American rapper, songwriter, actress, model, and reality TV personality Lil’ Kim (Kimberly Denise Jones) celebrates her 47th birthday today. Happy birthday to an icon who changed the female rap game!
Lil’ Kim went through many hardships in her early life. She grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and during high school, she was kicked out of her father’s home and had to live on the streets. When she bet Biggie Smalls as a teenager, her life changed forever. He quickly became her mentor as well as her lover, and he got her into the Brooklyn-based rap group, Junior M.A.F.I.A. which jumpstarted her musical career. Lil’ Kim’s popularity heightened as a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., and after their first album was released, she began working on her solo material.
A year before Biggie Small’s tragic death, she released her debut studio album, Hard Core, in 1996. Hard Core was certified double platinum and sold more than six million copies worldwide. The album’s debut was the most successful for a female rapper at that time. “No Time” was the leading single on the album, reaching the number one spot on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart.
Her second and third albums, The Notorious K.I.M. (2000) and La Bella Mafia (2003) were also certified platinum. Soon after The Notorious K.I.M. was released, she worked with Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Mya to create the hit single, “Lady Marmalade” for the Moulin Rouge! film soundtrack. The track was number one on the Billboard charts for five weeks straight. This song was out of Lil’ Kim’s comfort zone, and it led her to gain admiration from other fanbases, excelling her rap/R&B career even further. “Lady Marmalade” also won Lil’ Kim her first Grammy award.
La Bella Mafia included collaborations with Missy Elliott and 50 Cent, and was produced with help from Timbaland and Kanye West. At the time of its release, Missy Elliott was the only other female rapper with three platinum albums.
In 2005, Lil’ Kim was sentenced to a year and a day in jail, along with a $50,000 fine for perjury and conspiracy for lying to a federal grand jury after getting herself into a sticky situation involving her rival, Foxy Brown. Her time in jail was spent writing new music, and her fourth studio album, The Naked Truth, was released when she was still behind bars. Since she had no way of promoting her album, it did not sell quite as well as her first three albums, however critics know this vulnerable and hard-hitting album as the best female rap album to exist. It was also the first female rap album to receive a 5 mic rating from The Source.
After serving her time, Lil’ Kim decided to break off from Atlantic Records to release her music independently. She made appearances on Dancing With the Stars and produced two mixtapes, Ms. G.O.A.T. (2008) and Black Friday (2011). More recently, in 2019, Lil’ Kim released 9, a full-length studio album. During the first week of its release, it charted on the hip hop/R&B and rap album sales. It features artists such as City Girls, Rick Ross, O.T. Genesis, and Rich the Kid.
Lil’ Kim has earned her title of the Queen of Rap. Her aggressive lyrics have been transformative for the rap world as well as for inspiring all females to empower themselves and one another. Although she is now 47 years old, her career is far from over. She has said recently that she is continuing collaboration with artists such as Missy Elliott, City Girls, and Paris Hilton. The public can only imagine what epic content will come from her as she ages and gains knowledge and wisdom. Happy birthday to an incredibly important musician, Lil’ Kim!