Lil' Kim Seeks Audience Growth

Excerpted from the magazine for

As female MCs go, Lil' Kim is one of the most prominent, with a following that taps into both urban and mainstream audiences. Even though she has amassed a huge fan base since she first came on the scene as a member of Junior M.A.F.I.A., Lil' Kim says she wants to reach still more people. She hopes to accomplish that goal with "La Bella Mafia," arriving March 4 on Queen Bee/Atlantic Records.

"I just want to reach a larger audience," says the rapper, who launched her solo career with the release of "Hard Core" in 1996. "I really want to reach the Midwest and the West, audiences that I haven't gotten a chance to touch."

Accordingly, Lil' Kim plans to entertain music fans she may not have had a chance to reach in the past. "We've partnered with Evolution Talent Agency and routed a 32-market record-release tour that will run from April through May," Atlantic VP of urban promotion Erik Ford says. "Fans in markets like Austin, San Antonio, Louisville [Ky.], and Cincinnati will get a Lil' Kim show -- for a reasonable ticket price -- in an intimate environment. This is something unique that we've never attempted before. With the success of [lead single] 'The Jump Off' at radio, we are confident that this will be a huge success."

The tune is No. 7 on Billboard's Hot Rap Tracks chart and No. 8 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Singles & Tracks tally. Produced by Timbaland and featuring Mr. Cheeks, "The Jump Off" is a beat-heavy, danceable track that sets the stage for an album that Queen Bee A&R director Jean Nelson describes as "very hardcore."

"La Bella Mafia" is the artist's third album and the follow-up to her 2000 release "Notorious K.I.M." That album has sold 1.3 million units in the U.S., according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Besides Timbaland, "La Bella Mafia" boasts an array of big-name producers and artists, including Swizz Beatz on "This Is Who I Am," Missy Elliott on "(When Kim Say) Can You Hear Me Now?," Twista on "Thug Luv," 50 Cent on "Magic Stick," Havoc on "Hold It Now," and Styles P on "Get in Touch With Us."

One of the album's most innovative tracks is "Can't F**k With Queen Bee," produced by and featuring Full Force. The song contains an interpolation from Deniece Williams' classic ballad "Free."

Excerpted from the March 8, 2003, issue of Billboard. The full original text of the article is available in the members section.

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