Published May 31, 2019Lil' Kim was born to captivate. Despite her 4'11" frame, the rapper born Kimberly Jones has consistently held the attention of the music world, from 1994, when she impressed the Notorious B.I.G. with her rhyming, through her raunchy, feminist script-flipping discography.
With her fifth LP approaching, we've made Lil' Kim the subject of our career-spanning biographical feature, the Timeline. Ahead of its publication in full, enjoy our preview below, featuring a few juicy tidbits from Kim's illustrious career.
1. Lil' Kim's Freestyling Skills Won Over Notorious B.I.G.
After a tumultuous few years with her father, who is her primary caregiver, a young Kimberly Jones finds herself kicked out at 15 years old and living on the streets. She begins peddling drugs for boyfriends and working odd jobs, noting that she "did what it took to survive." Through this life, she ultimately meets 19 year-old up-and-coming rapper Christopher "Biggie Smalls" Wallace (later to be known as the Notorious B.I.G.) when she is 17. After a chance meeting, Kim freestyles for him on a street corner, and he's instantly impressed. She'll go on to drop out of high school, at which point Biggie Smalls will take her under his wing as his protégé and, later, his girlfriend.
2. Her Changing Appearance Is More Than Surgery
Though Lil' Kim's appearance has been the butt of countless media jokes over the years, the truth is that she has battled with her self-confidence, mentally and physically, since she was a child. Having been emotionally abused during her childhood and again by her romantic partners in her early adulthood, Lil' Kim perceives herself to not be good enough or pretty enough for the men in her life. Her first surgery — breast augmentation in her late teens — is the start of a long journey of change ahead. In a 2000 interview, Lil Kim addresses her appearance, saying, "I have low self-esteem and I always have. Guys always cheated on me with women who were European-looking. You know, the longhair type. Really beautiful women that left me thinking, 'How I can I compete with that?'"
3. Lil' Kim Was Sentenced to One Year and One Day in Prison
In 2001, members of Lil' Kim's entourage engage in a shootout with rival group Capone-N-Noreaga. Following a court testimony in 2003, where Kim claims she isn't aware of what happened, the jury proves otherwise using security images. Kim is charged with three counts of perjury, one count of conspiracy and one count of obstruction of justice. In 2005, the trial is resolved and Lil' Kim is sentenced to a one-year sentence and one day in prison, alongside a $50K fine and three years' probation.
4. Amidst Label Disputes, Lil' Kim Was Banned from Making Music
In a 2012 interview, Lil' Kim reveals on MTV's Sucker Free that she was 'banned' from releasing music due to several pending lawsuits. After being released from prison, Kim tries to get off her original label (Atlantic Records) but isn't released and is ordered to pay them. Allegedly, Track Masters stepped up to pay the $200K required to get Kim out of her Atlantic contract, and spent another $240K to help her record a new project. Unfortunately, the deal goes south as well, and a lawsuit follows. She reveals the details, saying, "Legally, I wasn't allowed or able to do music. And 'til this day I'm not going to say I'm glad that the lawsuit happened with Track Masters, but it made me more of a businesswoman." Despite the legal issues, Lil' Kim releases her Black Friday mixtape, despite not being able to profit from it. It would take a few years for the lawsuits to resolve.
5. The Naked Truth Is the First Album by a Woman to Receive The Source's Coveted 5-Mic Rating
Despite being incarcerated, Lil' Kim releases her fourth studio album The Naked Truth, on September 25, 2006 — one week into her prison sentence. The album debuts at #6 on the Billboard 200 chart and sells over 109K copies in its first week, but its true honour comes at the hands of rap music publication The Source, who award the album its esteemed 5-mic rating, becoming the first woman to receive the honour. She'll later celebrate, saying, "Some women probably feel like, 'I'm not even gonna try to get five mics, I know I ain't getting five mics, so women [will] be like, 'Now I know I can get five mics."