By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
On March 3, in the midst of her highly publicized trial in Manhattan Federal court, a clearly beleaguered Lil' Kim issued a statement through the popular industry site allhiphop.com. The singer thanked the fans for their continuing support during a time in her life that could safely be described as awful, and then optimistically added, "I have confidence in our legal system and look forward to justice in my case."
Two weeks later, 24 hours after Robert (also known as the "White O.J.") Blake made the escape of his life, Lil' Kim would not enjoy the St. Patrick's Day luck of the Irish or, for that matter, the luck of any ethnicity at all. After three days of deliberations, a jury found Kim and co-defendant Monique Dopwell (Kim's friend and personal assistant) guilty of conspiracy and perjury for lying to a grand jury investigating a midday February 2001 shootout in front of Hot 97-hiphop's ground zero for all things asinine.
In what could perversely be seen as a faint glimmer of good news, Kim was acquitted of the most serious charge, that being obstruction of justice, which carried a hefty 10-year prison term, but the remaining conspiracy and perjury counts carry maximum sentences of five years each. Which means that Kim, whose previous crimes seem pretty much relegated to strange taste in men (formerly Biggie's gal, Kim's last known paramour was heavyweight R&B/rap producer Scott Storch) and equally head-scratching fashion sense (purple pasty alert!), could potentially face 20 years in the slammer.
Legal insiders have already predicted thatif she gets any jail time at allKim could expect to be sentenced to less than 5 years; but make no mistake, the Brooklyn-born chick who made a career out of being nasty is seriously fucked.
The shootout's nuts-and-bolts details fall into the who-cares category, at least outside of the hip-hop press, of which I am a member in good if not often indifferent standing, and notwithstanding the fans who live to play the latest version of Where's the Beef. A whole lotta blah blah blah bullshit between Kim, "arch rival" Foxy Brown, and Capone-n-Norega. You know the drill. Perceived slights. On-wax disses. If you're really desperate, peep a rap website.
End of the day, the crime that Kim swore she didn't see perpetrated by men she swore she didn't know (one of whom, Suif Jackson, has already pled guilty; the other, Kim's former manager Damion Butler, is awaiting trail), might well be just another example of rappers behaving badly. But her adamant denial of any knowledge of who, what, why, or where, is textbook proof that famous people live in a deluded, alternate universe where yes means no, stop means go, and you can pretty much do what you wanna do when you wanna do it because you're blessed with talent.
Perhaps Kim's steadfast inability to see the forest for the prosecutorial trees might be forgiven or even explained away if she were a flat-out idiot, a conniving scam artist, or just some egomaniacal nightmare, moments away from a slot on the Surreal Life. Unlike Foxy, who, skilled as she might be, is by all accounts not nice, Kim, whacked-out plastic surgery and all, is well liked-and, despite the demented Pamela Anderson look she's rocking, no dummy.
A few years back, I interviewed Kim for XXL and we spent the afternoon in, of all places, a hansom cab in Central Park. It was a compromise location. I wanted to have our tarot cards read, Kim wanted to go in a helicopter. Kim nixed my idea because she thought it was spooky (as a rule rappers don't seem to dig the occult). I put the kibosh on her plan because I figured if the copter went down the obit would read "Platinum rapper Lil Kim and unidentified white woman." So we ended up in a hansom cab and Kim got to wave to her astonished fans like some project Princess Di.
After spending the better part of a day with her, I found her charming, funny, punctual (OK, I made that upshe was four hours late, but hey, it's hip-hop), and just about as nice as nice can be. And not dumb. Certainly not dumb enough to think that if a prosecutor showed a jury a picture of Kim seated next to one of the shooters that all Kim had to do was say, I never met him before, and the jury would say, "Oh, well." She says he never met the guy she's seated next to, who is also an extra in one of her videos, and oh yeah, her MANAGER. Well, then, it must be true because she thinks it's true and if she didn't think it was true why would she testify that way under oath? As my dear friend and esteemed colleague Kris Ex noted, Kim's-girl-what-the-fuck-were-you-thinking "testimony" was "not a smart lie on her part, and in the realm of stupid lies it was a top one."
Maybe Kim figured her star power would just blow people away (although that strategy failed with Martha Stewart). Maybe Kim just panicked, repeatedly. Maybe she actually believed her own twisted version of the truth. Maybe after watching her former mentor Puffy wriggle out of a few situations, she figured she was golden. Maybe she bought into hip-hop's tired-ass no-fink policy: Even if lying through her ultra bonded teeth meant she dropped a dime on her own self. Or maybe Kim, a Grammy-winning studio vet, figured that she could just say whatever the hell she wanted to on the stand and it could be cleaned up or edited in the mix.