Last November, Lilí 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 Lilí Kimís 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 sheís been attempting to break out of since the Ď90s.
Itís 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?
Itís 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, youíre not really thinking about [making a fashion line]. Timing is everything. At this point, itís like Iím 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. Iím a very spiritual person. I believe in God so Godís timing is the right timing, period. Enough said.
What is the clothing line called?
I donít want to get into it, but Iíve 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. Weíve got different lines inside of the lines that weíre working on, and we might change up a couple of them. Weíre working on that right now.
Youíre also doing it through La Scala Boutique.
[Proprietor Rose Cordon] is a monumental figure. Sheís 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, Godís timing is the right timing.
Weíre going to take our time with it. Iím 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 Iím not gonna allow them to dictate certain things, whether itís the timing or direction of my album. I think that this album is definitely going to have a happy medium, and thatís all Iím concerned with. Iím 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 theyíre also gonna get with the new sounds whether they like it or not. They goní get with the new thing, because Iíve 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.
Letís talk about that a bit. You shaped hip-hop music in such an amazing way through your four previous albumsÖ
This is very important to me that this is clear: I was a child. A lot of people donít 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 didnít mind, because when youíre 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 didnít get to fully tell my story. I mean you would think that in the time Iíve been in the game that I would have 10 albums out or something, but I havenít. 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, Iím still kind of a novelty to them. Iím still very much a mystique to them. Theyíre still very interested in this story. Iím 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. Iím 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. Youíre a kid. You donít know whatís up at that point; youíre 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 youíre such a legend, youíre such an icon in this game!" I will take that icon and the legend talk, thatís fine and I love that! At the end of the day, Iím gonna embrace that. But like I said, I wonít allow no one to make it seem like what Iíve accomplished is all I had to give because I never really got the chance to tell my story and really say, ďOkay, Iím gonna go for my own Grammys in time." I got a Grammy, yes, and thatís one of my biggest and proudest accomplishments, but I want one for my own album. Itís like at this point, thatís where Iím 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. Iím not gonna sit here and just make an album thatís story-telling; you canít play that in the clubs. When I came out, it was a lot [of songs] like that. I had songs on the album where Iím telling a story and these are some of my fansí best songs like "Heavenly Father" I canít do. Itís a different time. Donít 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 havenít grown with me, I canít do nothing about that. They gotta grow with me, you know what I mean?
At the end of the day, Iím still gonna do what Iím known for. Thatís never gonna stop, because I would not be able to make the album without doing what Iím 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? Itís because I was going to prison at the time and I touched on a lot of things that were happening. Iím not gonna make the same album twice -- that doesnít make sense. Iíve 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. Itís not realistic. Thatís 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, heís not gonna do the same things he did seven years ago. Heís a different person, you know? But heís gonna remind yíall, Iím pretty sure heís gonna give certain things. Just like me, Iím gonna remind them of what I did before. So itíll be a perfect mix, and whichever of my fans donít understand that -- Iím sorry. They got to get left like a lot of my friends who havenít grown with me. I came up with a lot of friends, and a lot of my friends had to get left because they werenít growing with me. Itís nothing personal, I love them still with my heart but if my friends arenít growing, I canít 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 Iím a damn fool. People still say, "Put that purple outfit back on!" Thatís bullshit. They donít 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 donít 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. Itís not possible. Thatís what I like to constantly do, and thatís what I was known for -- being a trendsetter and always reinventing myself. Thatís the moral of the story of my life -- reinvention. Whoever donít like it, theyíll get with it sooner or later. I like to do what I like to do and Iíma 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 donít touch it. You try your best to top it, and you try to do something just as great as that, but you donít try your best to duplicate it. Iím not going to try to beat Hard Core, Iím 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 doesnít 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 oíclock in the afternoon to one oíclock the next afternoon and itís all good but I got a baby now. So Iíma work and Iíma do what I do. But Iím not changing anything because I donít hide anything from my daughter. I also donít allow her to be disrespectful. I donít allow her to do certain things. A child should stay in a childís place and a baby should be babied. I canít change who I am because thatís when things change. Iím not gonna become a gospel rapper. Thatís the only thing left I could do, and itís not that. So at the end of the day, Iím 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. Iím a mom and Iím always with my baby, and I got to make sure my baby is good myself because nobody is gonna make sure my babyís good the way I do.
Thereís also a possibility you may be doing another type of "Ladies Night" collaboration on this project.
Iím 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 thatís going on with Remy and olí girl. Thatís 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.Ē First of all, let me tell you this. Number one: yíall giving olí girl too much credit. Iím not even thinking about that. Iím not even thinking about olí girl! Iím so far past that. Thatís never on my mind. Ever. Olí 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 donít need no damn help! Why would I need to come together for that? I mean, Iím into the music and Iím speaking musically wise -- the song is just hard, period. Just like [Drake's] ďBack To BackĒ 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 olí girl came to me, Iíma give them the business. Thatís just the bottom line of it. So if it ainít coming my way, I ainít got nothing to do with it. Me and Remy is cool. I hate when media do that. Thatís 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 donít do shows together like the men do shows together. Thatís what I said! I said, ďItís about time for another 'Ladies Night,' and maybe youíll see something in the future,Ē because weíre putting it together! Me and Cardi are already working. I already have stuff in the works with Cardi. Weíve 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 itís about time for another "Ladies Night" song. Let me explain something to you Ė Iím a hustler first. The ďLadies NightĒ 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 ainít thinking about no other bullshit, because like I said, this ainít what you want when it comes to that because Iím 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, thatís 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, itís 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. Iím 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 Iím putting business moves together.
Youíre taking complete control over the business aspect because you started so young and said a lot of times that you werenít in the driverís seat. It feels like youíre really in the driverís seat now.
Exactly. Iím independent. Iím not signed to a record company. I do have a situation going on that I canít really talk about until I can talk about it, but I have a situation going on and itís kind of a partnership. Again, like I said, it feels good to be in the driverís seat, be independent and do my thing. It feels really good. At this point, itís about the artistry. Itís also about the entrepreneurship, the boss moves this time around. At the end of the day, Iím good at certain things behind the scenes as well, so thatís just basically something that I wanted to make good on.
When are you looking to actually drop the album?
I donít have a specific date, but itís definitely coming out this year. I have a couple people I want to work with. Iím not gonna tell you who but thereís 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, itís kind of hard. Plus I got my baby so Iím just leveling everything now. But Iím going hard.