Season 1, Episode 11: How Lil Kim Became an Icon of Rap

Season 1, Episode 11: How Lil Kim Became an Icon of Rap

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Lil Kim performing on stage

The following is a transcript of Season 1, Episode 9, of the Hot Girls Podcast Series. Celebrating icons in the music industry. It is available on all major platforms. 

You can listen on Apple Podcasts, or Podbean

Hello and welcome to Hot Girls with me Lex on the Decks. This episode, we are going to be taking a look at the ICON that is Lil Kim. The first and original lil of the rap world, which at under 5ft was well justified. A rapper who had three back to back platinum selling albums and was the first female rapper to have three consecutive number ones. It was a real joy for me to learn about Lil Kim because I didn’t grow up on her, I think I was about 12 when Lighters Up was released so it’s been a discovery process for me and I can confidently say I love Kim, I think she’s very real, I think she’s been very important for the industry. I think she’s very misunderstood and particularly for anyone who was too young to appreciate her when she was really dominating. So sit back, relax and let’s go. 

Early life

On a summer’s day right in the middle of the 1970s, Kimberley Jones was born in Brooklyn. She was the second child of Linwood Jones, a former U.S. Marine and Ruby. Her parents divorced when she was 9 after having by the sounds of it, quite a violent and tempestuous relationship. Kim initially lived with her mum who was staying with friends, begging favours trying to settle herself but she eventually gave custody to their father (kim had a brother). So they moved back to Brooklyn with him. Kim and her dad had a good relationship until she hit puberty and then as she evolved to become more of a woman it fell apart. The situation became violent and at the age of 14, she packed a bag and left, to the streets, wandering in and out of neighbors’ homes.

Things not great for Kim at that point. And they continued that way with her just trying to survive really, until she was 17. She had an idea of becoming a psychiatrist but obviously didn’t have the education as she kept skipping school. Teen years, not good. Although, fun school fact, the school she completed her last years of high school at was the same school Nas and Foxy Brown went to. 

She needed stability from somewhere, and she met this guy. On the surface maybe not what you’d traditionally think of as stability. He was 19, 6-foot-3, 300-pounds and a drug dealer who had already done nine months in jail. Despite this he was very ambitious and he saw some hunger in Kim, leading him to invite her into his crew. That guy was Christopher Wallace, otherwise known as Biggie or BIG. Often considered the best rapper of all time. Personally I’m Tupac but I know most lean towards Biggie. In Biggie’s crew was someone named Sean Combs, now better known as Diddy and these were the guys that helped Kimberley Jones get off the street.  

BIG was forming a rap group who were called Junior M.A.F.I.A. The Mafia part is an acronym for: Masters at Finding Intelligent Attitudes. So I am gonna take from that, that when Biggie met Kim it was her attitude that made him want to bring her in. That group was I think 8 guys and one woman, who at just under 5ft tall, genuinely tiny, adopted the name Lil Kim. They were a group under Biggie/ Diddy but those artists weren’t the face of the group, though Biggie wrote a lot of the verses. The way the group worked was they would send a beat out and the hottest verses then got picked to be on the compilation song. She was the only woman, and she got on the records because her verses were the best. 

Their album Conspiracy was released in 1995, debuting at number eight on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and Kim’s popularity started rising in association with this. B.I.G. featured on four of the album’s tracks. She’d also worked on tracks just with Biggie, including ‘get money’ with the winning hook ‘fuck bitches, get money’… we’ll talk about Kim’s brand of feminism later..

That popularity led to her signing a solo deal with Atlantic Records a year later, and the release of her debut album, Hard Core, in November 1996. The album debuted at number 11 on the Billboard 200 which shows the following she’d built, stayed with her. The biggest single from the album, “No Time”, a duet with Diddy, got to the top of the Rap Chart and was certified gold. She went on to tour alongside Diddy in 1997 on what would be one of the highest grossing hip-hop tours of all time. Get Moneyyy. 

In the same year, on the 9th of March, Biggie was shot dead. There is no collective doubt that Kim was in love with Biggie and that affection was mutual, he actually did discover her and help craft her, so despite the career highs of 1997, I’d guess it was overall not a year she looks back on fondly. 

Second Album

It took Kim four years to then release her second album, which was held up through label conflicts and also her own creative process and development. However, because she’d created such a strong brand off the back of Junior Maffia and her solo work she was still making serious dough during this period through marketing deals and endorsements. Then in June 2000, Lil’ Kim released her second album The Notorious K.I.M. working closely with her gals Missy Elliott and Mary J Blige. This is the album that brought the absolute bangers, “No matter what they say” and “How many licks”. They didn’t chart that highly as singles, but I think if they were released now they 100% would. This album and period, for me is like Kim’s golden age, because she is all the things she’s famous for. You know, naked and dancing, the lyrics are dirty but also witty and clever. Ah. love it. And the kind of music that makes you want to hit the club and be an independent female. 

So is lil kim a feminist? Yes, she would definitely say she was. And you know what she, really was a woman dominating in a man’s world and she inspired so many other female rappers to step up their game. Personally I think she definitely was a good thing for women in general, but at the same time, i don’t ever like the idea of women being one dimensionalised. If that’s a word and I think Kim did that to an extent. The challenge of today is to make sure that all women in hip hop get coverage and get their singles bought, regardless of whether they twerk. I kinda feel like Kim showed women how to make it in the industry as a rapper, but then the big stars of today have followed that formula you know, rather than looking at Kim, Missy, Mary, Left Eye, Queen Latifah, you know, the collective. You shouldn’t have to present overt sex appeal to make it in rap. 

In 2001, she featured on the Missy Elliot produced, Lady Marmalade which was one of the biggest singles of the year, if not the biggest. And then in March 4, 2003, she released her third studio album, La Bella Mafia which was certified platinum in the US. This was the album that brought the Timbaland produced single “The Jump off”. In 2003 she also did a verse on Christina Aguilera’s iconic “can’t hold us down”. Around this time she used to have a personal guru who would look after her energy and spirit for a grand a session. Ballller

So Kim was great – I wouldn’t say going from strength to strength cos I think her second album was probably the most powerful but she was in a good position, of continued following and good releases. Then something really shitty happened. Something not just shitty for Lil Kim and her career, but for rap music and in particular, women in hip-hop. Lil Kim went to jail. She was convicted for lying to a jury about her and her friends’ involvement in a 2001 shooting which took place outside a studio in Manhattan, during the trial of her co-manager, D-Roc, and her bodyguard, Gutta, who had been a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A, she had claimed not to have known they were at the scene but video footage was later found showing all three of them at the scene, exiting the building. Kim went to jail for a year, during which time she was locked up with Remy Ma and Foxy Brown. In the exact same jail, at the same time. It’s like New York said, no more women in rap. They left a huge vacuum. SO if you’re in rap, please don’t go to jail. 

Her fourth album was released when she was behind barz and this was the album that delivered, probably the song most people associate her with today. Lighters Up. What an iconic song – its a real love letter to New York, and particularly Brooklyn where she grew up. It was produced by Scott Storch who in 2005 also produced Run It, and Candy Shop – good year for Scott. The record is also the absolute evolution of Kim. When Kim talks about Lil Kim, she’s very specific about disassociating between character Kim [“Lil’ Kim is what I use to get money,” she maintains, “a character I use to sell my records.”] and Kimberley Jones. Lighters Up is where those people meet.… also shout out Mary J Blige who’s by her side still dancing in the video. So that was released in September but she’d been sentenced in June. So don’t go to Jail! 

After Jail, Kim obviously did continue making music, but she left Atlantic records and went independent so she severed from, the big label. Creatively and lifestyle wise obviously you get more freedom when you aren’t plugged into a big label but you also lose the marketing support and that’s generally when the rest of the world kinda loses interest in you cos you aren’t shoved down their throats all the time. 

Since going independent over 10years ago now, Kim has still released quite a bit of music – the best stuff I think is the more recent stuff. IN 2017 she released ‘Took us a break’ which is really catchy and also, lyrically makes sense. She also featured on ‘Wake me up’ by Remy Ma. Nice to see those two rap icons working together and supporting one another. She also released Nasty One which was remixed by Stefflon Don, Hood Celebrity and Sean Paul. Actually think the original is better than the remix. It’s more singing than rapping and quite dancehall inspired pop but it’s a good song. So I’m hoping that Kim’s gonna keep making music and pushing in that space. There are two things I think Kim has been a victim of that really fuck me off and I want people to be aware of them so as not to be affected by them, because I think if you accept them they can be a thing but you don’t have to. They are agisim and colorism. …. I just don’t want people to look at Kim now and think eh. I want them to recognise what she created and that so many people coming up now have a lot to be grateful to her for. 

I guess I go back to something Missy Elliott said which is, you can be respected forever but you won’t always be hot and maybe that’s an important lesson for everyone in entertainment. Don’t take being the hot thing too seriously, because it can’t last. 

So, lessons from Kim:

Believe in Yourself

Sex and Lil Kim

“Kim needs to ask herself what she’s selling,” says Voletta Wallace in her Jamaican-accented, no-nonsense way. “When my son was here, that’s all you would hear: Kim and Christopher [saying], ‘Sex sells, sex sells.’

“But . . . when you look at Kim, the strength is there. The beauty is there. The talent is there. And she needs to let [the world] know . . . they need to see a human being. She needs to find her inner self and see what she has to offer.”

Image matters

“Fashion and music go so hand in hand. There was no way I was gonna be this big celebrity and not step out fly as hell everytime”

Make sure your music is relatable

“When people relate to your music it makes you feel like, I did my job, I did good.”

Know your Identity 

What is you and what is a character 


She was hungry, after a little bit of success she had that “whatever it takes” attitude. 

Lil Kim taught the next gen what it means, you don’t always get respect for that.

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