Kimberly Denise Jones is hip-hop. She is the female archetype. Generations 100 years from now, will look at and still will be taking influence from the blueprint we know as Lil Kim. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York Kim grew up in an emotionally and physically abusive household. After running away from home at 14 and living in the streets for some time, Kim finished her high school years at Brooklyn College Academy where rappers Nas and Foxy Brown also attended. During her high school years, she began to freestyle rap with much influence from the street life she was accustomed to and both the men and women that she grew up listening to. In 1994, Jones met the Notorious B.I.G. and the rest of their relationship both personal and artistic is a story that goes down in history. Biggie saw something in Kim that we all celebrate now, a woman who can run with the big dogs and even become the leader of the pack.
In 1994, Lil Kim became the only woman to be apart of Junior MAFIA. Kim was a vital point in the group (#bestbars) and set the scene for women to express their sexuality and rap just as and even more vulgar than some of the men in the crew. Debuting in 1995, Junior Mafia's Conspiracy is home to two Billboard hits, "Player's Anthem" and "Get Money" both gaining gold and platinum status. Very soon after the release of Conspiracy, Lil Kim began to work on her own music and going solo. The next stage of Lil Kim's life was not only the point in which her career sky-rocketed in music but also in fashion, making her one of the few women to be an icon in both industries.
With raunchy, unapologetic, and self-proclaimed Hard Core lyricism, Lil Kim kicked open the door for women in rap. Unlike her predecessors Queen Latifah and MC Lyte, Kim had no problem rapping just as explicitly as the men that were degrading her and other women. Lil Kim embraced her sexuality, the gaze of men, and the critiques of women and press building up he self-confidence and those of women to come. November 1996, Lil Kim graced the masses with her leopard print lingerie, innocence eyes, and a pose that has been stamped into hip-hop forever.
Described as "gangsta porno rap," Hardcore debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 (highest for women at the time) and number 3 on Billboard's Top R&B Albums, selling 78,000 copies in its first week. Singles off the debut album of the queen bee include, "Big Momma Thang" "Crush on You" and "Not Tonight" which featured the like of Missy Elliot, Da Brat, Angie Martinez, and Left Eye. The song was part of the soundtrack to the Martin Lawrence movie Nothing to Lose and was nominated for a Grammy Award. In 1997, Lil' Kim promoted Hard Core by performing on Diddy's "No Way Out" tour. Continuing through to 1998, this was one of the highest-grossing hip-hop tours of all time, earning an estimated $16 million.
Only five months after the release of her album, Kim lost the love of her life Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace. The two were on and off since their meeting in 1994. Despite the abuse within the relationship Kim continues to hold the Brooklyn rapper to high regards til this day. Lil Kim has also admitted to being pregnant by Biggie but terminated the pregnancy because she, "... knew the nature of [their] relationship." The death took a major toll on Jones, who was preparing for a show in New York when he was killed.
The buzz that Lil Kim gained, negative and positive, moved her career forward. Under the management of Damion "D-Roc" Butler, one of Biggie's close friends, Jones signed to Wilhemina Models in 1998 and became a spokeswoman for multiple fashion brands including Candies, Versace, and Baby Phat to name a few. High-end designers like Marc Jacobs brought in Kim because of her fashionable taste and her influence amongst both women and men that fit under the "urban" umbrella. Collaborations with Kim meant high-end brands expanding their target audience and the integration of markets that would change both fashion and music forever. While on a slight music hiatus, while grieving the loss of Biggie, she showed us the beginning of a few iconic fashion staples including pasties (1999 MTV VMAs), full length colored furs (1999 MET Gala), and outrageous headpieces (1999 VH1 Vogue Fashion Awards), just to name a few.
At the same time, Kim began to change her physical appearance; blonde wigs, blue contacts, breast implants. While a lot of these changes stemmed from colorism, abuse both emotional and physical, and other triggering aspects of her life, Lil Kim began the trends of colored wigs, gaudy accessories, and of course, now had the co-signing of brands that never even embraced hip-hop and its members. Kim told Kristal Brent Zook, the award-winning journalist,
"Think about it. The girls that [men] dated when I was younger were light-skinned and tall. I’m short and brown-skinned. I’ve always wondered… how do I fit in? I think being Lil' Kim the rapper helped me deal with it better. I think doing photo shoots and seeing all the people respond to me has helped. [But] I still don’t see what they see.”
It wasn't until June 27, 2000, that Lil Kim released her second album, The Notorious K.I.M. The album debuted at number 4 on the Billboard 200 and sold 229,000 copies in its first week. It is home to collaborations with Grace Jones, Redman, Cee-Lo Green, and Mary J. Blige. The album's visuals not only paid homage to the Notorious B.I.G. but also Kim's new and heightened style. Her next project that is a major highlight of her career premiered in 2001. Lil Kim joined singers Christina Aguilera, P!nk and Mya — produced by Missy Elliott and Rockwilder — to remake Patti Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. It was number one on Billboard Hot 100, for five weeks straight and won a Grammy for Best Pop Collaboration with vocals.
Continuing her rise of dominating the rap world in March 2003, Lil Kim’s third album, La Bella Mafia, premiered at number five of Billboard's Hot 100. The album included features from 50 Cent and Missy Elliott. Very close behind the premiere of La Bella Mafia, Kim was incarcerated for perjury and conspiracy for lying to a federal grand jury in March of 2005. The charges come from a prior engagement dating back to a 2001 altercation outside the Hot 97 studios in New York. Kim served a year and a day in jail but capitalized on the incarceration by producing a reality TV show entitled "Countdown to Lockdown," which showcased Kim's last few weeks before going to prison. Her fourth studio album The Naked Truth dropped in September of 2005 while she was still in prison. While it debuted at number six on the charts, it didn't stay very long since there was no promotional aspect of the album due to Kim's state.
When Kim was finally released the rap game had changed tremendously and new challengers that could stand toe to toe with Kim had risen in her absence. Leaving Atlantic Records in 2008 Lil Kim released mixtapes Ms. G.O.A.T. (2008) and Black Friday (2011) and began to become active within the reality television worlds with her judge status for The Pussycat Dolls' Girlicious (2006) and competing on Dancing With The Stars (2009). Kim has continued to release music and even became a mother is the last few years.
Capitalizing on her name, Lil Kim was apart of the Bad Boy 20th Reunion Tour, been performing at top award shows, released a show with VH1 called Girls' Cruise, and is now going to be honored by BET with the I Am Hip-Hop Legacy award at the Hip Hop Music Awards in October 2019. Kimberly Jones is a champion for all women and has time and time again has shown us how she is the blueprint for this generation of women in rap. Without Lil Kim's unapologetically raunchy lyrics and urban prima donna fashion, we notice her influence in each of our new Glazed Girls.
CHECK OUT MY FAVORITE THINGS FROM LIL KIM!
Favorite Deep-Cut Song: Spend a Lil Doe
Favorite Single: Magic Stick ft 50 Cent
Favorite Interview: Lil Kim and her mother on The Rolonda Watts Show (1997)
Favorite Junior Mafia Verse: Get Money
Favorite Feature: Mary J. Blige - I Can Love You
Favorite Music Video: Crush On You