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Artist: Lil Kim
Album: Notorious KIM
Label: Undeas/Atlantic
Production: Puff Daddy, Fury, Mario Winans, Rockwilder, others
Guests: Cee-lo, Redman, Sisqo, Junior M.A.F.I.A., Lil' Cease, Mary J Blige, others
Stats: 2000; 18 tracks
Reviewed by: Phi

Four years after her platinum-plus debut, "Hardcore", Lil' Kim drops her sophomore release - "Notorious KIM". The album title immediately gives away one of the CD's running themes - Biggie. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, Brooklyn's slain MC has to be the most gassed up nigga in the hereafter. KIM appears to have used Biggie as a style template for most of her lyrical content. "Custom Made" portrays Lil' Kim as a by-all-means-necessary paper chaser, generously making use of "Goodness gracious, the papers / where the stash at? / where the cash at?" from Smalls' "Gimme The Loot". Puffy contributes yet another one of his simple-ass nursery rhymes on "Queen Bitch pt. 2" which also stars the late king of Brooklyn on the hook ("pardon my French but uh / sometimes I get kinda / peeved at these weak MC's / with these supreme baller-like lyrics, I call em like I see em g / y'all niggas sound like me..."). These lines alone nullify the Queen Bee's attempt to be seen as holding her own in the lyrical construction department (now that Biggie's gone), a fact she claims on "Single Black Female" (which features Mario Winans' smooth vocals sampling the melody for Sade's "Sweetest Taboo").

In the same vein, her attack on Shyne for sounding like Notorious B.I.G on the title track brings to mind that cliché about people who live in glass houses. This is too bad as the track is one of the album's few highlights. Laced with the banging, signature, ultra-distorted beats from Rockwilder, "Notorious KIM" is a momentary slip from the newly-acquired ghetto fabulous to just plain ghetto instinct in Kim. In a truly Jerry Springer-type scenario, she uses the second verse to bare fangs and fake nails at her nemesis, Foxy Brown, for having her lyrics written for her.

Hardcore ghetto bitch sentiments aside, Kim's bark seems worse than her bite on tracks like "Hold On" and "Don't Mess With Me". Playing the jilted, vengeful lover on the latter she provides an interesting dimension to her character that many probably didn't know existed. Mary J. Blige's moving vocals are appropriately employed to convey the vulnerability that the Queen Bee expresses in "Hold On", a highly emotional ballad which speaks of how she copes with the loss of her deceased lover.

There are some rather questionable collaborations on this album. The opening track "Lil' Drummer Boy" (which is vaguely reminiscent of Biggie's "Somebody's Got To Die"), features very mediocre guest appearances from Redman and Goodie Mob's Cee-Lo. This song, actually KIM's creative highpoint, is set in a courtroom with the funk doctor as the presiding judge, Lil' Kim as the defendant, and Cee-Lo as her counsel. Grace Jones adds a tired, has-been element to the action-packed "Revolution", and Lil Cease's performance is as forgettable as the entire Junior Mafia's attempt at former glory status on "Do What You Like". On the other hand Sisqo, in his capacity as the original thong songster, fits right into "How Many Licks" - a boastful celebration of Lil Kim's oral sex conquests. It is bound to be a club delectable and, in my opinion, would have made a better lead single than the pseudo calypso-inspired "No Matter What They Say". Besides these two tracks there are a couple of other potential jiggy floor-fillers thanks to a (too large) host of producers.

Sampling Biggie's "Me & My Bitch", "Suck My Dick" wins points for its left wing brand of feminism manifested in simple but powerful rhymes. Once you get over the (no longer that shocking) intended shock value of Lil' Kim's rife punany publicity, you at least have that to fall back on. If that doesn't suffice then refer back to Lil' Kim's excellent cameos (Mobb Deep, Mary J. Blige), which had you open for her three-times pushed back 2000 offering - the hype for which may have surpassed the finished product. [5.5/10]

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