Last night (May 18), Lil’ Kim brought her “Return of the Queen” tour to Bronx’s Paradise Theater for a comeback show that promised surprise guests as well as billed opening acts Saigon, Papoose, Cassidy and Shyheim. Her rolodex still runs deep, with rappers including Missy Elliott, Eve, Juelz Santana, host, “Mob Wives” star Drita D’Avanzo, and Fred Da Godson gracing the stage during the hourlong set. But despite several awkward pauses where she vanished backstage, the Brooklyn native carried the show, working the enraptured audience with a live band in tow.
Opening the performance with her tongue-twisting “Queen Bitch,” the pint-sized rapstress had a gutsy presence, hitting choreographed cues with a team of backup dancers in front of stagehands waving flags sporting images of her first three album covers. Kimmy Blanco, clad in a red military jacket over a tan body suit, paid no mind to the muddled sound as she ripped through hits including “Big Momma Thang,” “How Many Licks” and “The Jump Off.” She continued to blaze through her discography, shedding a few clothing items as the ample crowd chanted along to cuts like “Lighters Up” and “Magic Stick.”
Just one day after her explosive interview on Power 105’s The Breakfast Club, Kim largely ignored her feud with Nicki Minaj, save for a brief verse from “Black Friday.” Instead, she kept the mood light, enlisting “Mob Wives” tough girl Drita D’Avanzo to take the spotlight to nimbly rap Kim’s verse from “All About the Benjamins.” After a lengthy pause halfway through the show, Kim brought out Juelz Santana to perform his portion of Lloyd Banks’ “Beamer Benz or Bentley (Remix).”
The show hit its stride when Eve and Missy Elliott rushed the stage for the latter’s “Hot Boyz (Remix).” Fans have long believed that Kim and Eve had thrown shots on respective tracks “Came Back For You” and “Let Me Blow Your Mind,” but the pair erased suspicions by hugging before Ruff Ryders’ First Lady spit a verse from her breakout 1999 hit “What Y’all Want.” Missy, who recently returned to live performances alongside Timbaland at Hennessy’s Wild Rabbit campaign launch last month, was drowned out by the crowd’s cheers during “Hot Boyz” before jumping into the audience and retreating to the wings.
But Kim was the star. She reveled in nostalgia by kicking verses from Mobb Deep‘s “Quiet Storm (Remix)” and Junior M.A.F.I.A.‘s “Get Money (Remix),” holding the sizeable audience’s attention as she stomped across the stage barefoot during a dance segment. The pregnant interludes were an admitted momentum killer — DJ Boogie had a difficult time keeping attendees’ interest as Kim changed outfits — but renditions of “Crush on You” and “Let It Go” reeled it in. As one of her few hometown shows since a sparsely attended gig at Irving Plaza in June 2010, Lil’ Kim proved that she can still sting.