Certain people really inspire my soul and enable me to strive harder for the things I want most out of life. On a cool, brisk Thursday night in Miami, I’m standing on the balcony of my Trésor Ocean View Junior Suite with Lil’ Kim’s “Slippin” track blaring through my SMS Audio wireless speakers. As I transcribe her lyrics in my mind, I gently nod and cosign the truth within the context of her pinpoint delivery. Trust is the most dangerous and valuable commodity in the world. Kimberly Jones has never had a problem speaking the truth and dealing with the aftermath. Before the Grammys, platinum plaques, diva/icon status, Kimberly Denise Jones was expelled from home and running the heartless streets of Brooklyn.
Jones was born in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of the New York City borough of Brooklyn, the second child of Linwood Jones and Ruby Jones (now Ruby Jones-Mitchell). She has one older brother named Christopher.
As a child, Jones attended Queen of All Saints Elementary School in Brooklyn. At the age of nine, her parents separated, and Jones was raised by her father, with whom she had a tumultuous relationship.
After being kicked out of her house by her dad, Jones dropped out of high school and alternated between crashing with friends and living on the street.
I changed the track selection to “Quiet” from her Naked Truth album. The beat is pulsating throughout my suite, and I can visualize Lil’ Kim staring into the eyes of her judge without blinking. No fear. Straight Brooklyn! In the early stages of her life, Kim would freestyle with ease and fantasize about having her moment.
I change the track selection again to the song “Durty” and Lil’ Kim starts off saying:
Lil’ Kim stay hot pull up with my nigga in the 80-foot yacht man this hatin’ don’t stop
Real recognize real you studio gangstas kill me
I know my vet’s in the game got to feel me
‘Cause from the gate I brrrr-raaa down the door
Like Eddy Murphy, I gave it to you raw
Two-piece bikini, Fendi mink draggin’ on the floor
Kim been the first lady since I dropped Hard Core
A lot of these hoes livin’ vicariously through me
‘Stead a doin’ them, they’d rather do me
Watchin’ them is like a Broadway play
Sittin’ next to the Queen is the closest they’ll ever get to Brooklyn
Why y’all frontin’ you know who the best be?
I’m the reason why the game so sexy
The originator, the trend creator
Bitch, you dun know you haffa respect me
I’m so lit right now from that intro verse! How can you not treasure the words and unapologetic flow of the real Queen Bee? Purely undeniable.
Jones attended Sarah J. Hale Vocational High School for two and a half years. Many of her friends also went there, and she would often skip school to hang out with them.
Since her schoolwork wasn’t being completed, the decision was made to transfer to Brooklyn College Academy to finish her remaining year and a half of school. It was the same school that fellow rappers Nas and Foxy Brown also attended.
While struggling through her personal life, Jones met The Notorious B.I.G. (real name Christopher Wallace), a key figure in both her personal and artistic life, mainly once Wallace had gained popularity and influence relationship with Bad Boy Records.
In 1994, B.I.G. was instrumental in introducing and promoting the Brooklyn-based group Junior M.A.F.I.A., which included Jones, who was only nineteen. The group’s first and only album, Conspiracy, was released on August 29, 1995, and debuted at number eight on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart, selling 69,000 copies in its first week of release. Three hit singles came from Conspiracy: “Player’s Anthem” (peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart and No. 2 on the Hot Rap Tracks chart), “I Need You Tonight” (No. 43 R&B, No. 12 Rap), and “Get Money” (No. 17 on the Billboard Hot 100, No. 4 R&B, No. 2 Rap). The R.I.A.A. certified Conspiracy gold on December 6, 1995. “Player’s Anthem” and “Get Money” were certified gold and platinum easily.
In the middle of the wolf pack, Lil’ Kim was still the lone wolf, and the world was now taking notice of her gift. After a year with Junior M.A.F.I.A., Jones began a solo career by making guest performances on R&B albums and recording her debut album, Hard Core, released in November 1996. The album debuted at No. 11 on the Billboard 200, the highest debut for a female rap album at that time, and No. 3 on Billboard’s Top R&B Albums, selling 78,000 copies in its first week of release.
Hard Core was certified double platinum by the R.I.A.A. on March 14, 2001, after being certified gold on January 6, 1997, and platinum on June 3, 1997. The album’s lead single, “No Time,” a duet with Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs, reached the top spot on the Billboard Hot Rap Tracks chart and was certified gold by the R.I.A.A.
The next single, “Crush on You,” reached No. 6 on the Hot 100 and No. 2 on the rap chart. A remix of the album’s track “Not Tonight” saw Jones team up with Missy Elliott, Angie Martinez, Da Brat, and Left Eye of T.L.C. The song was part of the soundtrack to the Martin Lawrence movie Nothing to Lose, nominated for a Grammy Award, and certified platinum. Lil’ Kim is the definition of self-made. On June 27, 2000, she released her second album The Notorious K.I.M. The album marked a new image and revamped look for the rapper.
It debuted at No. 4 on the Billboard 200 and No. 1 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, selling 229,000 copies in its first week. It was certified platinum by the R.I.A.A. four weeks after its release. Kimberly Jones survived the sophomore jinx, and her success continued to exceed all public expectations. In 2001, she teamed up with Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Mýa to remake “Lady Marmalade,” which was initially written about a bordello in New Orleans and performed by the group Labelle (which included diva Patti LaBelle) twenty-five years earlier.
The song was recorded for the Moulin Rouge! film soundtrack, released in April 2001, and stayed No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks. The song also went to No. 1 in fifty countries around the world.
This was a significant accomplishment for female rap and Jones, who scored her first No. 1 Hot 100 hit and became the second solo female rapper in history to hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. “Lady Marmalade” also garnered Jones her first Grammy Award.
Caliente, blazing, and scorching are just a few adjectives that detail the level of demand and attention Lil’ Kim garnered during the early 2000s. She created an entirely new path for today’s MCs, both female and male, to follow: the freedom of expression in sex and music. Lil’ Kim never allowed anyone or anything to control her visual presentation or audio message to the world. She forced the hand of millions during the Grammys to accept her now-infamous purple pasty, diva/icon Diana Ross issued a physical cosign at that moment on stage.
Givenchy, Versace, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Marc Jacobs, and more have acknowledged the feisty, fearless, and sexy Brooklynite as the Queen of Hip Hop Fashion Culture.
The sheer influence of her persona is as infectious as the melody in the Dr. Dre track “Nuthin But a G Thang.” Lil’ Kim forced mainstream America to realize that black women can be portrayed as sexy, be sexual role models, run an empire, and not be labeled as shameless or a “hoe.”
I change the track selection for the last time to “Last Day.” An emotional, prophetic, and lyrical masterpiece. Legendary epic rhymes read like this:
Besides God, what the fuck should I fear?
The only one could stop me is that chick in the mirror
I built my career on blood, sweat and tears
And I’m still here, gettin’ stronger each year
‘Cause what don’t kill me could only help build me
I guess all that dirt just made me more filthy
If being loyal’s a crime, then I’m so guilty
If you was missin’ a spine you’d still have to feel me
Some came and went but your girl is everlasting
‘Til the day I’m gasping
And niggaz droppin’ tears on my Versace casket
And I’m reunited with Big like, “Nigga, what happened?”
Shit, got drastic, I missed you with a passion
By now they should realize, I’m not the average rap chick
Ain’t nuttin’ they could do now to stop my shine
This is God’s plan, homey, it ain’t mine
When it’s my last day, then it’s my last day
But until that day you can’t take away
How they scream my name, how I pimp this game
Critically acclaimed until my last day
Kimberly Denise Jones is pop and hip-hop royalty in every aspect. The “GHOST” of Notorious B.I.G. she is and will always be. Even during her twelve-month incarceration, her rainbow of influence beamed through the walls of the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, and even the Brooklyn Bridge smiled at one point. Her infamous G status is certified in every borough in N.Y.C. and the streets are always on standby if anyone wants to rumble with the Bee!
I named this article “The Endless Royal Reign of Lil’ Kim” because on June 9, 2014, at 9:58 a.m., she gave birth to Royal Reign, and the dynasty continues. With her legacy and star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame impending, the birth of Royal Reign ensures the next generation will forever know and understand the Naked Truth of Kimberly Denise Jones.
Article was written by Jonathan P-Wright, freelance writer for R.N.H. Magazine and C.V.O. of RADIOPUSHERS