Lil' Kim

The Notorious K.I.M.

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A long four years after making her big, salacious splash on Hard Core, Lil' Kim returned as a very different rapper on The Notorious K.I.M., and not necessarily for the better. For one, her close friend and collaborator the Notorious B.I.G. had been murdered during the interim. The sad passing heavily informs this glitzy yet ultimately somber album, not only the title but many of the lyrics too. Biggie had played a large role in the success of Hard Core, and his absence here is gaping. Also, the Queen Bitch invites along a host of collaborators to fill the gap left behind by her departed former executive producer. Puff Daddy fills Biggie's large shoes and unfortunately gives the album the same sort of gaudiness that had marred his recent round of releases on Bad Boy Records, namely his own Forever and Mase's Double Up. As on those albums, nearly every track on Notorious K.I.M. is helmed by a different producer, many feature a guest, and most make some sort of pop-crossover concession. Sometimes the pop-rap tactics pay off, particularly on "Custom Made (Give It to You)," where the orgasmic moans of Lil' Louis' house classic "French Kiss" are looped ad infinitum to impressive effect, and on "How Many Licks?," where Sisqó trades off one come-on after another with Kim.

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