Explosions In The Glass Palace

Explosions In The Glass Palace

If you belong to a world where the phrase 'sex-and-shopping' conjures up unfortunate images of couples cavorting in the Asda cheese aisle, [B]'Chyna Doll'[/B] will make you glad you're innocent of the

If you belong to a world where the phrase ‘sex-and-shopping’ conjures up unfortunate images of couples cavorting in the Asda cheese aisle, ‘Chyna Doll’ will make you glad you’re innocent of the pleasures of gangsta glamour.

It’s about a life – that of Foxy Brown, sex goddess behind the multi-platinum ‘Ill Na Na’, millionairess before her 20th birthday – and about a style – try Moschino, Gucci and Chanel on for ultra-skinny size – but only an idiot would add them together as a lifestyle guide. It’s a bleak, brutal story, and although the only morals are deliberately, provocatively loose, it’s still a cautionary tale. “Depending what you ask for, what you get you might not be able to get out of”, states Foxy on ‘It’s Hard Being Wifee’, and it’s a warning that hangs heavy over every track.

Roughly organised as autobiography, it begins with ‘The Birth Of Foxy Brown’, an unconvincing crescendo of groans resulting in Foxy‘s “mother” making a pact with her daughter that would have the organic likes of Lauryn Hill straight on the phone to welfare: “Momma’s been putting it down on these streets for many years/I mean, I own the hookers, I own the pimps but now the streets are yours… So get out there and be like a gangsta”.

Certainly, Foxy has done her proud, yet ‘Chyna Doll’ is still the stuff of betrayals and rivalries, of fierce defiance and marred victories, of girlfriends grown old and men grown cold. Swerving the easy route of sass and spark, her delivery is chilling; compellingly jaded, bitterly watchful. When she tries coquettish, she sounds like a kitten with machete claws. When she attacks someone’s male pride, it’s a sibilant rush of viral curses, a clatter of spite. The old-skool sparseness of ‘Tramp’ (“WHAT d’ya call me?”) is delivered like a long-nailed slap, while duelling-women phone skit ‘Babymother’ taps a ready menace. It’s what a self-proclaimed “motherfucking bitch” has to do, goes the argument. “Call me a ho, say I’m in it for the dough but tell me what the hell he’s in it for”, she spits on ‘My Life’, a bruised account of her rise to fame. If it’s hard to pity someone who has the constant comfort of mirror and bank book, cynicism soon fades as the thready guitar pulse and dead-eyed bass back claims that she’s contemplated slitting her wrists.

Yet the marriage of backing and words isn’t always so sharp, and track after track sinks under nebulous guest star mutterings, mass-produced plastic workouts, or the obligatory sex skits, titillating like an OU Physics lecture.

At the centre of it all, though, is Foxy – laser-guided, single-minded. It’s that more than the loving lists of labels or the rifling of bankrolls that prove Foxy Brown doesn’t come cheap. And as this record persistently reminds you, nor does success.