails — this sophomore outing from hip-hop’s only million-selling teen female rapper aggressively mines Puff Daddy’s Midas formula. As expected, ”Chyna Doll” features Puffalicious, getting-jiggy-with-it anthems (“Hot Spot” and “JOB”) that are as sure to pack dance floors as they are to storm the charts. Brown even utilizes Puff’s penchant for borrowing from established hits (“JOB” takes a hefty chunk of Gwen Guthrie’s “Ain’t Nothin’ Going on but the Rent”), and apparently shares his fondness for ’80s new-wave pop (“I Can’t” samples Wham’s “Everything She Wants”). To further insure her platinum status, she pads the proceedings with cameos from rap and R&B heavyweights like Jay-Z, DMX, Mya, Mia X, Total, and Too Short — and that’s only a partial list of the guest stars.
These aren’t criticisms. Like Puff Daddy, Foxy Brown at her most shallow creates a beguiling fantasy life of limos and champagne; her persona and songs are glamorous and exciting in the way a pop star’s should be. What’s surprising is that the record hints at how painful maintaining the fantasy can be. On “My Life,” Brown presents herself as a reluctant sex symbol (or as reluctant as someone who routinely poses half naked in spangled skivvies and bustiers can be), and details the “high price of this high-priced life.” Indeed, “My Life” suggests that the 19-year-old chart-topper has known suicidal thoughts, and, in an eyebrow-raising lyric, claims she so missed the father who abandoned her at age 4, she “would’ve pimped for him.” Songs like “My Life” don’t make Foxy Brown the Alanis Morissette of rap, but they bring welcome substance: It’s nice to know that even China dolls as hard as this can be fragile sometimes.