Lil’ Kim : London Kentish Town Forum

Star quality, warmth, aggressive sexuality and a foul, foul mouth excite London.

There’s such a thing as hip-hop time. It doesn’t generally apply to concerts, more to long-suffering journalists kept waiting for hours on end for an interview, to fully appreciate the true stature of the artist in question. But Lil’ Kim is on hip-hop time tonight. With a show billed from 6.30 to 10pm and an onstage time of 8.45pm, the Brooklyn Queen Bee finally graces the stage at 10.25pm, way after its strongly rumoured she’s in the venue, but is refusing to grace the stage. How she was persuaded, God only knows. And with a lot of fanfare, if nothing by way of apology ? it just wouldn’t be hard ? she launches into a colourful ‘The Notorious K.I.M’.

And people go crazy. That is, those who haven’t already demanded refunds and left. See, Lil’ Kim for whatever reason, is possessed of an abundance of star quality. Aided and abetted by fellow rapper Lil’ Cease (who was a lieutenant to the late Notorious B.I.G in the way Biggie was one to Puff Daddy, with DJ Richie Rich on the decks, and another member of her Junior Maffia clique in tow, she radiates warmth. And is possessed of the foulest mouth in the business since Millie Jackson‘s mid-’70s proto-raps.

‘How Many Licks’ is dedicated to the women in the house, and features an unfortunate ? or fortunate, depending on how you look at it ? audience member being invited onstage to simulate oral sex with Lil’ Kim’s diamond-studded, sheer, leather briefs (after her equivalent of a costume change). There’s also a sparkling and truncated version of Redman’s ‘Let’s Get Dirty’ while Junior Maffia’s ‘Get Money’ and Mobb Deep‘s ‘Quiet Storm (remix)’ also get the 16-bar treatment, as Kim reprises her original rhymes.

And what a rhymer she is. Refuse to look beyond the explicit nature of her work and you’ll miss a feast of imagery, non-sequiturs, putdowns, real-life experiences and a playfully aggressive sexuality that, when examined, errs on the side of feminism, albeit a warped feminism. Lil’ Kim’s also a businesswoman, and she brings a kid, Lil’ Shanice, onstage for ‘Aunt Dot’; sails through the Latinate calypso fusion of ‘No Matter What They Say’; and even does her verses from ‘It’s All About The Benjamins’. Then it’s a tribute to Notorious BIG, who has loomed large over the proceedings, because his absence has been felt, and goodnight. So glad she could make it back.

Dele Fadele