Fifteen years ago, seemingly overnight, Lil’ Kim became hip-hop’s alpha female. Unflinchingly raw, her 1996 debut, Hard Core (Big Beat/Atlantic/Undeas)—copiloted by Bad Boy Entertainment’s breadwinner Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. the Notorious B.I.G—defied conformity. But these days, more than her audacious singles (“No Time,” “Crush on You,” “How Many Licks”), pasties-peppered wardrobes, over 6 million records sold or shelves full of shiny trophies, it’s Lil’ Kim’s beef with hip-hop’s reigning—and undoubtedly Kim-inspired—queen, Nicki Minaj, that’s given her a chance at a comeback. It even compelled Kim in March to drop a mixtape, Black Friday—which sold for $10 a pop on PayPal—intended to dismantle her newfound nemesis.
She was born Kimberly Denise Jones in 1975 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn to Ruby Mae and Linwood Jones; and blew up after Biggie plucked her from the streets as a teen and thrust her into America’s arms. Here, Kim’s closest friends and business associates chart her chaotic, sometimes unbelievable, journey and ponder how the Queen can rebuild.
“I like a real subtle guy who’s getting paper. A father figure because me and my father weren’t really that close. Like Biggie—he sheltered me. I like a protector. Fathers don’t let nothin’ happen to their baby girl.” —Lil’ Kim, VIBE 1997
Rob Marriott (writer, VIBE June/July 2000 Lil’ Kim cover story): Her mother worked at Macy’s. And she was a very stylish woman. She sent Kim to catholic school [Queen of All Saints] and tried to put her in the best situations. But her parents divorced, and Kim went to live with her father.
Tasha Smith (childhood friend and Sarah J. Hale High School classmate): Kim felt when her dad remarried he changed, and it all escalated from there. ’Cause now you have a woman in the house, whereas it was always just Kim, [her older brother] Chris and her dad. Things that were maybe unacceptable, the stepmother would bring to her dad’s attention.
Marriott: She had a real violent relationship with her father. She once stabbed him with a pair of scissors.
Lil’ Cease (rapper, Junior M.A.F.I.A): She was always with my little sister, and sometimes she would be at my house when things were crazy. Nino, Bugsy, Capone and Chico, we were from the same neighborhood. Junior M.A.F.I.A wasn’t a rap group. We just ran with Big. He came up with the idea of making us into a group. One day, Big stopped Kim [on Fulton Street] and she spit something for him.
Justice Rivera (former A&R, Undeas Records, owned by Lance “Un” Rivera): As we were creating Junior M.A.F.I.A around Big, other rappers were always coming to us ’cause we were working at [Daddy-O] studio in the neighborhood. Kim came through. She had rapped for Biggie before. We found out that she was nice and he was gonna bring her into Junior M.A.F.I.A.
Jacob York (former president, Undeas Records): Big thought having two girls would work. So Foxy Brown was a part of the original plan for Junior M.A.F.I.A. I didn’t think they would get along, and I immediately thought Kim could be a star. The first time I heard her rap, we were on St. James Place, and she spit in a cipher. She had this very masculine, raspy voice. I thought, That voice is coming out of that tiny little girl?
Missy Elliott (rapper/producer): I thought I would be meeting some 7’4” chick, because her rap voice was so strong. She came up to my neck in high heels, and I’m only 5’2”.
DJ Clark Kent (producer): [Junior M.A.F.I.A’s] “Player’s Anthem” was the first song Kim was on. Was I blown away? Big wrote the song entirely. But I was blown away by her performance.
Lil’ Cease: She’d put her hand over the mic in a certain way so that her voice would be extra deep. I remember Big told her not to do that. He said, “I want niggas to drool over you. Don’t be too hard.”
Glenn “Daddy-O” Bolton (producer and owner of Daddy-O Studio): Kim sounded like a boy. I thought that was dope. We did this [demo] record, “Coming From the East Side,” where she talks about her pops kicking her out at 16. By “Player’s Anthem,” she sounded like a girl. I said, “Big, you changed up her voice.” He said, "It’s all in the plan, D.”
DJ Clark Kent: Lil’ Kim was created. She was told exactly who to be: “You are going to be a pretty little Biggie.”
York: We wanted her to be sexy. We were thinking of her as a hip-hop Madonna, a hip-hop Erica Kane.
Nzingha (makeup artist): The first video we did together was “Crush on You.” That set the tone for her being a chameleon. My references were Madonna and her hairstyles—from blonde to black straight hair.
Misa Hylton (stylist): I met her in 1993. She had a short cut like Halle Berry. A denim suit. Kim really put name brands on the map, like the guys did with gators and Coogi.
Kory Jackson (A&R, Undeas Records): The [promo] picture with Kim squatting was Un’s idea. We were like, “Maybe that’s a little far-fetched.” But Big said, “That’s it.” It was an immediate response in the street: “Oh my God, you seen that Kim picture?” When I had my street teams out, people were ripping the posters out of our hands.
Michael Lavine (photographer, Hard Core]: She was so passive during the shoot. Very shy.
Daddy-O: Our first image of Lil’ Kim was with a briefcase and a suit. Un had this idea of her looking like Jackie [Kennedy]. When I heard Hard Core, it was like, this is borderline soft porn!
Lil’ Cease: Once he had it planned, [Big] knew who he could write for and who could write for themselves. I didn’t take it serious at all. I wasn’t a rapper. Trife and Larceny were rappers. Kim was a rapper
York: She never had a problem writing. She just always went a little Lauryn Hill–ish. When she heard the “Get Money” beat, she went really gangsta backpack. Big came in and said, “No, I’m doing my verse; here’s where to go.” “Niggas, better grab your seats/Deeper than a pussy…”—Big wrote that part. Then after 8, 12 bars, she wrote it herself. Hard Core is 70 percent written by her too.”
Deric “D-Dot” Angelettie (producer): The attitude she put in those lyrics was hers, but the bounce and the flow, where to breathe and where not to breathe, those had to be taught—certain pockets that on her own she might not have hit because those were Big’s pockets.
Rivera: He’d write a rhyme, and then she’d write a rhyme. We would compare it, and a lot of times we liked hers better. But [Big] would say, “Nah, nah, we gonna put this in.”
Jackson: Kim is not a fast writer; it might take Kim a day or two. When [Biggie’s] “Queen Bitch” [reference track] leaked—“Queen Bitch, Supreme Bitch, I kill a nigga by any means, bitch”—people tried to give Biggie credit for writing all of Kim’s stuff. That wasn’t the case.
Lil’ Cease: We were still just teenagers when everything blew up. We’re looking at Billboard and seeing our names. People are recognizing us. We didn’t do good at all with the contract. It was nine of us; you’re not getting much. We didn’t care about that.
York: The plan was always to spin off Junior M.A.F.I.A into separate groups and have separate albums.
Daddy-O: We never [accomplished] what Junior M.A.F.I.A was supposed to be. Part of it was because Cease and them were scared. Literally, the first time we went to go get them to the studio they were hiding. Kim was the only step-up player. She was ready to go.
CHECK OUT MORE EXCLUSIVE INSIGHT ON THE QUEEN BEE IN THE JUNE/JULY 2011 ISSUE OF VIBE, ON STANDS NOW!
Wow..although Vibe is telling the truth, this is kinda nailing the coffin shut. I don't like the tone of this article at all. Shaaaady
by Mr. Jones @ 07 Jun 2011 05:59 pm
I agree a lil' shady. And truthfully, everyone knows Kim shined way above when Notorious KIM came out! "Lil' Kim" was a Brand Name/Household Name and she did it without BIG. She was a fashion icon, a muse, a business woman, featured on many songs and all albums were a success!
by Mr. Jones @ 07 Jun 2011 06:01 pm
And she's STILL and FOREVER will be A Household Name and The QUEEN BEE! Many bitchez have tried but NONE can take the Title. She's the Hevey-Weigh Champ, Female MC!
by TRUTH @ 07 Jun 2011 10:01 pm
I THINK IT SPEAKS THE TRUTH SHE IS NOT PERFECT! WHEN I READ IT , EVERYONE KNEW SHE WAS GOING TO BE THE ICON SHE IS TODAY, SHE IS THE HIP HOP MADOONA, SHE IS THE QUEEN!
I thought it was very honest, will be gettin tha issue fo sho!@ Truth right on she by no means perfect but, she deserves her propers!
by xxx @ 08 Jun 2011 10:27 am
OK now imma go and buy the Vibe issue. i don't see anything wrong with what their saying. They are giving props as far as i can tell
by Fashion @ 08 Jun 2011 11:30 am
Yes a lil Shady, Its sounds like we all agree that LIL KIM is a hip hop legend! LIL KIM is fab!
by Raveena @ 08 Jun 2011 12:15 pm
I don't see she shade.
by Fashion @ 08 Jun 2011 01:03 pm
Its a little shade, still in all LIL KIM is the QUEEN
by Ubeenexposed915 @ 08 Jun 2011 02:08 pm
I dont see any shade, the truth is the truth and she Wrote 70% Hardcore with BIGS presence now we all know the success that followed NOTORIOUS KIM LA BELLA MAFIA AND NAKED TRUTH all props go to LIL KIM the QUEEN BEE
by Oonthada @ 08 Jun 2011 05:48 pm
I can believe that Kim wrote 70% of Hard Core. And it is nothing to be ashamed of because the way I see it, she still came hard AFTER Big had passed. So albums like La Bella Mafia and Naked Truth, those prove that Kim can get busy with a pen and paper.
by TRUTH @ 08 Jun 2011 06:38 pm
ALL FEMALE RAPPERS COME OUT WITH A MAN (CREW) AND THEY LEARN FROM THAT MAN! LIL KIM JUST LEARNED FROM THE BEST!!
That was nice and all but from what i read it sounds like a damn Obituary, a published announcement of a death, often accompanied by a short biography of the dead person. I mean is LIL' KIM OK!?!?!? "THEY WILL NOT GIVE THIS WOMEN A CHANCE" that's life i guess. (TEAM KIM ALL DAY BABY!!)
by Relly @ 09 Jun 2011 08:06 am
I'm not feeling this article either. Lil Kim will always be the Queen in my book, so say whatever haters!
No matter if its big or small lil kim is going to have a team and fanbase of course she a older rapper but i rather be old and know the game than to be a newwe... Kim is a lengend and going to stay that no matter what new artist is out or not Kim has a crown in this hip hop world and cant no one take that from her...im gald kim came out with a new mixtape this year i got it offf ebay it makes me happy..the beef with her and nicki is dumb to me on both parts in dirrerent ways nicki is good to and she is a queen in her own way but she not and neva will be the queen bitch like trina is the baddestest u just can take the away from trina she planet that so why as people fight over who the queen or not there ALL queens in there own way nicki is the new kim.trina.eve.foxy sorry to say but she the only female on billboard..so much respect god bless..kim is lengend and needs to make a comeback and i belive she will but until then nicki making her look dumb cause nicki hasnt said her name and kim going off kim just come hard make a comeback but until then and thats with any females nicki got the spotlight 2011 not histroy i mean 2011
by DaHotNig @ 09 Jun 2011 10:06 am
I thought it was shady cuz who airs out people's ghostwriters and tell who wrote what? They don't do this to the dudes so they shouldn't have done that to kim. I think kim is on drugs and have lost her mind but you shouldn't beat someone up in the media who has covered your magazine multiple times. Kim made herself look an ass with that black friday shit and it blew up in her face. Altho they mentioned that Nicki is the new queen I feel the writer of this article was disrespectful to kim. Yall should cuss they ass out for this one.
by SuckMyDick @ 09 Jun 2011 12:40 pm
Honestly don't come to kims fan page blowin down...it just makes you seem thirsty to talk shit about her. I understand, it's hard not to talk about her.
by Brock @ 09 Jun 2011 01:48 pm
SMH at these "suppose kim supporters" yall have no type of loyalty whatsoever. Nicki aint shit, yea she on billboard but shes not making history. Lil Kim will comeback better and stronger. Like Eves said shes already proven herself, she shouldnt have to prove anything, to anyone. Period End of Story. Lil Kim will come back out with 2-3 bangin singles, album is gonna go platinum. Thats it BOTTOM LINE.
by Nino @ 09 Jun 2011 03:04 pm
Is their any new pictures in this article?
by realness @ 09 Jun 2011 09:26 pm
Okay time for me to put on some realness up in this bitch where to begin isn't this the same internet forum where all of Lil Kim's bandwagon fans wanted to remodel this site to Nicki Minaj cause they were bitching about Kim not dropping anything in December of '09 & January-February 2010 hahahaha silly bitches don't y'all know those tricks are for kids, oops my bad forgot most of you are children, but really LET'S GET REAL none of you don't even support or truly were there for her you all are huddling up like naked contestants on Survivor for heat and attention. Either you like Kim or you don't choose a damn side either way no artist isn't gonna give two flying shits about you end of story bye*
by Forrealthough @ 09 Jun 2011 10:03 pm
I agree this is not a real lil kim fan site i do remember this about to be nicki minaj fansite! i am tired of people not giving the respect that lil kim deserves! Fuck this site people go to teamlilkim.com or lilkimfanclub please stop coming up here this is really just another shot at the queen we gotta say fuck these haters! because this whole site is just a way for people to get at kim! I repeat Fuck this site! and im gonna let team lil kim know that this site is a fraud! i mean everybody on twitter,facebook,the youtubers and even myspace! Team lil kim its the movement getting rid of these snakes!
by esmiley @ 10 Jun 2011 06:09 am
everybody talkin, all these haters hawkin, paparazzi stalkin takin pictures while im walkin, can a bitch breathe, give me room please, im in the paper everyday if i piss and sneeze, use to ride in a rental lebaron, now you can catch me in a slr mercedes mc claren, ridin with the doors up, haters pick ya jaws up, im in the trump international 30 floors up.-you aint payin my bills so you aint sayin nuttin, aint keepin it real then you need to stop frontin, you say you got this but we dont see nothin, and people if you feel me get this whole shit jumpin, USE TO TALK ABOUT THE WAY I WEAR MY CLOTHES, NOW EVERY CHICK LOOK LIKE LILKIM IN THEY VIDEOS, dont come around here with that wendy williams shit, get ya facts straight and shet up bitch.
by rin @ 10 Jun 2011 10:40 am
i am a strong lil kim supporter... and i am wondering why people are up in a upheaval... first and foremost this article does not throw any shade on lil kim her first album se wrote 70 percent of it and she was only like 18 years old.......... secondly this isnt even the whole article! lol and thridly if you are a lil kim fan and didnt know majority of this stuff already then u were not a lil kim fan to even begin with! smdh!
by TRUTH @ 10 Jun 2011 10:57 am
@DaHotNig ITS REAL TALK! HE ALSO SAID NIKKI IS and undoubtedly Kim-inspired, I THINK THE WRITER DID NOT WANT TO TAKE SIDE BUT SPEAK WHAT THEY FELT WAS THE TRUTH, NIKKI IS HOT BUT NOT A QUEEN! (YET) GIVE HER MORE TIME! ONE THING COULD GET NIKKI THERE FASTER IF SHE ENDS THIS BEEF!
by TRUTH @ 10 Jun 2011 11:03 am
NIKKI HAS DISSED LIL KIM IN ALOMST EVERY SONG SHE MADE! ITS CLEAR NIKKI LOOKS UP TO HER AND TRIED TO COPY HER! NIKKI CAME IN THE GAME AND TRIED TO TAKE LIL KIM'S SPOT I AM NOT MAD AT NIKKI AND I AM NOT MAD AT KIM FOR PROTECTING IT!
i notice that kim fan & nicki minaj has been MIA. where yall at i enjoyed reading the silly post
by machine gun kelly @ 10 Jun 2011 04:20 pm
dahotnig go find your partner in crim nicki, i think shes out on a date with kim fan
by BEESTING @ 11 Jun 2011 12:12 am
Can't wait for Kim to drop something...I have faith in her...she will overcome and prove ONCE again...who the queen is! At least with foxy she gave Kim some comp..nicki child please
by Kia @ 11 Jun 2011 02:35 am
@Rin I agree 100%...I read the majority of this in the store. I didn't buy it because like you said most of this "TRUE" die hard Kim fans already knew years ago. Not fans who just popped up when she was on LaBella Mafia or NT. Sure not everything was flattering but it was the truth. Not to mention the majority of it was quote from people who knows or knew her. Some of it facts some of it opinions. The fact remains that Kim isn't perfect & she will tell you this. But she's 100% real flaws and all and that's all that matters.
by TheJayDaB @ 11 Jun 2011 02:51 am
I LOVE Lil' Kim. And This Article as a whole not just half of it made me love her even more. Kim is HUMAN! not a God Like ya'll like to Think. She's Real and because she has downfall's always dusts herself off and gets ready for the next challenge is why i ride with kim and will always ride with kim! KIm writes most of her shit everybody takes shit from other people. Thats Life. But some people steal there whole shit while others make it. "U Cant Create/you just wait to take" Lil' Kim The QueenBee You Sexy Gangsta Bitch You!
by facts @ 11 Jun 2011 03:26 pm
They all want to be LIL KIM, They went out and brought her CD, What is your fav LIL KIM CD I have two HARDCORE and NAKED TRUTH
by Feather @ 11 Jun 2011 10:42 pm
.. I think Kim is washed up and needs to stop being a sore loser because nicki minaj is on top.. I use to be her fan till she started whining all of the time with all these nicki minaj disses... get a life and grow up... aren't you 40? hahahahahaha
by REALTALK @ 19 Nov 2011 05:52 am
MAAAAAAAAN, I READ THIS ARTICLE!! IT WAS FUCKED UP FROM BEGINING TO END. IM TIRED OF THE MEDIA HAVING EVERYBODY ELSE BUT KIM TELL HER STORY!! HOW MANY ARTICLES HAVE U READ WHERE OTHER PEOPLE NOT THE ACTUALL ARTIST TELL THEIR STORY UNLESS THEY WERE DEAD!! THEY WROTE IT LIKE SHE WAS DEAD! SERIOUSLY