That last time Lil’ Kim released a solo studio album, the year was 2005. Fourteen years ago. Since then we have witnessed a tidal wave of new female rap talent and Kim has been recognized as a pioneer and legend in her own right. So, what does Lil’ Kim have to say and offer in 2019? What does a Lil’ Kim album sound like in 2019? On her new record, 9, the answer is that Kim is as lewd and as crude as ever, just with a sound updated for the 2019 hip-hop landscape.
At a brisk running time of just over half an hour, Kim mainly stays in the Auto-Tune trap lane. This choice is both fortunate and unfortunate. On the one hand the trademark Brooklyn drip of Kim’s voice and her glamorous timbre are drowned by the Auto-Tune when they should be accentuated. Nevertheless, the Auto-Tune does help give some character and form to otherwise bland tracks like “Bag” and “Catch My Wave.” Aside from her voice, Kim’s trademark has always been her lyricism. She has never been one to hold back; she can rap the most outlandish bars and it still works because it’s Lil’ Kim. No one does it like her. That’s why a Yung Miami verse on a song like “Found You” can sound tame in comparison to Kim. Lyrically, Kim shines on Auto Blanco, a song where she blends mumble rap with the menacing bars that are hallmarks of traditional New York rap. She resurrects the Kimmy Blanco alter ego and absolutely slaughters the beat.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about 9, is what Kim attempts to do from a musical standpoint. She interpolates the Michael Jackson classic “You Are Not Alone” on the album track of the same name and ties it all up with a Biggie shoutout. There’s also the soulful album opener, “Pray For Me,” which features and interesting and unpredictable song structure and a beautiful vocal performance from Musiq Soulchild. Kim also sings quite a bit on this album, but it’s never overbearing and rapping is always her priority. 9 doesn’t hold any groundbreaking revelations nor is it anywhere near Kim’s best work. More importantly, 9 shows us that Kim can still craft a hit song (“Go Awff”) and her pen is still strong. Given the storied and troubled history of female rappers trying to release albums later in their career, we should be happy that 9 is even here. That in itself is the real achievement.
Key Tracks: “Pray for Me”; “Go Awff”; “Auto Blanco”