Lil' Kim on 'Lil' Kim Season' Project, Remixing Drake's 'Summer Sixteen' & What's Next: Exclusive

Michael Antonio
Lil' Kim photographed in 2016.

The Queen Bee has returned. Two years after dropping her Hard Core 2K14 mixtape, Lil’ Kim has released her new Lil’ Kim Season project, consisting of previous tracks including “Mine” featuring Kevin Gates and “I Did It for Brooklyn” with Maino, as well as new remakes of other artists’ songs.

The 41-year-old MC has remained somewhat quiet on the musical front over the past few years, telling Billboard that she stepped away from recording new songs to tend to her daughter Royal Reign. “For a long time, my focus was my baby,” she says. “I wasn't thinking about music at all, and my focus was just raising my baby. Now that she's 19 months and she's going to be two this summer, she's motivating me to do music again. We play music all the time and she's always dancing.”

Lil' Kim Names Her Baby Girl Royal Reign

Still, the rapper born Kimberly Denise Jones has remained in the public eye, making an appearance with the Kardashian family at Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 3 event at Madison Square Garden in February and dropping a handful of one-off solo tracks and guest verses, including collaborations with Puff Daddy for his upcoming final album No Way Out 2. It’s been over a decade since she last released a studio album, 2005's The Naked Truth, but promises that she’s back on the grind—and that Lil’ Kim Season is just the beginning.

A few hours before the 'tape released, Kim spoke with Billboard about recording the EP, her love of Drake’s music despite their rocky past, her current label situation and her coy thoughts on Faith Evans' collaborative album with The Notorious B.I.G, dropping later this year.

Listen: Lil' Kim Remixes Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy'

Billboard: You've been teasing Lil' Kim Season for a few weeks and announced its release very last minute. What can you tell me about the 'tape?

Lil' Kim: It's funny, because a lot of times, the people around me will say, "Oh my gosh, it's like it's Lil' Kim season." It always seems like it's a time every year when everyone's either playing my music or paying homage with some of my most iconic looks. The other day, Kylie Jenner posted a picture of me and it was about my whole look of different colored hair, and she was like, "Oh my goodness, I love her," that kind of thing. Just a month before that, Solange threw a "Crush on You" ball where she had people come and they had to dress like me. Then, there comes a time when everyone's always playing my music and reciting lyrics. I go on the Internet, I see Taraji P. Henson performing the whole "Benjamins" [verse], and I see La La Anthony performing one of my other songs, "Get Money," I think it was. It sometimes just feels like Lil' Kim season, and this mixtape is going to be an advertisement [for that]. We're painting everything up right now.

Lil' Kim Remixes Desiigner's 'Panda' With Maino

Besides "Mine" and the "Panda" remix, what else is on the track list?

"Mine" and "I Did It for Brooklyn" will be on the track list, because those are two songs that we had out there and everyone loved it. We did a couple of other remakes that we just want to surprise everybody with and put it on there. Just wait for Lil' Kim Season 2. [Laughs]

Already promoting the next one?
Oh yeah. We moving and shaking, cooking and baking.

What made you want to remix Drake's "Summer Sixteen"?

Everyone who knows me, knows I'm a huge Drake fan. Our relationship isn't that big but I don't know him at all. I've always been a huge Drake fan. I just love that song. When I first heard it, I was like, "Oh, this song right here." But that's how I feel about most of the Drake songs I hear anyways. When it comes to music, he really can't do no wrong to me. That song was one of my favorites. I liked that a lot. Drake is in my top five right now, that's who I listen to all the time. I love "Back 2 Back." My daughter sings "Back 2 Back." I could name Drake songs for 30 minutes straight that I like.

Some fans were surprised because in the past, you haven't been on best terms with Drake. Is it important for you to separate the art from the artist?

That's what I do very well, and have done for years. I'm good at that. I know how to separate good music from situations. I'm a real artist and a producer and A&R in my own right. I know good music. It is what it is. I'm so real, I can't hide that fact. I love to dance, I love to sing and do what I do so at the end of the day, I'm not going to deny that. I don't care about the other side of it. I've always had this motto: 'A person ain't really got to like me. They gon' respect me and respect my work.' It's the same thing.

In that sense, is Drake someone you'd ever consider collaborating with?

I mean, I would love to, but it is what it is. When you from two worlds, and if the synergy is lining up for it to happen, it will happen. If it don't, it just doesn't. He knows I like his music. It is what it is, though.

You turned a lot of heads at Kanye West's Yeezy Season 3. You've had a longstanding working relationship with him. How did that come together?

I haven't worked with Kanye in so long but I'd love to see what a song me and Kanye would sound like right now. He always says I got him his first Grammy nomination [Ed: for the West-produced "Came Back for You," nominated in 2004 for Best Female Rap Solo Performance], and that's awesome for me. He had another song that he ended up putting out years later called "Wow," and I wanted that song to go on my album so bad because my record company was like, we're only going to do one of them or whatever. Kanye is someone I felt was awesome before anybody even knew who he was.

Did he reach out to you to attend?

Him and Kim [Kardashian West] invited me. It's so funny, because my publicist years ago, before I went to prison, was Tracy Nguyen [who works with West now]. She was the best publicist I've ever had. I love my publicist now, and no one's been able to match up to her. My publicist now is winning me over because there's no one who has been like her. [Laughs] She reached out to my people because obviously, we haven't worked together in so long or whatever but we've always remained really good friends. She reached out and was like, 'Kim and Kanye want to invite you.' I was like, 'That's awesome, I'd love to.' I'm all about fashion. I'm not going to miss that opportunity to see new lines and fashion coming out. I'm always for that. That was exciting to me.

You recently reunited with Puff Daddy to work on new music. How was it getting back together with the Bad Boy family and going at again for No Way Out 2?

I'm in my comfort zone when I'm with my Bad Boy family. We have a such an organic, natural connection when we're on-stage. It's perfect, it's fun. It's just second nature to me.

You were with Atlantic before and then went through a situation with Trackmasters' imprint. What's your label situation now?

I'm independent right now. I have been in talks with my old record company [Atlantic], but we're going to work on some other projects together after this EP. Before then, I'm going to independently do what I'm going to do. 

What sort of projects?

I can't tell you that right now.

If I don't ask, I'm not doing my job.

I'm not mad at you. [Laughs]

The EP is coming out and your fans always want to hear more from you. Any idea of when you're putting out a project after that?

My fans are like, album, album, album but that's not how it goes. My fans probably don't know the industry the way I know the industry because I would love to be able to announce that Kim is putting out an album, but it doesn't work like that. We do a couple of singles but I'm not going to sit here and say when the album's going to drop. What I can say, for sure, with confidence, is that my fans will continuously hear new music from me and get videos. Very soon. Today, Lil' Kim Season is going to be out. We did a lot of remixes with other songs to let people know I never miss a step, even though I've been away from the mainstream and haven't been in rotation with my music for so long. I want people to know that I have not missed a beat. I'm always out here and know what's going on with music. I love music, good music, no matter what kind of music it is. Good music is good music.

Faith Evans just announced she's putting out a duets album with the Notorious B.I.G. later this year. What are your thoughts on that?

All I can say is... stay tuned.