Sean Healy Presents Lil' Kim
We have all been unfair to Lil' Kim.
Try to imagine how scary it must have been to be the first female rapper to lay bare her sexual proclivities for the entire world to examine. Even if Notorious B.I.G. ghostwrote her words (as has been alleged), it's still hard to live up to being a freaky Barbie doll with an extremely bendable body. Yet folks haven't given her credit: The sexually voracious façade was as much about empowerment as Madonna's. At Key Club last night, this all became clear.
The title of Lil' Kim's 1996 album, Hard Core, wasn't just an allusion to the kind of bedroom activities she enjoyed. It was a description of her attitude in general. One of our favorite recorded moments of all time is the just barely decipherable, minute-long back-and-forth between Kim and Biggie that follows Kim's searing, scene-stealing verse on Junior Mafia's "Get Money." As she snorts and spits retorts at one of the greatest rappers ever, it's obvious Kim had no problem playing not just for the boys, but with them.
She is 37 now, and like all women in the public eye, Kim has taken her share of lashings for her appearance. (Even we've contributed). But at the Key Club, she came out around 11:45 looking like royalty. She was draped in a red velvet cape, while a couple of unsmiling dudes reminiscent of Public Enemy's S1W security detail were posted onstage with flags throughout the show.
It was a little difficult to determine if she (or her backup singer) was the one rapping at times, but Kim sounded fine, even if the precise clip and sharply vicious growl that characterized her debut have largely dissipated into more of a purr. Her three costume changes weren't surprising -- the white leotard dripping with silver tinsel and topped with a furry white jacket that made her look like she had wings was our favorite. But we were surprised by how much dancing she did, and how adept at it she was. Who knew Lil' Kim had it in her to slip on a sparkly white glove and do a pretty damn good Michael Jackson impersonation to "Billie Jean"?