Inga Marchand, 6 September 1979, Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA. Marchand grew up with another future female rap star, Lil Kim, in Park Slope, Brooklyn. Naming herself after the eponymous Pam Grier character in the cult blaxploitation movie, Browns rapid rise to fame began when, at the age of 15, she won a talent contest in Brooklyn. She was invited by Trackmasterz, who were working on LL Cool Js 1995 set Mr. Smith, to add a rap to a remix of I Shot Ya. The song proved to be a highly successful single, leading to further high profile guest appearances on tracks by Total (No One Else), Toni Braxton (Youre Makin Me High) and Case (Touch Me, Tease Me). Her provocative rap on Jay-Zs Aint No Nigga (Aint no nigga like the one I got/sleeps around but he gives me a lot) established her highly sexual and ultra confident persona, which came as a breath of fresh air on the male dominated hip-hop scene.
A major-label scramble for her signature ended when Def Jam Records signed her in March 1996. Production maestros Trackmasters oversaw her debut set, Ill Na Na. Debuting at number 7 on the Billboard chart in December, the album has gone on to sell in excess of 1.5 million units. Almost overnight Brown had become a powerful female icon, revolutionizing hip-hop with her sexually explicit lyrics and provocative image. Her standing in hip-hop circles was indicated by guest appearances on the album by artists including BLACKstreet, Method Man and Jay-Z. She also appeared with Nas, AZ and Nature as part of rap supergroup the Firm, whose Mafia-inspired debut was released the following year.
Now a bona fide rap superstar, Browns Chyna Doll went straight in at number 1 on the Billboard album chart in February 1999, despite the failure of the single Hot Spot. The album featured the expected high profile collaborations, including duets with Total (I Cant), DMX (Dog & A Fox) and Jay-Z (Bonnie And Clyde Part II), and a hard hitting jam with Mia X and Gangsta Boom on BWA. There was also a cover version of Salt-N-Pepas Tramp, while the stand-out track My Life hinted at vulnerability behind Browns hard bitch persona. She was rarely out of the headlines following the albums release, with a number of highly controversial incidents leading many to wonder if Brown would continue in the music business. True to form she blasted the doubters away with the release of 2001s Broken Silence, her most cohesive set to date.
Surprisingly, the album failed to sell in the same numbers as its predecessors and by 2003 Brown had fallen out with Def Jam. The next few years were full of more downs than ups for the rapper, with an abortive contract with the Jay-Z led Roc-A-Fella Records label and several reported physical altercations. In September 2007, she was sentenced to a year in jail on a probation violation stemming from one of these incidents. (NB: Not to be confused with the Jamaican artist of the same name.)
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.