Sorry, for the lull, but prepare yourself for a busy few weeks. I’ve got a lot of shit I’ve been meaning to post and WILL post over the next few weeks. The Shrimp ain’t finna fall off!
So the rumors were true and Lil Kim’s album “The Naked Truth” did indeed get 5 mics. Well, it’s not like anyone takes The Source too seriously anymore, but the least I can say is “good for her.” After all, rap is still a male dominated art-form and while I think there are certain stylistic reasons why that is (rap is still primarily based on stereotypically masculine traits while, conversely, r&b is primarily based on stereotypically feminine traits), it’s nice to see a female getting some degree of praise. That being said, given the stylistic constituents of rap music, I really don’t see equal representation of the sexes in the game as something that rap should have any interest in striving for, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some females who aren’t capable of working within the stereotypically masculine expectations of rap music and performing in an effective and interesting manner. I’d be lying if I said I’ve paid a lot of attention to Kim’s career and can’t say I’ve ever bothered to listen to any of her previous albums front-to-back, but her single “Lighters Up” lit a fire underneath my ass that convinced me I needed to sit down with this album and at least give it a gander. So, I did.
First things first: it’s not 5 mics quality. The production is really solid throughout the whole thing and Kim proves herself to be pretty stylistically versatile, doing Jafakin’ with the best of ‘em on the aforementioned “Lighters Up” but also on one of my favorite tracks on the album“Durty,” a song that finds Kim in her familiar (and by now requisite) “I’m a dirty b*tch and proud of it” track. Her lyrics aren’t always of the highest-caliber, but she certainly isn’t unlistenable. And, of course, there are moments of stark honesty that will at least remind you that, yeah, Kim did introduce the complicated po-mo-feminist character to rap music, making vocal her feminist-inversion that found power in being objectified: “Why you frontin’? You know who the best be. I’m the reason why the game so sexy./ The originator./ The trend creator. /Bitch, you dun know, you haffa respeck me.” The vocal samples on the shit are hilarious (in a good way), but Kim steals the show with her slightly off key patois hooks. There’s a solidly “real” and down-home quality to the imperfect inflexions in her voice, and it sounds oh-so-lovely on the track. Truth be told, I’m just a sucker for these lil’ cross-over jafaikin’ joints when they’re done well.
Another stand-out track on the album is the B.I.G. sampling “All Good.” Kim has always had the benefit of being signed, sealed, and delivered by one Christopher Wallace to the world and she’s never been one to hide this fact. Kim seems to see herself as a living extension of the B.I.G. ethos and you ultimately get the sense that almost everything Kim makes is an attempt to stay true to the B.I.G. spirit. So, she spends most of the album distancing herself from her ex-associates-turned-“snitchers” Junior MAFIA and establishing herself as the “in the streets bitch” that B.I.G. knew and loved. There some funny shit on here (“I touch more green than Tiger’s putty“) and some fairly typical “I’m street shit (“At age 14, I was puttin’ in work. At age 16, I was movin’ that work./ Getting’ paid to drive state to state/ smugglin’ wait/ prayin’ I don’t bump into Jake”), but Kim seems to be at her best when she’s not working outside of her boundaries, and this track is no exception. The beat sounds corny on paper with the echoing Biggie vocal sample “It’s all good” opening each bar as that age-old gangsta whistle makes up much of the two note melody, but I think the shit knocks. The drums have a “Criminal Minded” swagger to them as Kim gets loose, dissin’ 50 cent, them Junior MAFIA snitches, and paying respect to her biggest influence and friend. Shit is solid.
Lil’ Kim “All Good”
Lil’ Kim “Durty”