Tit for Tat

Making sense (and relevance) of Lil' Kim's prison sentence

Whistle while you work (in jail making automobile license plates)

Yesterday, yesterday's sex rapper Lil' Kim a/k/a Kimberly Jones got a year and a day prison sentence, a $50,000 fine, and loads of mostly sympathetic press for her six masterful counts of hilarious and blatant perjury. Kim had insisted to federal courts that her former manager Damion 'D Roc' Butler and longtime friend Suif 'Gutta' Jackson were nowhere near the 26 or so gunshots fired outside Hot 97 in 2001 when Kim's entourage crossed paths with Queens' Capone-N-Noreaga near the radio station's entrance. Capone-N-Noreaga's latest album at the time featured the song "Bang Bang," on which Kim's rival-by-default Foxy Brown knocked Kim for her pathetically "street" attempt at b.i.g. notoriety by proxy. Here's one choice bit:

Why's you frontin and kickin that street shit? Please, impress me, go back to that freak shit

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And what the hell, here's another:

Let the nigga rest in peace, and hop off his dick, bitch do you And ya'll hoes is like "Fuck Fox," well screw ya'll too.

Brown, naturally, was just defending herself. Hers was fire for Kim's friend Puffy's jab on Lil Cease's track "Play Around" ("Stop trying to sound like her too"), and Kim's own on the title track to The Notorious K.I.M.:

Girls say they different but uh see In all actuality they wanna be me This chick running around with this stink ass gap And them fake ass raps having panic attacks

Bored yet? You should be. This is all pretty damn silly. Not that any gunfire is necessary, but these shots seemed particularly unnecessary, especially because Lil' Kim knew that she was best when she was straight raunchy, not some ghett-authentic legacy carver riding coattails of bereavement or whatever she thought she was doing. Proof of that comes with Lil Kim's follow-up to Notorious, 2003's La Bella Mafia-- check "The Jump Off," check "Magic Stick." It's like she actually took Foxy's critiques to heart, and went back to that freak shit.

But hey, on a good day, hindsight's 20/40, so let's stick to the rap-wise fall-out: the good, relatively speaking, that might come for hip-hop of Lil' Kim's prison sentence.

One: There's much ado about Kim being the first big-time female rapper to go to prison. Surely there will be an album's worth of experiences (and the like) to be had upon Kim's release-- maybe we'll even get some phoned-in sixteens, a saga of sorts. Honestly, this perjury stuff may have been the best possible thing Kim could have done for her own career.

Two: Finally, all the grad students who screeded w/r/t Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown's dangerously phallic portrayal of the African-American woman in hip-hop have some sort of just or morally suggestive closure. Not that the wake of boring Kim/Foxy clones (hello, Jacki-O) don't perpetuate the myth, but here's the diva of raunch in a moment of indirect comeuppance.

Meanwhile, if we want to push this tip, we might speak of Foxy's maturation qua nine-year veteran, female-conscious rapper in contrast: her signing to Roc-A-Fella and artistic kinship with do-no-wrong Jay-Z; her relatively benign (all things considered) back-to-it single "Art of War"; and her latest single, a dancehall hip-hop collabo with Sizzla, "Come Fly With Me," which people are hailing as this true-to-roots triumph for Foxy-- a return to spine. In other words, this whole thing seems to have played out like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure Books: on page 31, the Raunch Rapper (as played by Lil' Kim) lies to the federal jury and goes to prison for a year (with room for redemption); on page 67, the Raunch Rapper (as played by Foxy) grows up on her own and sharpens her suggestive femme edge-- or at least proves our undying love for overblown hard-as-nails chic.

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