Lil Kim Bio

Latest posts by Simoun Redoblado (see all)

I’m not gonna trip: the ’90s were a rough terrain for femcees to thrive in.

Not that the ’80s were any better, of course, but we’re talking about a period of time when hip hop was growing exponentially. With the genre blowing up all across the globe, you’d think that any poet who could bless the mic with blazing bars could grab their share of the spotlight. Alas, such was not the case. You could count on one hand the female emcees who can lay claim to both box office success and cultural impact during this time.

Whatever you do, though, don’t make the mistake of looking past Lil’ Kim.

Before Nicki Minaj wowed the world with her intricate rhymes—and way before Megan Thee Stallion stuck her tongue out in her music videos—Lil’ Kim was spitting those internals and flaunting her sexuality like nobody’s business. Though it’s a shame that a lot of music fans could only recognize her from that “Lady Marmalade” track (which, let’s be honest, was mostly a Christina Aguilera showcase), the legacy of the Queen Bee from Brooklyn definitely needs to be recognized.

Real talk: Puffy didn’t call her “the female Biggie” for nothing. With her prodigious skill and unbuckling confidence, Lil’ Kim reshaped the landscape so that women could take their rightful place at the forefront of the hip hop stage.

lil' kim

Quick Facts

Birth Date July 11, 1974
Birth Place Brooklyn, New York
Nick Name Queen Bee
Nationality American
Zodiac Sign Cancer
Siblings Christopher Jones (brother)
Children Royal Reign Jones Neil (b. 2014)
Most Successful Songs “Lady Marmalade” (with Christina Aguilera, Mýa, and Pink)
Social Media

Major Awards Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for “Lady Marmalade” with Christina Aguilera, Mýa, and Pink (2002 Grammy Awards)


I Am Hip Hop Award, 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards

Last updated November 13, 2022

Early Years

She was born Kimberly Denise Jones on July 11, 1974 in Brooklyn, New York. This, of course, is the hip hop hotbed where the likes of Big Daddy Kane, Jay-Z, Busta Rhymes, and Ol’ Dirty Bastard originated. It’s ironic, then, that Kings County would be the stomping grounds of a future queen.

Kim would spend her formative years in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. (Ring any bells? I bet this place does.) Kim’s childhood, though, would take a drastic turn when she and her mother Ruby Mae decided to leave her father Linwood, a former military man who had been an abusive husband. Eight-year-old Kim would spend nights sleeping next to her mother inside a car.

When Ruby Mae could no longer support Kim and her brother Christopher, the two youngsters came to live with their father. This was by no means an ideal home environment, as Kim found herself on the receiving end of Linwood’s violent behavior. Eventually, Linwood made his daughter leave their house when she was 14.

While the “Lil” part of her future stage name was a truthful admission of her physical height, Kim must have had to grow up rather quickly from a psychological standpoint. Surviving the streets of New York (of Brooklyn, for crying out loud!) required plenty of mental toughness, meaning that Kim attended her fair share of classes at the school of hard knocks. Sometimes staying with her friends and sometimes finding a spot in the concrete jungle, Kim would come to know the realities of the urban environment from an up-close perspective.

As it turned out, this environment would gift her with a mentor that would change her life forever. In a 2019 episode of the HBO Canada series Hip-Hop Evolution, Kim recalled meeting a young hustler on Brooklyn’s Fulton Street in the early ’90s. As they shared an affinity for rap music, Kim decided to kick some rhymes for her new friend.

“I hit him with the Buckshot flow,” recalled Kim (who had clearly been paying close attention to the Brooklyn rap scene). “And he was like, ‘Wait a minute, what? That big-ass voice coming out of this little girl?”

Great recognizes great, and that’s how Christopher Wallace came to acknowledge the potential that lay within Kimberly Jones. Was it a coincidence that Kim would find solace in the presence of another Christopher? Perhaps not, but to this day, this Bedford-Stuy native is known all over the world as The Notorious B.I.G.

lil kim

Kim Breaks into the Business

In Biggie’s mind, Kim would make a great addition to the team that he was assembling prior to the release of his 1994 album Ready to Die. Wanting to make more waves in the industry, Biggie had the idea of putting together his own hip hop squad.

The creation of the Junior M.A.F.I.A. had a twofold objective. First, Biggie would be able to expand his hip hop brand by assembling a group of proteges. On a more personal level, this only child of a single mother could take care of the members of his surrogate family. (In the words of James “Lil’ Cease” Lloyd, Biggie provided a “lifeline” to the group’s members by opening the doors of opportunity in the rap game.)

On August 29, 1995, Junior M.A.F.I.A. released their debut album Conspiracy. Executive produced by Biggie, the album debuted at number eight on the Billboard 200 and went on to be certified gold. While the likes of Lil’ Cease, Trife, Larceny, and Kleptomaniac made a good account of themselves, the lone female emcee clearly stole every song that she was featured on.

Case in point: Kim literally took someone else’s place on a song that she wasn’t even supposed to be on! In a 2016 XXL interview, she recalled that none of the fellas could finish their verse to a beat being played by DJ Clark Kent. Perhaps fed up with the boys’ pace that day, Clark said, “Kim, I know you got something. Go in the booth.” She obliged, and her verse ended up on the song’s final cut.

That track was none other than “Player’s Anthem,” the lead single of Conspiracy. While I mentioned earlier that the album was certified gold, this single went on to achieve gold certification itself. I’ll go ahead and say it: where would that song be without Kim?

It should be no surprise that the two other singles off the Conspiracy tracklist—”I Need You Tonight” and the platinum-certified “Get Money”—had plenty of Kim as well. (Out of all these three songs, I love “Player’s Anthem” the most. Can’t beat the internal rhymes that she spit in this one!)

At this point, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how the dynamic between Kim and Biggie evolved. On August 4, 1994, Biggie got married to singer Faith Evans, whom he had met just eight days earlier. Then, shortly after Junior M.A.F.I.A. was assembled, Biggie started a romantic relationship with Kim. Through the highs and lows of Biggie’s marriage to Evans, his affair with Kim continued.

In other words, there were quite a few layers to the interaction between Kim and Biggie. Big Poppa was, simultaneously, a coach, confidante, executive, and lover to Kim. It wasn’t all bubbly vibes, though: bearing an unfortunate resemblance to Linwood Jones, Biggie sometimes got violent with Kim, at one point pulling a gun on her while they were at a studio. But, for better or for worse, Biggie was the guiding force that helped propel Kim’s career to impressive heights.

lil kim and biggie smalls

Kim Goes Solo

With multiple standout performances on the Conspiracy record, Kim appeared to be destined for a solo career sooner rather than later. A little over a year after she made her recording debut, Kim would bless the world with her very first studio album.

On November 12, 1996, Lil’ Kim released her solo debut Hard Core. With Biggie at the helm as executive producer (because, duh) and big-time producers like Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs and Jermaine Dupri, Kim was in prime position to knock it out of the park. Guest appearances from Lil’ Cease and Jay-Z (who had released Reasonable Doubt earlier that year) would further boost Hard Core‘s star power.

Front and center in this album were (as the title suggests) her sex appeal and vulgar language—qualities that were harnessed by other femcees at the time, but evidently not with the same intensity. The mid-90’s weren’t exactly the most conservative period in world history, but I’d go ahead and speculate that anyone who heard the lyrics of “Not Tonight,” “Dreams,” and “Crush on You” for the first time must have blushed involuntarily. (Peep the lyrics of these raunchy Kim tracks, and you’ll understand why!)

Hard Core would go double platinum, proving once and for all that Lil’ Kim was a force to be reckoned with in the hip hop industry. All indications pointed to Kim’ career skyrocketing further than her wildest dreams. Unfortuntely, her personal and professional life would be rocked by tragedy before any subsequent project could take off.

On March 9, 1997, The Notorious B.I.G. died following a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. The hip hop community was devastated by the loss of the iconic rapper, who had been revered by many fans as the true king of rap. In Kim’s case, the heartbreak was on a far deeper level, as she’d lost a man who had believed in her like no else did. In a 2000 interview with Newsweek, she openly admitted: “You’d think it would get easier with time. But it doesn’t.”

hard core lil kim

Queen Bee Pushes Forward

Understandably, it took a while for Kim to get going again in terms of commercial releases. Though a few singles attributed to her were released in the months following Biggie’s death—including the remix of “Not Tonight” and a collaborative track with Too $hort titled “Call Me”—Kim did not release a full-length project for the rest of the decade.

Slowly but surely, she regained her bearings. From 1997 to 1999, she made a number of guest appearances on tracks that cracked the Billboard Hot 100. These included Puffy’s “It’s All About the Benjamins” (which peaked at number two); The Lox’s “Money, Power & Respect” (a song that also featured DMX); and Mary J. Blige’s “I Can Love You.”

Right before the decade ended, Kim launched her own record label called Queen Bee Entertainment. In a gesture worthy of her former mentor, Kim signed the other members of Junior M.A.F.I.A. to her new label. From then on, Queen Bee would be the primary platform for Kim’s albums; it would also go on to distribute a Lil’ Cease album, along with mixtapes from up-and-coming talent like Tiffany Foxx and Sha Money XL in the 2010s.

Obviously, the centerpiece of Queen Bee would have to resume her winning ways in order for the label to gain clout. That’s exactly what Kim did in the early 2000s, when she went on a hot streak in terms of song and album releases. In 2000, she finally put out her second album The Notorious K.I.M., which spawned two singles (“No Matter What They Say” and the Sisqó-assisted “How Many Licks?”) that cracked the Billboard Hot 100.

A year later—you knew I had to mention it—Kim contributed a fiery verse to the track “Lady Marmalade,” which also featured Christina Aguilera, Mýa and Pink. The lead single off the Moulin Rouge! OST, “Lady Marmalade” stayed at the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 for five weeks and went on to win Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals at the 2002 Grammy Awards.

The hits kept on coming for Kim. On March 4, 2003, she dropped her third album La Bella Mafia, which produced two top 20 hits: the 50 Cent assisted “Magic Stick” (which peaked at number two) and “The Jump Off” (which featured a guest appearance from Mr. Cheeks of Lost Boyz). As a featured artist, Kim helped propel Christina Aguilera’s “Can’t Hold Us Down” (released in 2003) and “Get Down on It” (a track put together by the groups Kool & the Gang and Blue) to the top 20 as well.

However, by 2005, Kim’s strong wave of momentum was in serious jeopardy.

la bella mafia

An Unwanted Detour

On July 6, 2005, Kim was sentenced to a year and a day in prison and slapped with a $50,000 fine. Her crime: lying to a federal grand jury about not seeing two of her friends (Suif “Gutta” Jackson and her manager Damion “D-Roc” Butler) at the scene of a 2001 gunfight, which happened to be between her own entourage and the camp of long-time rival Inga “Foxy Brown” Marchand.

Here’s where the plot considerably thickened: in 2003, two of Kim’s fellow Junior M.A.F.I.A. members (Lil’ Cease and Antoine “Banger” Spain) testified against her! Both Cease and Banger claimed that Gutta and D-Roc were indeed present at the shooting, contrary to Kim’s initial claim. Along with security photos from Hot 97 (the radio station that unfortunately provided the backdrop for the shooting), Cease and Banger’s testimony played a role in Kim’s conviction and subsequent sentence.

Kim ended up serving jail time from September 19, 2005 to July 3, 2006. (For those keeping score at home, that’s nine months and two weeks, meaning that her sentence was reduced by a little less than three months.)

More Ventures to Conquer

For what it’s worth, Kim’s fourth album The Naked Truth was released just eight days after she began her prison term. Perhaps as a testament to the star power that she had accumulated over the years, The Naked Truth peaked at number six on the Billboard 200.

In the years after Kim finished her sentence, she explored a number of different directions to strengthen her brand. Though she wouldn’t release a studio album for an extended period of time, she did come up with four mixtapes in eight years (2008’s Ms. G.O.A.T., 2011’s Black Friday, 2014’s Hard Core 2K14, and 2016’s Lil Kim Season).

TV opportunities would also present themselves to Kim. From 2007 to 2008, she appeared as a judge in two contests associated with the girl group Pussycat Dolls.

In 2009, Kim participated in the eighth season of Dancing with the Stars, making it all the way to week 9 before she and her partner Derek Hough were eliminated. (I would add here that, prior to the start of her prison term, Kim filmed content for a BET series entitled Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown. The series premiere ended up drawing huge numbers for BET.)

I do have to talk about Kim’s foray into book writing as well. In 2008, Kim was sued by Simon & Schuster for failing to turn in a manuscript that was due in June 2004, despite having been paid $40,000 by the publisher the year prior. (Should I find it weird that her nemesis Foxy Brown was sued by the same publisher for committing the same offense?)

Then, in April 2021, Kim announced that she had written a memoir entitled The Queen Bee with help from journalist Kathy Iandoli. The memoir was set to be released in November 2021, but to date, it is still classified as a pre-order on Amazon.

the queen bee hard cover

The latest album drop from Kim came on October 11, 2019. The album is simply titled 9, as the number is highly significant n the personal and professional life of Kim. “My baby was born June 9th,” she explained a few months before the album was released. “Biggie passed away on March 9 and then it’s 2019. And there were nine members in Junior M.A.F.I.A., that’s how it started.”

And that, right there, is Kim connecting the dots of her life: her past, present, and future. In some circles, the full picture of Kim’s career comes across as a vulgar portrait—a bad influence on the language, clothing, and behavior of the youth. Hip hop heads, though, know the true significance of Lil’ Kim’s ascent to the top. In an industry that is highly fuelled by testosterone, the Queen Bee smashed barriers to ensure that the finest femcees would get the respect—nay, the notoriety—that they so richly deserved.


Lil’ Kim deserves recognition for ensuring that the lineage of femcees would thrive for generations to come. Along with her peers Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott, Kim proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that world-class talent can come from any gender, race, or variation of physical appearance. (By that, of course, I am referring to height. Lil’ Kim is big time, y’all!)

Why Is Lil’ Kim Influential?

From the beginning of her career, Kim’s fearlessness has always drawn the attention of her listeners. Whether her audacity is expressed through her flamboyant sexuality or her indelicate lyrics, Kim consistently demonstrates how an emcee can just let loose in the studio, in live performances, and even in music videos. The bold choices made by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion nowadays can be traced back to Kim’s playbook.

lil kim look


Question: Does Lil’ Kim have a family of her own?

Answer: In June 2014, Kim gave birth to her daughter Royal Reign, whom she shares with former Junior M.A.F.I.A. associate Jeremy “Mr. Papers” Neil.

Question: Who were Kim’s hip hop influences?

Answer: While the Biggie influence is a no-brainer, Kim was also inspired by a number of femcees who paved the way for her. In a 2019 appearance on People’s Party (a weekly interview show hosted by Talib Kweli), Kim cited MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, and Roxanne Shanté as influences on her rap style and presentation.

Question: Is Kim on good terms with Biggie’s ex-wife?

Answer: In a 2020 Instagram Live session with Fat Joe, Faith Evans said that she has “always adored Kim.” A year before, during the unveiling program for a new Biggie mural in Brooklyn, Kim had called Evans her “sister.”

Bottom Line

While there are plenty of barbershop debates about the king of the genre, the question of hip hop’s true queen is a pretty intense one too. With her industry accolades, cultural impact, and (dare I say it) empowering career, Lil’ Kim has a damn good claim to the throne. Femcees across different generations would beg to disagree, but I sincerely doubt that they’re getting in line to voice their opinion to the Queen Bee’s face.

lil kim face


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