Last November, Lil’ Kim‘s solo debut album Hard Core — which saw the rapper born Kimberly Jones exiting her teens — turned 20 years old. A lot has changed since then. She has a child of her own, a two-year-old daughter named Royal Reign who is running and talking during her mother’s candid interview with Billboard.
This is Lil’ Kim’s new era. Gone are the days of her single-breast-revealing 1999 MTV VMAs outfit, elaborate multi-colored wigs and consistent bars about male inadequacy. There are hints of that still, but to reduce Kim to her former self would be placing her right back in the box she’s been attempting to break out of since the ‘90s.
It’s tough for her fanbase to accept, especially when a new beef surfaces involving one of her enemies, Nicki Minaj. Rumors have circulated that Kim will be partaking in a follow-up diss to Nicki Minaj alongside Remy Ma. Rumors have also suggested Lil’ Kim still cares about her feud with Nicki. In this revealing interview, Kim sets the record straight, while giving some new details on her emerging fashion line, upcoming fifth studio album, and the need to grow for both herself and her loyal fans.
First off, congratulations on your own clothing line. As an artist who has been a part of fashion for 20 years, what took you so long?
It’s always been an interest, but you got to understand I came in the industry as a little baby. I was a baby. I was 16 or 17 when I made my first hit record. At that age, you’re not really thinking about [making a fashion line]. Timing is everything. At this point, it’s like I’m really trying to just bloom and blossom as an artist in certain instances, because there was a lot of current events that happened in my life. I’m a very spiritual person. I believe in God so God’s timing is the right timing, period. Enough said.
What is the clothing line called?
I don’t want to get into it, but I’ve always had the name 24/7 Star. That was the first part of my line. When I had my shoe line with Petite Paton, it was called Hollyhood, but we changed it to 24/7 Star. We’ve got different lines inside of the lines that we’re working on, and we might change up a couple of them. We’re working on that right now.
You’re also doing it through La Scala Boutique.
[Proprietor Rose Cordon] is a monumental figure. She’s like a mom to me. When I had my clothing line before, she wanted to put my stuff into the store then, but the company I was with was a small company and they folded. So I had to wait many years later and try to figure it out. That was another reason why it would have happened a long time ago. But like I said, God’s timing is the right timing.
We’re going to take our time with it. I’m not gonna allow the demand from my fans to be rushed. This is like my album. My fans are the awesomest, but they can be the most non-understanding at the same time. I love them, but I’m not gonna allow them to dictate certain things, whether it’s the timing or direction of my album. I think that this album is definitely going to have a happy medium, and that’s all I’m concerned with. I’m a hustler first. Music is my life, music is what I do, music is my livelihood — this is how I make money! At the end of the day, I gotta give my fans certain sounds and music that they like, but they’re also gonna get with the new sounds whether they like it or not. They gon’ get with the new thing, because I’ve always been a trendsetter and I do have a new sound and that sound was stolen from me. This is years in the making of another new sound.
Let’s talk about that a bit. You shaped hip-hop music in such an amazing way through your four previous albums…
This is very important to me that this is clear: I was a child. A lot of people don’t even know that because I was marketed to kind of be and look a little older and look a little older, the lyrics of my album was the way it was. I didn’t mind, because when you’re 16, 17, you want to be older so bad anyway. But at that point, I was becoming a child star. At a young age, I didn’t get to fully tell my story. I mean you would think that in the time I’ve been in the game that I would have 10 albums out or something, but I haven’t. If you looked at it like that, this is one of the reasons why my cult following is still there, because I never truly finished telling my story through my music.
So basically for my fans, I’m still kind of a novelty to them. I’m still very much a mystique to them. They’re still very interested in this story. I’m blessed to be well-respected, but at the same time, I would not allow anyone to try to date me because of the simple fact that I was a child. I’m like a child star, like Bow Wow — he was 10 years old [when he came into the business]. I came in the game seven years later as an artist at 16, 17. 17 is still very young. You’re a kid. You don’t know what’s up at that point; you’re still getting your life together. By the time I was 21, I was a multi-millionaire. I had no clue what I was doing, because I was still very young. At this time, I want to be allowed to tell my story without people like, “Oh you’re such a legend, you’re such an icon in this game!” I will take that icon and the legend talk, that’s fine and I love that! At the end of the day, I’m gonna embrace that. But like I said, I won’t allow no one to make it seem like what I’ve accomplished is all I had to give because I never really got the chance to tell my story and really say, “Okay, I’m gonna go for my own Grammys in time.” I got a Grammy, yes, and that’s one of my biggest and proudest accomplishments, but I want one for my own album. It’s like at this point, that’s where I’m at with it, and I never really truly got to display my fullest talent.
Do you feel that on this project, you are going to tell that story that people wanted to hear?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that this is one of my highly anticipated albums and I want it to be fun. What comes with telling a story is fun. I’m not gonna sit here and just make an album that’s story-telling; you can’t play that in the clubs. When I came out, it was a lot [of songs] like that. I had songs on the album where I’m telling a story and these are some of my fans’ best songs like “Heavenly Father” I can’t do. It’s a different time. Don’t get me wrong and I love my fans, but a lot of my fans, when I came out, some of them were way older than me, some of them were my age and some of them were way younger than me. The ones I think that were older than me, I think they never really grew from that with me. They were tryna keep their childhood with me, and so the ones who haven’t grown with me, I can’t do nothing about that. They gotta grow with me, you know what I mean?
At the end of the day, I’m still gonna do what I’m known for. That’s never gonna stop, because I would not be able to make the album without doing what I’m known for or giving them a piece of Hard Core. I wanna give them that feeling, but I also want to bring them into my world a little bit like I did on The Naked Truth. And you know why a lot of my fans loved The Naked Truth? It’s because I was going to prison at the time and I touched on a lot of things that were happening. I’m not gonna make the same album twice — that doesn’t make sense. I’ve never, for the life of me, understood why fans would think that any artist would make the same album twice. That would not make me a real artist. It’s not realistic. That’s why one of my favorite lines from an artist to me is the Jay Z line when he says, “You want my old sh-t? Buy my old albums.” At the end of the day, he’s not gonna do the same things he did seven years ago. He’s a different person, you know? But he’s gonna remind y’all, I’m pretty sure he’s gonna give certain things. Just like me, I’m gonna remind them of what I did before. So it’ll be a perfect mix, and whichever of my fans don’t understand that — I’m sorry. They got to get left like a lot of my friends who haven’t grown with me. I came up with a lot of friends, and a lot of my friends had to get left because they weren’t growing with me. It’s nothing personal, I love them still with my heart but if my friends aren’t growing, I can’t be held back.
Also, it was 20 years ago. You started as a kid, and your career is just getting started again. Even though a lot of other artists have struggled with this, regardless of gender, it has a lot to do with how in the industry, people want to give just one identifier to a woman. People just wanted to remember Lil ‘Kim as Lil ‘Kim, age 19 in a purple wig in one video, and not give you the opportunity to evolve. I can understand your frustration in wanting to break past that with this project.
I mean yeah because if I wore that same damn outfit to the club, you would look at me like I’m a damn fool. People still say, “Put that purple outfit back on!” That’s bullshit. They don’t want to see me in that [1999 VMAs] outfit. First of all, if I was still with my record company and we were still moving — I would update. My music is gonna be updated, my look is gonna be updated. You just update. But there are some fans who don’t understand the meaning of updated. They just think you do the same exact thing and put some blonde stuff in your wig instead of it being all purple. It’s not possible. That’s what I like to constantly do, and that’s what I was known for — being a trendsetter and always reinventing myself. That’s the moral of the story of my life — reinvention. Whoever don’t like it, they’ll get with it sooner or later. I like to do what I like to do and I’ma also give that feeling of when I first came out with Hard Core, but on a different level. A classic is a classic for a reason. You don’t touch it. You try your best to top it, and you try to do something just as great as that, but you don’t try your best to duplicate it. I’m not going to try to beat Hard Core, I’m going to try to be just as great as Hard Core on this album or better.
This is also going to be your first project as a mother — does that change how you approach music too?
Nah, it doesn’t change how I approach music, but it changes how I have to work, because I got a baby now. Before, I could be in the studio long, long hours. I could stay in the studio from one o’clock in the afternoon to one o’clock the next afternoon and it’s all good but I got a baby now. So I’ma work and I’ma do what I do. But I’m not changing anything because I don’t hide anything from my daughter. I also don’t allow her to be disrespectful. I don’t allow her to do certain things. A child should stay in a child’s place and a baby should be babied. I can’t change who I am because that’s when things change. I’m not gonna become a gospel rapper. That’s the only thing left I could do, and it’s not that. So at the end of the day, I’m still gonna be who I am, and I will teach my child as we grow, the difference between certain music. Being a mom is not going to change my content in my music, but it will change the approach in how I work. I’m a mom and I’m always with my baby, and I got to make sure my baby is good myself because nobody is gonna make sure my baby’s good the way I do.
There’s also a possibility you may be doing another type of “Ladies Night” collaboration on this project.
I’m glad you brought that up, because in the media the other day, I had a show and I hate stupid blogs when they try to take my damn situations and clip them. We all know the situation that’s going on with Remy and ol’ girl. That’s their situation and I have nothing to do with that. They have a rumor out there like, “Kim is gonna do a diss track with Remy.” First of all, let me tell you this. Number one: y’all giving ol’ girl too much credit. I’m not even thinking about that. I’m not even thinking about ol’ girl! I’m so far past that. That’s never on my mind. Ever. Ol’ girl has never been on my mind for a long ass time at all. So I hate the fact of that being in the equation. But the situation with Remy, for them to say that we were coming together to do a diss track? First of all, after hearing “ShETHER,” that shit is so hard, Remy don’t need no damn help! Why would I need to come together for that? I mean, I’m into the music and I’m speaking musically wise — the song is just hard, period. Just like [Drake’s] “Back To Back” was hard — just good hip-hop music. But I got nothing to do with that. When I had my situation and my situation came up, I handled my business. If anybody comes to me, if ol’ girl came to me, I’ma give them the business. That’s just the bottom line of it. So if it ain’t coming my way, I ain’t got nothing to do with it. Me and Remy is cool. I hate when media do that. That’s the thing.
What I said was, “Shout out to the beautiful ladies who was on this stage with me tonight, Cardi B and Remy!” because we needed more of that. We don’t do shows together like the men do shows together. That’s what I said! I said, “It’s about time for another ‘Ladies Night,’ and maybe you’ll see something in the future,” because we’re putting it together! Me and Cardi are already working. I already have stuff in the works with Cardi. We’ve been sending each other texts back and forth. A long time ago when Remy first came home from jail, she sent me a text, so we were kind of already working.
What I was saying was it’s about time for another “Ladies Night” song. Let me explain something to you – I’m a hustler first. The “Ladies Night” record got me a Grammy nomination and several MTV [award] nominations, and we performed the song on MTV during one of the biggest awards moments and my album went double platinum. At the end of the day, I want another one of those. I ain’t thinking about no other bullshit, because like I said, this ain’t what you want when it comes to that because I’m an extremist. Plus, I already handled my business. Everybody else already know, I already put it down. Once that situation came at me, I addressed the person. Like I said, that’s done and over with and they know what it is. That person knows what it is. Me and Remy is cool so I just want these blogs to keep my damn name out the bullshit.
So moving on from that, I would like to have something like that on my new album. Even if I just did records separately with different females, it’s still the unity. I was looking at the footage of me, Cardi and Remy all up there on that stage, and everybody did they thing, everybody held they own. I’m also in the business side of things. I also stepped my game up from when I was a kid in the game and I was not really business-minded. I just was told what to do, so now I’m putting business moves together.
You’re taking complete control over the business aspect because you started so young and said a lot of times that you weren’t in the driver’s seat. It feels like you’re really in the driver’s seat now.
Exactly. I’m independent. I’m not signed to a record company. I do have a situation going on that I can’t really talk about until I can talk about it, but I have a situation going on and it’s kind of a partnership. Again, like I said, it feels good to be in the driver’s seat, be independent and do my thing. It feels really good. At this point, it’s about the artistry. It’s also about the entrepreneurship, the boss moves this time around. At the end of the day, I’m good at certain things behind the scenes as well, so that’s just basically something that I wanted to make good on.
When are you looking to actually drop the album?
I don’t have a specific date, but it’s definitely coming out this year. I have a couple people I want to work with. I’m not gonna tell you who but there’s a few people I want to work with, so I’m just getting those people together and getting them on the album. With me traveling, performing and doing music, it’s kind of hard. Plus I got my baby so I’m just leveling everything now. But I’m going hard.