Lil’ Kim

  • Rapper and songwriter born Kimberly Jones in Brooklyn New York in 1974.
  • Her parents divorced when Jones was nine years old, and she lived with her father. The relationship was difficult, and at 14 years old she dropped out of school to live on the streets. While on the streets, peddling drugs for boyfriends and sleeping with men who would take her in, she met emerging rapper Christopher Wallace (aka Biggie Smalls, aka Notorious B.I.G.). Wallace protected her and brought her into his inner circle, which included Sean Combs and Mary J. Blige. Wallace inserted her at the age of 19 into a rap group that he promoted called Junior M.A.F.I.A. (Masters at Finding Intelligent Attitudes) – Wallace gave her the name Lil’ Kim and encouraged her to push the limits of shock. Her gangsta raps were vulgar, with explicit lyrics about sex, drugs and street crime.
  • Junior M.A.F.I.A. released an album in 1995 titled Conspiracy. It reached #8 on the Billboard 200 album chart, with three successful singles. The success led to Lil’ Kim decision to begin a solo career. Her debut solo album, Hard Core, was released in late 1996.
  • Hard Core became a rap masterpiece, notable because Lil’ Kim’s lyrics and delivery took raunchy rap to new levels – and notable because a woman was delivering the message instead of a man. In 2022, Rolling Stone ranked the album at #78 on their list of the best debut albums ever. The album was certified 2x platinum. The single No Time topped the Billboard Hot Rap Songs chart and it peaked at #18 on the Hot 100 chart, while Not Tonight reached #2 and #6 respectively. Its success was helped by the criticism that some activists made, calling the album “gangsta porno rap.”
  • Suddenly an icon, Lil’ Kim began modeling for several fashion labels. Her outfit at the 1999 MTV Video Music Awards got widespread media attention, especially when presenter Diana Ross jiggled Lil’ Kim’s mostly exposed breast on national television.
  • In 2000, she released her second studio album, The Notorious K.I.M. It topped the R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart and debuted at #4 on the Billboard 200 album chart. Songs from the album further exploited her image of sex-positive feminism, with the singles No Matter What They Say and How Many Licks? reaching #6 and #11 respectively on the Hot Rap Songs chart. The following year, she was asked to be part of a remake of the song Lady Marmalade that was used in the film Moulin Rouge!, along with Christina Aguilera, Pink and Mýa. The song was a huge success, topping the Hot 100 for five weeks and the Mainstream Top 40 chart for nine weeks. She became the first female rap artist to have a number one song on the Hot 100 chart, and Lil’ Kim and her co-singers won a Grammy award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
  • Two more albums were released during the 00s – La Bella Mafia in 2003 and The Naked Truth in 2005. They were less successful than her earlier albums, though both were considered commercial successes. Three singles from these albums reached the top 10 of the Rap Songs chart, with Magic Stick topping the chart and peaking at #2 on the Hot 100, her highest charting solo single. The Naked Truth was released while she was serving a prison sentence for conspiracy and perjury for lying to a federal grand jury – she had testified that she was not aware of a shooting by her manager and bodyguard in Manhattan in 2001, but video evidence placed her at the scene.
  • Throughout her career, Lil’ Kim frequently was a featured artist on singles by other R&B and Hip-Hop artists. She was the featured artist on three singles that reached #1 on Rap charts – It’s All About the Benjamins by Puff Daddy in 1997; Money, Power & Respect by The Lox in 1998; and Let It Go by Keyshia Cole in 2007.
  • Lil’ Kim released four free mixtape albums between 2008 and 2016, and in 2019 she released a studio album titled 9. In 2009, she was a contestant on Dancing With the Stars, coming in fifth place. In 2015, she published a biography about her life titled The Price of Loyalty. In 2019, she was part of a reality television series titled Girls Cruise that was shown on VH1. Its eleven episodes followed Kim and other women celebrity entertainers as they traveled on a cruise of the Caribbean.
  • Lil’ Kim was an early female star of a genre that was dominated by men at the time. While her music was controversial among conservatives, critics generally embraced her as innovative, helping women embrace sexuality and femininity. The video for Lady Marmalade won the 2001 Best Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards. Here it is.

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