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Career Girls

You'd think that because they have the same come-hither pose, the same brashly aggressive appeal and -- when it comes right down to it -- the same act, hip-hop bad girl Lil' Kim and her Def Jam mirror image Foxy Brown would be at each other's throats. So it's a bit of a surprise to discover that these two streetwise debutantes have nothing but the utmost respect for each other (or so they say). They've appeared together on the cover of The Source, they praised each other in the liner notes of their respective CDs and now they're even touring together. The pair must have realized that it would be unwise for either of them to dis the other as a pouty-faced poseur -- especially since they both fit the pouty-faced poseur mold to a tee.

A member of the Junior M.A.F.I.A., the spin-off clique of the late Notorious B.I.G., Lil' Kim barks the louder of the two risque dames, even if it's not always for the better moral good. Hard Core, her 1996 debut CD, is a veritable walk-in closet of raunchy wishes and vulgar dreams deftly set to a pert rap/R&B bump-and-grind soundtrack. Kim, it seems, has no problem confessing her deepest, dirtiest secrets to anyone willing to listen. In an obvious attempt to live up to the disc's title, our dirty diva explains how she overcame her fear of male genitalia to the point that she can now squeeze and please with the expertise of a porn starlet. She plays off a surprisingly effective form of hip-hop irony -- a lady with the voice of mama's little angel and the mouth of a sailor.

Foxy Brown subscribes to the same no-nonsense sexual politics as Lil' Kim. But to her credit, she tones down the stag-film rhetoric on her debut disc, Ill Na Na. One can assume that age (Brown was 17 when she entered the studio) played a role in keeping her CD's vibe more erotically suggestive than bluntly arousing. Though Brown's rat-a-tat-tat vocal delivery and her music's jacked-up R&B flow don't differ much from Kim's, heartening touches of wit seep through. Really, you can't help but root for a gal who likens her sexual prowess to "Pee-Wee in a movie theater." Recently, Brown has paired her nice-and-naughty wit with the talent of rappers Nas, Nature and AZ on the hit release The Firm, much in the same way that Kim has affiliated herself with the Junior M.A.F.I.A.

And so it appears that the parallel career trajectories of Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown aren't likely to diverge any time soon. And while I hate to pick favorites, I'd have to say the freshly licked lollipop mystique of Brown ought to have more going for it in the long run than Kim's porno-princess-in-waiting routine. But then again, who am I to put an expiration date on flowering womanhood?

-- Craig D. Lindsey

Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown perform with Puff Daddy, Busta Rhymes, Mase, Lil' Cease, the Lox and Kid Capri at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, December 11, at Compaq Center. Tickets are $30.75 and $40.75. For info, call 629-3700.

Steve Forbert -- It's been almost 20 years since Forbert burst onto the national scene with the impressive debut Alive on Arrival. Since then, he's endured a roller-coaster ride of ups and downs. The hard-scrabble neo-folk of his well-received late-'70s releases was followed by a series of label problems that prevented him from releasing any music at all for six years. When he finally returned, the scene had changed, and Forbert had to start all over again. Still, the past few years have been relatively kind. Forbert's recent releases have garnered favorable reviews, while his almost ceaseless touring has helped rebuild his audience. This time around, Forbert is coming to Houston in support of Here's Your Pizza, a wonderfully odd collection of live material culled from decade-old four-track recordings of performances at a tiki hut in Destin, Florida. It's hardly a career move, mind you -- just a way for Forbert to showcase what he does best: Mix soul-searching originals and covers performed with a healthy dollop of sly wit. At 8:30 p.m. Thursday, December 11, at McGonigel's Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk. Tickets are $12. 528-5999. (Jim Caligiuri)

Michael Peterson -- This former college football star's fans see him as the embodiment of Nashville's country music future, and that appears to be Michael Peterson's destiny in a nutshell. His vocal range is limited, his songwriting formulaic, but the native Northwesterner has everything else it takes to win folks over: striking good looks, wheelbarrows full of charm and the inability to take "no" for an answer (and do so politely). That might not sound like much, but it's everything in today's mainstream country market, which explains why Peterson's latest single, the mildly honky-tonkish "From Here to Eternity," is hovering in the country Top Ten. Comparisons to Travis Tritt are commonplace, and Peterson welcomes the connection. In fact, Tritt contributed vocals to Peterson's self-titled debut. With his Tritt-like poise and composure on-stage, Peterson ought to be making the cowgirls swoon for years to come. And if he's lucky, his talent will catch up to his ambition before long. At 9 p.m. Sunday, December 14, at Johnny B. Dalton's, 2017 North Frazier, Conroe. Tickets are $11. 409-441-0515. (Hobart Rowland

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