Childhood & Early Life
Lil’ Kim was born Kimberly Denise Jones on 11 July 1975 at Brooklyn, New York, to Linwood Jones and Ruby Jones. Her father was a former US marine. She has an older brother named Christopher.
Her parents separated when she was nine years old following which she started living with her father. However, she had a strained relationship with her father.
She did her initial schooling from Queen of All Saints Elementary School, Brooklyn. Later, she went to Sarah J. Hale Vocational High School for a few years and was shifted to the Brooklyn College Academy to complete her school education.
At the age of sixteen, she was kicked out of the house by her father. Subsequently, she dropped out of high school and started living out on the streets.
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During her teen years she was introduced to The Notorious B.I.G. aka Biggie Smalls, who played a key role in her personal and artistic life. In 1994, he was instrumental in initiating and promoting the Brooklyn-based group, Junior M.A.F.I.A which she was part of.
‘Conspiracy’, the first album of the group was released in 1995 to moderate reviews. Lil’ Kim came into the limelight with the album’s single ‘Player’s Anthem’. Her voice was appreciated by the industry.
In 1996, she released, ‘Hard Core’, her debut work as a solo artist. Her unapologetic style and lyrical wordplay made the album a success. The album debuted at No.11 on the Billboard 200, which was the highest debut for a female rapper at the time. The album went on to be certified double Platinum by the RIAA in 2001.
In 1998, she was signed by agency Wilhelmina Models. She was also made the face of fashion brand ‘Brandy’, making her the first rapper to endorse the brand till date. Other brands that she has worked with include cosmetics brand MAC, clothing brand, Old Navy, AOl Internet Service.
Following the success of the album ‘Hard Core’, Lil’ Kim was preparing a show in New York City when she got the news that the team’s mentor Biggie has been killed. As a result of Biggie’s death, Lil’ Kim and her team faced uncertain future. She cancelled her plans for a sophomore album, and featured in projects by Puff Daddy and Mobb Deep.
In 2000, she released her second album Notorious K.I.M. The album though not as successful as her debut album, was listed on the Billboard 200 at No.4. It was certified Platinum by the RIAA after four weeks of its release.
In 2001, she along with Christina Aguilera, Pink, and Mýa teamed up for the remake of Patti Labelle's "Lady Marmalade" for the soundtrack of ‘Moulin Rouge’. The single was an immense hit and also won several awards that year including the Grammys. With the success of this project, she became one of the most sought after rappers of the time.
In 2003, she released her album, ‘La Bella Mafia’, featuring Kanye West, Timbaland and Missy Elliot. She also collaborated with Christina Aguilera for a song ‘Can’t Hold Us Down’ from the latter’s album ‘Stripped’.
The following year she made a cover recording for ‘These Boots Are Made for Walkin’ that went on to be utilized for Victoria Gotti's series ‘Growing up Gotti’. She was also featured in Beyonce’s ‘Naughty Girl’ in 2004.
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In 2004, she also inaugurated her designer watch collection by the name ‘Royalty by Lil' Kim’. Her clothing line was also released with the title ‘Hollyhood’. Soon after, she got associated with shoe brand Petite Peton.
Her next album ‘The Naked Truth’ was released in 2005, while she was serving a prison sentence. She received a 5 mic rating from ‘The Source’, making her the only female rapper to ever receive the rating.
On March 9, 2006, BET telecasted her last 14 days of freedom prior to being jailed for a 366 days sentence, as a six part series titled ‘Lil' Kim: Countdown to Lockdown’.
In 2007 and 2008, she made appearances as a judge on shows ‘The Pussycat Dolls Present: The Search for the Next Doll’ and ‘Pussycat Dolls Present: Girlicious’.
In 2008, she announced her dissociation with Atlantic Records, and also released her debut mixtape titled ‘Ms. G.O.A.T’. The album received positive reviews.
In 2009, she appeared on the eighth season of the reality show ‘Dancing with the Stars’. She was paired with dancer Derek Hough and ended up in the fifth place. The following year she began her 2010 tour covering Canada, Europe and the U.S.
In 2010, she along with her cousin Katrise Jones opened their beauty salon ‘Salon Se Swa’ at North Carolina. This was followed by the release of her second line of clothing ‘24/7 Goddess Collection’.
In 2011, she released her second mixtape ‘Black Friday’. The mixtape did not receive positive reviews. The same year she travelled to South Africa to perform as part of the Zarfest music festival as well to Australia for the WinterBeatz Festival. She also released the single ‘I Am Not the One’ in November that year.
She released the song ‘If You Love Me’, for her fans on Valentine’s Day 2012. In May 2012, she started her Return of the Queen Tour and it received fairly good reviews. The same year she also signed budding rapper Tiffany Foxx onto her label IRS Records.
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Though her third mixtape was set to be released in 2013, it got delayed due to several reasons. Therefore, she released certain singles like ‘Dead Gal Walking’ and ‘’ Kimmy Blanco’ for the public. Later in 2014, the Hard Core mixtape was released as a free download on her official website. In 2016, her fourth mixtape ‘Lil Kim Season’ was released.
In 2017, she is expected to be featured in the song ‘Lovin You for Life’ of Faith Evan’s album ‘The King & I’. She has also announced that she is working on a new album in association with Cardi B and Remy Ma. Other releases include the follow up mixtape for Lil Kim Season, entitled Lil Kim Season 2: The Originals
Personal Life & Legacy
In her teenage years, Lil’Kim was in a relationship with Shawn Powell. They dated for a couple of years in the midst of which Powell was convicted and imprisoned for robbery. They got engaged while he was incarcerated. Lil’Kim wanted to pursue a career as a rapper and that led to the end of her relationship with Shawn Powell.
During this period she met rapper Christopher Wallace and began an off and off relationship with him. This continued until his death in 1997. At the time of Wallace’s death, she was pregnant with his child, however, she decided not to keep this child and spoke to the media about this much later.
In 2002, she began dating Damion "World" Hardy, who was known to be involved in drug dealing. Lil’ Kim has stated that she suffered physical abuse in the relationship and subsequently the couple split a year later, in 2003.
In 2004, she began a relationship with record producer Scott Storch; however they parted ways after two months.
In 2007, she was romantically involved with singer, songwriter and television personality, Ray J, and has a daughter with him
Later, she began a relationship with the rapper, Mr. Papers. She has a daughter named Royal Reign (born in 2014) with him.
She has been actively involved for several humanitarian, such as helping people with HIV /AIDS, raising funds for the United Ways September 11th Fund and supporting causes that promote breast cancer research and treatment. She has been an LGBT advocate from a long time.