Lil' Kim was born on July 11, 1975, in Brooklyn, New York. The rapper debuted as part of Biggie Smalls's group Junior M.A.F.I.A and released her solo debut album, Hard Core, in 1996. She found success in the 1990s and 2000s with hits like "Magic Stick," "Crush on You" and a remake of "Lady Marmalade." Kim served prison time in 2005-2006 for perjury, later releasing mixtapes and doing reality television work.
Rapper Lil' Kim was born Kimberly Denise Jones on July 11, 1975, in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York, to mother Ruby Mae Jones and father Linwood Jones. Kim's parents sent her to catholic school—Queen of All Saints in Brooklyn—in an attempt to give their child a stable learning environment. However, the stability within their home came crumbling down after Kim's parents got divorced when she was 9 years old, forcing her to live with her father.
Kim had a highly tumultuous relationship with her dad, having once stabbed him with a pair of scissors. It was during this time that she dropped out of school and left home at age 16. She began spending more and more time with rappers and lyricists Lil’ Cease, Nino Brown and Capone, among others, who formed the group Junior M.A.F.I.A. (aka Junior Masters at Finding Intelligent Attitudes) under the leadership of the up-and-coming rapper Biggie Smalls.
Early Rap Career
With Biggie at the helm, Junior M.A.F.I.A. released a series of singles from their debut album, Conspiracy (1995). With the single "Player's Anthem," Lil' Kim was introduced to the world. The deep, provocative voice from such a petite rapper captivated audiences. She modeled her vocal flow after the very successful Biggie Smalls—adding grunts and ferocity—while her image revolved much more around her sex appeal.
Lil' Kim debuted as a solo artist with the release of Hard Core in 1996, continuing the raunchy and lyrical wordplay that the public had already heard on Conspiracy. The album was a success. Critics loved her raw, unapologetic style of rapping, which was much more gritty and vulgar than female MCs of the past like MC Lyte and Queen Latifah. However, around the same time as Kim's debut, the public was introduced to another edgy female rapper by the name of Foxy Brown. She and Kim would continue to feud for years, only adding to their popularity.
Relationship with Biggie Smalls
Biggie took Kim under his wing as an artist, but their relationship went deeper than that of a mentor and mentee, with an intimate relationship starting to bloom. The two were never officially a couple, but Biggie still claimed Kim as his own while maintaining various relationships with other women.
The year following Kim's Hard Core debut, Biggie was shot and killed in Los Angeles while she was preparing for a show in New York City. Upon hearing about his death, Kim struggled to reevaluate her life and career. She—along with the rest of Junior M.A.F.I.A.—was left frustrated and confused without Biggie to take the lead. Kim put her sophomore album to the side after his death, instead choosing to be featured on songs by Puff Daddy and Mobb Deep.
Kim's next album, The Notorious K.I.M., wasn't released until 2000. She continued to work with Puff Daddy on the album after collaborating with him during her hiatus in an attempt to stay connected to Biggie's legacy. The certified platinum album was well-received by audiences and critics, but failed to live up to her debut.
The celebrity status that Kim had developed would skyrocket with her next project. In March 2001, she remade Patti Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" with singers Christina Aguilera, Pink and Mya for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. The Grammy-winning single was an immense hit, reaching No. 1 on the charts and solidifying Kim as one of the most sought after rappers—either male or female—of the early 21st century.
She released her next album, La Bella Mafia, in 2003, which featured collaborations with Missy Elliott, Timbaland and Kanye West.
Lil' Kim faced major issues with the law in the same year that would impact her life and career forever. In February 2001, gunshots were fired after she finished promoting her album outside of a New York City radio station. As a result of the altercation, one man was shot and critically wounded. When questioned about the event, Kim refused to talk to police about who accompanied her to the radio station or the cause of the shooting. When asked by a grand jury what her connection was to those who opened fire, she claimed that she was either not accompanying them or she didn't know them at all. (The shooting was suspected to have been a part of the prolonged feud between Kim and Foxy Brown.)
Several years after the shootout, Kim was convicted for perjury and conspiracy in 2005 for lying about her involvement to law officials and a grand jury. Security footage proved that the rapper gave false information about her relationship with the entourage that accompanied her to the New York City radio station and opened fire. For the charges, Kim faced up to 20 years imprisonment, but was only sentenced to jail time of one year and a day, with a $50,000 fine. Her fourth album, The Naked Truth, was released at the beginning of her sentence.
Mixtapes and Minaj
After serving her 366-day sentence, Lil' Kim was released from prison and struggled to get her career back on track. In 2008, she left Atlantic Records with the intention of releasing her own music independently. The same year, she dropped the mixtape Ms. G.O.A.T. – Greatest of All Time, which failed to gain much public attention. Kim also branched out into reality television, acting as a judge on the series Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious (2008) and competing in Dancing with the Stars (2009). She later released her second mixtape, Black Friday (2011), in response to her feud with popular female rapper Nicki Minaj, who earlier released the album Pink Friday (2010).
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