It’s quite easy as a Hip-Hop fan to get caught up in your region. This is especially true when you’re from the Tri-State area, a location that until the last decade or so was viewed as the “Mecca” or cultural center of the Hip-Hop movement. It was that thinking that had me surprised a few weeks ago when casually mentioning to a friend the late 90s battle between Queen Latifah and Foxy Brown.
“Whaaat?,” said the friend, who happened to be from Los Angeles. “Latifah and Foxy had beef? I never knew that.”
In light of thinking there’s probably many more out there who’ve either forgotten or overlooked this small gem of a feud (which let’s be honest, produced records that are a lot better than many of their male counterparts), this post will catch you up on what happened.
THE BACKSTORY: Allegedly, this all stems from comments Foxy Brown made circa ’96 about Latifah making unwanted advances onto her in a club. While there’s no media quotes to substantiate this, the industry is not as big as it appears, so it’s feasible Foxy recalled this story to her inner circle and it eventually got back to the Queen. As expected, Latifah was none too happy about the comments. Latifah’s sexuality has always been an open secret, but it was a still a topic she ducked when asked, especially considering how well she played the “Cleo” role in the hit crime caper film Set It Off.
Speaking of Set It Off, Latifah responded in true emcee fashion by taking it to the booth to record “Name Callin’.” Ironically, there was no names dropped and those not in the know could easily interpret this as just a generic diss to any female emcee. However, those aware of the brewing beef knew this was a clear warning shot.
Nothing was heard for close to two years after this and for the most part any issues between the two were forgotten.
Well, everyone except Foxy. She took the opportunity to reignite the feud with a blatant and hard diss included on the third installment for Funkmaster Flex’s 60 Minutes of Funk series. Now, when you have a diss included on a retail album, it means war. Not to mention, she painted Latifah as being confused sexually, on the downside of her music career (using her platinum sales as the basis, as Latifah never had a platinum plaque), and had her brother Gavin playing the hypeman/Bundini Brown role in daring Latifah to respond.
Queen Pen, a good friend of Latifah’s, caught some shrapnel on this one as well, leading to a physical confrontation between them.
THE BATTLE’S PEAK: Latifah was not amused — in fact, she was pissed off. That incredulous anger was channeled into the mixtape track “Name Callin’ Part 2,” which utilized several classic Hip-Hop instrumentals from the era. As unexpected as the first “Name Callin'” was, this was a sheer jaw-dropper to hear the Queen going at someone this hard and efficiently. It would turn out to the high point of the feud and the record that got Latifah the “W” in most people’s eyes.
Foxy wouldn’t wait long to retaliate (she couldn’t in this case; the record was too hard). Foxy’s “Talk to Me” wasn’t a bad or subpar response. She used the angle of Latifah being hypocritical in trying to give her sound a tougher edge when by this point she was clearly one of the game’s biggest crossover brands. Still, it was nowhere near as hard-hitting as “Name Callin’ Part 2.”
AFTERMATH: A few years later, Latifah and Foxy Brown quietly mended the ill will behind the scenes, as evidenced by the picture at the beginning of this piece. Back in ’06, Foxy would also make a public reconciliation with Queen Pen.
Overall, the battle was good for both sides. For Latifah, it showed she could get her hands dirty in a lyrical battle. She could have easily hidden behind her public stature and side-stepped it. While Foxy did get some criticism from those believing she didn’t have the accomplishments to come for Latifah, it won her a grudging respect. Foxy was barely 18 years old when the first diss dropped, so for such a young emcee to show fearlessness in taking on a well-respected veteran says a lot. This battle was also served as good experience, and Foxy would build on it years later to deliver one of the more scathing disses and verses of the early 2000s when she went at Lil Kim on CNN’s “Bang Bang.”
For those of you just hearing these tracks or hearing them again for the first time in years, who do you think won this battle?