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[courtesy Atlantic Records] Lil' Kim Interview
Author: Damon Brown

EDITOR'S NOTE: Please check out Lil' Kim's listening party to hear clips from her new album "La Bella Mafia" or visit her official site for more information.

It is said that after a performer reaches a certain status, his or her stage persona becomes a separate person. If this is true, Lil' Kim reached this status when she had barely started on wax – as one person put it, Lil' Kim is better known than some folks that have sold twice as many records. Using hip-hop as a vehicle, Lil' Kim has become a model, actress ("Juwanna Mann" and "She's All That") and perhaps most importantly, a well-known sex symbol. Her notoriety increased at least two-fold when Diana Ross jiggled one of Lil' Kim's big breasts live at the MTV Video Music Awards.

As most hip-hop heads know, Lil' Kim was a protιgι of B.I.G. who took her under his wing and became her coach, lover and, in her words, "my best friend." Originally part of the Biggie-supported group Junior M.A.F.I.A. (and prominent on their hit singles "Player's Anthem" and "Get Money"), Lil' Kim broke off on her own shortly after their lone album, "Conspiracy" (Atlantic 1995). Her first solo album, "Hard Core" (Atlantic 1996), mixed fantastic beats, care of Jermaine Dupri, Puffy and others, and incredible flows, courtesy of Kim, Jay-Z, etc.. However, what made it memorable was the straight-up sex appeal of Kim – before her, songs about fucking were almost always from men who obviously didn't give a shit if the woman was having a good time or not. With Kim, she gave it to you straight: I love anal sex, let me see what you taste like, etc. Regardless of one's attitude towards sex, people had to give props for her being aggressive and honest, not unlike Salt-N-Pepa telling us to Push It... just Kim was a little more direct. And, with Biggie's encouragement, she became easily one of the best female rappers ever.

Unfortunately, as she was presumably preparing to follow up her smash debut, her mentor Biggie died. By all accounts Kim was devastated to the point where she couldn't perform for months, but she did eventually return with the album "Notorious K.I.M." (Atlantic 2000). It received mixed reviews, but did spawn two hits, "No Matter What People Say" and "How Many Licks" featuring Sisqo. Besides the sophomore jinx and her mentor's passing, "Notorious K.I.M." wasn't as well received because the lil' one suddenly had competition, namely from her one-time friend Foxy Brown and a newcomer named Eve.

And now, after nearly three years, the Queen Bee returns with "La Bella Mafia." Bohemian hip-hopper Common notwithstanding, perhaps this album should have been called Resurrection: she's cut all ties with former allies Junior M.A.F.I.A., finally retaliates for shots taken by Foxy and Eve (via the album's touchstone, "Came Back for You"), and gets her rhyme skills back to the fan-fucking-tastic levels we heard way back on her first solo joint. Recently RapReviews contributor Damon Brown politicked with Kimberly Jones about squashed beefs, thick women and getting paid. All hail the queen.

Damon Brown: Now, how would you describe your new album?

Lil' Kim: I think it's my masterpiece. I think it's my masterpiece of all time.

DB: Yeah? [Your first album] "Hard Core" was critically acclaimed... and was a masterpiece. And your second was very, very good, close to a masterpiece. And your new one is the shit. But let's talk about your first album. What mindset were you in for that compared to the new album?

LK: Basically I just came into the game, so there were a lot of people with hands in my pocket. There were a lot of people telling me what to do as well as me doing what I wanted to do, so it was a mixture on "Hard Core." And I love "Hard Core," don't get me wrong, but I just think that "La Bella Mafia" is next to flawless {*laughs*}.

DB: I'd have to agree with you on that. Now as far as yourself, who were some of your role models growing up as far as your own sexual expression and performance?

"I used to love Diana Ross. She was very sensual. She touched me in a way when I was a young girl where I felt like I was her..."

LK: I used to love Diana Ross. She was very sensual. She touched me in a way when I was a young girl where I felt like I was her – just by some of the things she did. Today, I love Jada Pinkett [Smith] and I've always been a big fan of Mary J. Blige.

DB: And on the [movie] tip, there's a new movie coming out with you, some type of western. I believe it's called Guns and Roses, coming out this summer, right? What can you tell me about that?

LK: All I can really say is that it's a female version of Young Guns and it stars myself, Lisa Raye, Stacey Dash and Monica Calhoun... and I just had so much fun working on it.

DB: Have you been working on it for a while?

LK: I worked on it for two months.

DB: Now do you plan on taking off on the acting thing and focusing on that for a little while or are you going to be back in the studio working on some other cuts?

LK: Oh, absolutely back in the studio. But even when I'm back in the studio I'll take the time to work on another movie.

DB: Right, trying to balance them out. I saw your interview on Carson Daly yesterday and I know that was one of the things you were talking about, like when you mentioned Queen Latifah and other folks, is that it's difficult to stay on that line and keep balanced. It sounds like that's your goal right now.

LK: Yeah, that is my goal right now. That's my future.

DB: I hear that. Now as far as with the Advakids [featured on the song "The Beehive"], do you plan on doing a Junior M.A.F.I.A.-type of setup where you have an album featuring all of them?

LK: Yeah, all different types of setups. We have my man Reeks from Brooklyn, he represents the Pharmacy. We have Bunky [S.A.] from the Bronx, he represents the Gotti Kids. And Lil' Shanice, she's like my Lil' Bow Wow. Then we have the Advakids from Harlem. And I got some people from Chicago – they have that whole down-south southern Midwest flow, you know what I'm sayin'?

DB: Yeah, I'm here in Chicago, so I definitely know what you're talking about. Now can you talk about some of the collabos you did on La Bella Mafia and how they came about? Like with 50 Cent [on the song Magic Stick], how did that come about?

LK: Yeah, actually he called me.

DB: Yeah?

"[50 Cent] kind of disrespected me on one of his songs. I wasn't trippin' about it, though. Like, you know when a little boy likes a girl in fifth grade and he pulls her hair?"

LK: Yeah, it was crazy because he had kind of disrespected me on one of his songs. I wasn't trippin' about it, though. Like, you know when a little boy likes a girl in fifth grade and he pulls her hair? Like that's the only way he knows how to get her attention? I took it like that, so I didn't trip. When he called me I didn't get mad or anything. I kind of respected him for calling me at that point because it took a man to say sorry and apologize. But he said "I'm sorry, and to make it up to you I have a record that I think you'll love." And it was suppose to be for his album, but he gave it to me.

DB: Ah, that's really cool. Now can you talk about the collaboration you have with Twista on your album? How did that come about?

LK: Twista is on my record label [Atlantic] and also one of my favorite artists. I only have a handful, and this is excluding Biggie – I'm not going to even put him in this roundup – so it would be like Eminem, 50, Jay-Z, Styles [of the LOX], and, like, Twista! {*laughs*}

DB: I hear that! {*laughs*} I guess he's definitely in your top tier. It sounds like you had fun working with those guys.

LK: Yeah, I had so much fun.

DB: That's cool. And as far as with your own stuff, do you plan on another album coming out in a couple of years or are you already working on new material?

"I'm not gonna wait that long this time [...] we are thinking of doing a Queen Bee compilation before Christmas."

LK: Yeah! I'm not gonna wait that long this time. I'm going to go right in [the studio] probably before Christmas – I'm not going to release anything before Christmas! – but we are thinking of doing a Queen Bee compilation before Christmas.

DB: Oh, please do that. Now, going back a little bit, one of my favorite songs of yours is Drugs. In the one of the lines you are talking about running for miles and hitting the sauna. Do you exercise a lot? How do you take care of yourself?

LK: I used to exercise two times a day. Since my [latest] album I kind of got a little lazy and I didn't want to work out because I had to get up early every morning promoting this album. But I'm back in shape now, trying to work out about three times a week. On my last album I was so in shape! I worked out two times a day and then I had a choreographer who said, as part of us learning the steps, we had to exercise first.

DB: Damn.

LK: Yeah.

DB: Two times a day, huh?

LK: Yeah, it was FUCKED up. (*laughs hard*}

DB: Right. {*laughing harder*}

LK: {*laughing some more*}

DB: Now as far as eating and stuff, are you a pretty healthy eater?

LK: No. Like for my last album I had a really specific goal. You know, a year and a half, two years ago, being very lean and thin and in shape was very much in. Now, guys and people want to see a little {*with emphasis*} booootie, a little meat. I mean, think it's cool to alter your figure here and there. Now, I'm not saying that you get completely out of shape, but you can look a certain way when you want to. I mean, I didn't do it on purpose {*laughs*} but it's OK and all, you know, to get a little thicker. Just compliment it by wearing the right things.

DB: I couldn't agree with that more. Now those are some things that come up a lot: your figure, your sexuality, and so forth. Do you ever get tired of people looking at you as a sexual being and not looking at – I mean, easily your one of the best rappers, specifically one of the best female rappers ever – do you ever get tired of people looking at the sexual side of things and not looking at your rapping skills?

LK: I used to, but now I've proved the fact that, "Yo, she's nice. Forget about what she's wearing – listen to this record," you know what I mean? I think I've proved that with this album, especially with it getting four-and-a-half mics in The Source. What they're saying is "This album is next to flawless."

DB: Totally. Now as far as you personally, what's the main difference between Lil' Kim the performer – what you do onstage, how you present yourself – and the Kimberly Jones that just chills out with her homegirls? What's the main difference that people don't know about?

"I think Kimberly Jones is a real person [...] Lil' Kim is NOT supposed to be real. I think that's the misconception."

LK: {*sigh*} Well, I think Kimberly Jones is a real person to people. Lil' Kim is NOT supposed to be real. I think that's the misconception. But there isn't that much of a difference, because they are all rolled up into one. That's how I look at it, you know? Lil' Kim is a part of Kimberly Jones. But one thing that Kimberly Jones doesn't do when she has her offtime is PERFORM!

DB: Right.

LK: I'm not performing unless you pay me. {*laughs*}

DB: Momma's getting paid, huh? {*laughs*}

LK: I'm not performing. {*laughs*} But the attitude and personality is always there.

DB: Yeah, because you talk about image versus who you really are, and [for you] it doesn't seem to be a problem, there isn't much of a question. I mean, there are other rappers where it comes in question, like "This person isn't real" or whatever. That's never really come up with you, maybe because people sense that part, if not most of your personality comes through in Lil' Kim.

LK: The only misconception I kind of don't understand is that people will say "I thought when I met you, you were going to be havin' parties in your room every night and you were gonna be having sex with this person and that person"... I don't see how my music represents that, you know? I think I have two or three records where we talk about that, and all my records are different. If every record had that I could understand why they would say that, but that may be what I'm doing on Saturday, you know what I mean?

DB: Just like anybody else.

LK: Exactly. On Saturday I may have a wild party at my house, mad friends over, or I may be having sex {*laughs*} but, you know, that's not every day.

DB: Do you see yourself settling down and having some kids eventually?

"I'm a very family-oriented person and I am a homebody, so I do like to be in my house and play mommy."

LK: Of course. I'm a very family-oriented person and I am a homebody, so I do like to be in my house and play mommy.

DB: Yeah, I know you're a Cancer. I'm an astrologist, so you know I'm up on it. {*laughs*}

LK: Oh yeah? What's your sign?

DB: I'm a Libra.

LK: Ah, OK.

DB: Yeah. And as far as going back to, you know, later on in your life, do you see yourself doing music when you're 50?

LK: {*after a pause*} Yeah, but in a different way, though. Like writing and producing, or doing beats myself and writing R&B songs. I mean, I don't want to be rapping myself at 50. {*laughs*} I really don't. But if the world was like {*in a goofy voice*} "No Kim, we really want to hear somethin'!" I'd be down with it. If they're telling me {*in a businessman voice*} "Kim, I'm telling you, the world wants to hear this," and you can sell such-amount of records, and I see that that's really what's going on, I'd do it for my fans. But I'm not going to be just doing it because I have to.

DB: As far as this album, one of the most emotional tracks to me – I mean, people talk about "Heavenly Father" and some of the slower cuts on the album are pretty intense – but to me the most emotional track is "Came Back for You." It sounds like there was a lot of passion in there. Can you talk about that song a little bit?

LK: It was just some shit I had to handle and straighten out before I could come back. That's why it was one of the first songs we let the radio hear.

Lil' Kim's latest album, "La Bella Mafia," is in stores now.

Originally posted: May 13, 2003

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