Foxy Brown Recalls The "Ill Na Na" Nickname As A Teen, Pam Grier's Permission
Foxy Brown describes the confidence boost she got from calling herself "the ill na na" at 15 years old, even if it came from a place of pain.
Foxy Brown was not yet a legal adult when she released her platinum debut, Ill Na Na in 1996. The Violator/Def Jam Records released followed the Brooklyn, New York native's appearances on major label albums such as Nas' It Was Written, Case's self-titled LP, and most notably, Jay-Z's Reasonable Doubt single, "Ain't No Nigga."
On Case's hit "Touch Me, Tease Me," Foxy Brown—then 16 years old, referred to herself as "the Ill Na Na." Slang for female reproductive organs, the self-flattering term would go onto to become the title for Foxy's Top 10 debut less than a year later.
Recalling the development of her image after not having a present father figure, Fox cited a specific change in her self-confidence. "[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.'" Immediately, she says, she noticed an impact, even as a teenager. "The power. The statement. [I was] so young—15 [years old]. The statement that it made though. 'Her name is Foxy Brown,' who, of course, I had to ask permission from—the O.G. Foxy Brown, Pam Grier," revealed Foxy Brown during a recent rare and in-depth interview on The Combat Jack Show.
Grier was the title role in the 1974 film, Foxy Brown. The Jack Hill-directed cult-classic is centered around a powerful female who avenges her boyfriend's murder. Foxy contacted the still-active actress in the mid-1990s to use the name.
"When you come from class, you call and ask permission," explained the emcee, in the wake of controversy from Rap peers like Rick Ross and 50 Cent taking on others' nicknames. "You don't just jack [the name]." According to the former Def Jam star, the actress obliged and encouraged the then-teen rapper. "I was 15 years old and she told me, 'The only way you can have it [is to elevate it]. I've done damage to this name.'" Foxy deduced, "In the '70s, she was...every dude wanted to [have sex] with her and every girl wanted to be her. That's the bottom line. She told me, 'I want you to make your Foxy bigger than my Foxy! Meaning, when they say the name Foxy Brown, they think of you and not me.' When they say Foxy Brown now, who do they think about?"
The full Foxy Brown interview on The Combat Jack Show is below: