Lil’ Kim’s debut disc “Hard Core” was more than just poster art for the walls of adoring men everywhere; the raunchy and rebellious album solidified Kim’s position in hip-hop as rap royalty. The ride-or-die Brooklyn native rose to fame after freestyling for the late great Notorious BIG–who took her under his wing and recruited her for his crew Junior Mafia. Kim, standing a mere 4’11” outshined the boys even on a bad day. She and BIG formed a relationship that would be cut short by his untimely passing. Still, Kim can be heard repping Biggie (and Brooklyn) at every performance, even to this day.
The Queen Bee recently released a mixtape, “Hard Core 2014,” to an anxious fan base who have been patiently waiting for her to reclaim her throne as rap queen. Fans and critics alike longed to hear Kim’s signature “Unh” and gritty lyrics that made her the icon she is today. The mixtape received mixed reviews, but one things for certain–it is her best musical effort since her 2005 album “The Naked Truth.”
Perhaps it was BIG’s spirit radiating through the studio where she recorded the collection of songs that gave the modern project that 1995 feel, which is when Junior M.A.F.I.A. released “Conspiracy.” Kim, who recently gave birth to a baby girl she named Royal Reign, chatted with HelloBeautiful about her “Hard Core 2014” project, writing her own rhymes and feeling BIG’s presence as she recorded her latest 12-track ode.
HelloBeautiful: Were you at all nervous to release “Hard Core” as a mixtape because of the expectations it carried?
Lil’ Kim: Classics cannot be duplicated and I wouldn’t even try to duplicate “Hard Core.” The only thing I wanted to do with “Hard Core 2014” was give them a taste of a replica of “Hard Core.” I really wasn’t trying to make the exact same “Hard Core.” I just wanted to give my fans that same feeling. The fans loved it, they ate it up.
HB: Tell us about your fan base today, nearly two decades after your debut album was released.
Lil’ Kim: My fans are the absolute best, they’re phenomenal. Don’t get me wrong, they’re like your sister, your mom, your brother, your cousin–we can annoy each other. My fans, cuss me out of love. And, it’s like, I love them unconditionally because they love me unconditionally. I have a testimony when it comes to my life and my life hasn’t been all peaches and cream and I don’t think anybody’s has. Everyone knows my trials and tribulations publicly. But, my fans still be there after all that is just as blessing. Just a blessing.
HB: We noticed on “Hardcore 2014,” that you dropped a line about Biggie’s grave. How often do you think about him?
Lil’ Kim: I visit his spirit everyday and this week is the 20th anniversary of Ready To Die, so yeah, it’s a pretty amazing thing. You know the crazy thing is when I was recording this “Hard Core” mixtape? I felt BIG’s spirit in a lot of the songs I was doing. The “Gotti” record, I felt his spirit a little. Even when I was doing “Whenever You See Me,” “Trendsetter,” when I was recording those songs, I felt his spirit and I definitely feel like he was with me with this project.
HB: I know there was a lot of controversy around claims that Biggie wrote your rhymes, what do you have to say about that?
Lil’ Kim: Well, I look at it like this, after Biggie died, I had hit after hit after hit. So, I guess that answers the question. Anybody who has written with me in the studio knows I get busy. I wrote a whole song with Swizz Beatz, I wrote a whole song in front of B.Hot. I write in front of people, so that’s a joke to me. It makes me laugh. I love writing with people. That’s something we’ve always done in ciphers. We rapped with each other and that was something that was always fun. I’ve also written for P.Diddy. if you look on the “No Way Out” album, I have credit on a song that I’m not even on. So, let’s just be real.
HB: You were definitely bodying the boys on tracks like “Quiet Storm…”
Lil Kim: Thank you and then mind you, BIG wasn’t even alive for that. I was in the studio with my security and my guys to hang out and they weren’t rappers. Havoc was there. Those were good times in the studio. I was asked to be on that record. They released the original and I think I was the first to start the movement of jumping on people’s records. When I heard “Quiet Storm,” honestly, I probably would’ve jumped on that record for free. Because that’s how much I was in love with it before I even got on it. I think it was Chris Lighty who actually made that happen for me to come in. It was really good times.
Listen to “Hardcore 2014:”